A little bit on maps

I’ve been working on my family budget. Tax time is a great opportunity to revisit your strategies and make sure you’re on track.

On track with what? With your plan. Your strategy. You know, the one you wrote down clearly and carefully. The one that has all the good ideas and good destinations written in it. The one that defines success in such a way so that you can periodically check your progress against it, and course correct.

Without a plan, aimlessness sets in. And what exactly is aimlessness?  No aim. The state of not aiming. This does not sound like a very successful strategy, does it? Imagine the results of an archer with no aim.

Develop clear targets. Clear and simple definitions of success. Targets are definable and measurable. Visions are not- they are dreamy and vague. Write down your targets beside your visions. Your visions should motivate you to hit your targets. Your visions inform and dictate what you targets should be.

This is where the strategy comes in. You could call it “How to hit my targets which grew out of my vision.” A strategy is a ”HOW” and a target is more of a “WHAT/WHERE/WHEN.” You could think of it like this: “How are we going to get there by then?” 

I would encourage you to make a simple illustration of your strategies. It could be bullet points and sentences, but I think it’s more helpful to make a map. Like a simple treasure map. Put a big X in the middle of the page and call it “we succeeded”, and then define the X. Next devise how to hit the X.

Mix this with a little accountability and skill and hard work, and you will be hitting dead center every time.

More On Accountability

Let me try bring some clarification to the term ‘Accountability.’

There are several ways to use this word. One way refers to being held responsible for certain actions or outcomes. Like your tax bill. You are being held accountable by the IRS. If you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, you will pay the consequences.

Another way to use the word is in thinking about it’s root, Account. To count up, or log. To keep track of. Think accountant.  These people count dollars.

But a third way to use the term is more loosely defined, and probably a more common way to use it, at least in my circles.  And that is as reminder, or a checklist. “Remind me to call the dentist tomorrow.” “Wake me up in the morning so I can go to the gym with you. If you don’t, I’ll never go.”

This is how I am using the word. All three meanings kind of merge together, but when I say that we need accountability in our business ventures, especially as solo business owners, I mean we need someone to remind us to get things done. Things that we know we need to do. The only person we actually answer to is ourselves, really. Spouses too, perhaps. Bankers and the taxman of course. But at the end of the day you are your own boss, and by definition, you answer to yourself.

Asking yourself if you got ‘such and such’ done, and then penalizing yourself, or chewing yourself out, seems pretty ridiculous. But asking someone else to check up on you seems smart.

And that is the point.

I have found that I need to develop clear goals, and then ask someone else to help me by asking me “Did you meet those goals you told me about? Why not?”

These goals that I routinely miss are short term. Sales and Admin come to mind. These are things I am most likely to avoid due to discomfort and lack of skill or interest. But they are vital to my company, and if I overlook or postpone doing these tasks, it won’t be long before I get added to the ever growing list of numbers called ‘Failed Businesses.’

The take away is:

  • identify your weak spots
  • make a yes/no check list
  • find someone reliable to ask you if you succeeded

 

 

 

 

Accountability

Many of us escaped the ‘Boss’ and the ‘J.O.B.’ because of the pressure coming from up the chain. Or because of the ridiculous management style, or company culture, or downright stupidity emanating from ‘The Man.’

We hoped to escape some form of toxic accountability, which is definitely a great idea. But unwittingly, many of us have escaped accountability all together. We have become ‘self-accountable.’ Which is an oxymoron. Emphasis moron.

We self-made types need someone looking over our shoulder, speaking up and pointing out motives, deadlines, and mistakes. We need someone who can spur us on to get the things done that we would rather just forget about.

 

 

 

Tunnel Vision

Residing inside an organization, like a family or a business, can be much like inhabiting the inside of a pipe. Hard to know what is going on outside of it. Pipes have two parts, the inside and the outside. You can’t be in both places at the same time. How often have you watched someone inside an organization do or say the most ineffective things, all the while thinking he was accomplishing the exact opposite?
Unfortunately, this is very common. And it is very destructive.
Today, while driving down Main Street of my hometown, I noticed that a new business had opened up in one of the store fronts. I pulled up in front of the door, and tried to deduce what sort of business it was. I could not tell. I saw a graphic with some flowery writing on it, and an orange sign that said ‘Grand Opening.’ My best guess was a hair dresser. As a business coach, I’m very interested in meeting new business owners, so I decided to walk in. The walls were lined with knick knacks for sale. So much for the hair theory.
The signage on the front of the store was completely confusing. It was also very, very small. And almost illegible, because of the font. I very nicely introduced myself, and tried to help the nice woman who is running the store understand her peril, which is that her days as a retail business are numbered, unless she fix her problem, and quick.
She was barely interested in my free advice, and surprised that I didn’t understand what her store was all about. She looked at me as if to say ‘what planet are you from?’ Well, I thought, its the same planet all your customers come from.
She is stuck inside her pipe. It will soon become the tomb of her business.

Spring Cleaning

For me, spring is the best time to set new resolutions, not the new year. This is when everything starts to come alive. The daylight is longer, and brighter. Spring is infectious. January is, well, depressing.

This is the time to look at your organization and tune it up. As you finish up your taxes, you can see the holes in last year’s strategies. Now is the time to fix it. Spring is the time to set your course for the year, to review what went wrong last year and resolve to change it. In your business, things heat up in the spring. Customers get motivated. Stores see numbers increase. People are feeling better, more energized. People are hopeful and positive in the spring.

I like to look at my books and insert hope and energy into them in the spring. This is a time in which I have the momentum to push through the motivational haze left over from the winter, to clear away the winter’s dust and rust, and to crack open all the windows of my business and let in some daylight. To throw out the useless relics of last year, metaphorically. And to maintain and tune up the truly effective parts of my approach, making myself and my organization ready to tackle a busy and productive year.