Planning, Setting Goals and Why are you Doing it, Anyway – by Jon

It’s an oft-neglected question – “why am I in business?”

Many of us beaver away in our businesses without ever really questioning our motives. We almost assume that we want to be in business ourselves and that the reasons that led us to start off on our own way back when still hold true today. (If you are a new business, disregard the previous sentence)

So, try it – ask yourself why you are in business and whether you are getting what you want from it. Don’t assume that you are only there for the money because it’s probably not true (remember the feeling of no longer having a boss?) but don’t kid yourself if you’re not earning what you’d like.

As a business coach, I often meet people who are earning less than they would like (who isn’t?) but, equally often, they are investing in a business that they hope will reward them down the track and this is OK!

What isn’t OK, though, is when you are working hard, earning less than you could get in a similar job, bearing all the risk and the stress and you aren’t turning your business into the great success that you wanted when you started. So be honest with yourself, and write down (it is important to write it down!) why you started your own business and whether you are getting what you wanted from it or, at least, whether you are heading in the right direction.

If you are, well done and keep at it. If not, you need to think about what you’re doing and you have three choices, as I see it anyway:
• Carry on as you are, having a terrible time and earning less than you could earn in a job while working harder, wearing all the risk and being responsible for your staff
• Go and get a job (see above – get paid more, have less stress etc)
• Change your business so it helps you get what you want.

I know it sounds glib and most goal-setting stuff does but it is important – if you don’t have a goal to chase or an idea of where your business is heading, it won’t head anywhere in particular and you’ll get to retirement and wonder if you just spent the last 20 years treading water.

So set yourself some goals.

This is where most of the literature loses me – the books talk about how important it is to set a goal and then break it down into smaller steps that you can tackle one at a time, then they talk about climbing Everest or running a marathon or something else that is meaningless to me and I lose all sense of connection between the goal and the tactics that they’re talking about. I suspect I’m not alone, too!

So set yourself some goals that are meaningful to you, in your life, right now. I’m going to suggest some that I’ve talked to some of my customers about and that are meaningful for them. Don’t limit yourself to my list but, for goodness sake, have some goals!

Try these:
• Earn more money (don’t laugh, decide how much, make it more than you earn now but make it reasonable and achievable)
• Put aside some money for retirement
• Pay off the house
• Be a fun place to work/be a good employer
• Continue to provide excellent service that you are proud of
• Build your business into an asset you can sell
• Pull back from day-to-day involvement in your business, so you can ease off

Remember that it is a legitimate goal to have a business that sustains you and that you enjoy – it is not just about conquering the world.

I could go on for hours but I hope you get the picture. You need to have goals for yourself and your business that are meaningful to you personally and that you think you have a chance of achieving. If they aren’t, they will fail to energise you.

Once you’ve written them down (it’s a proven psychological fact that writing them down helps make them real to you and makes it that much more likely that you will act to bring them to life)

OK, back from Psychobabble to business. Goals are important, you need to know what yours are before you can write a plan and before you can even think about making changes in your business.

A plan is working out how to move towards your goals. Think of it like a journey – to the other side of town, for example. Before you get in the car (or, at least, before you get to the Harbour Bridge), you will have thought about which way you want to go – Spit Bridge or Roseville Bridge – and where you’ll park, whether you’ll need to buy fuel on the way; bridge or tunnel? have you got your etag? and have you got your street directory to find the destination.

If you don’t pay attention to this stuff, there’s a danger that your journey will not work out quite the way you would like, isn’t there?

It’s the same in business – once you know where you want to go (the goals) you need to think about how you’re going to get there. What do you need to do to get you there? What do you need to achieve before you can hope to get there?

It’s often said that the important part of a plan is the planning part – more so than the written plan. I agree – it’s the act of working out what needs to be done that helps you get your head around what you need to do and gets you started.

A decent plan, for a business anyway, needs to satisfy all the stakeholders – it needs to be balanced. Don’t write a plan that is only about revenue or profit, make sure it includes the four primary stakeholders in a business:
• The shareholders
• The customers
• The staff
• The business (this bit means taking care of the processes and administrative aspects – do your books, raise invoices, that kind of thing)

If you write a plan that neglects the other stakeholders, it won’t work in a sustainable way and you’ll fail. If your staff aren’t engaged or the plan doesn’t work for them, your business will limp along unsupported. If customers don’t get what they want from your business, they will spend their money elsewhere and if you don’t pay attention to the business, you will find yourself in a difficult mess.

Your plan should state your goals for the business and the important things you need to achieve for you to get there, making sure you balance the plan across the stakeholders and then it should produce a list of all the jobs you have to go and do in order to achieve each of those goals.

Then you have to go and do them all! I know, I sound like I’m taking the mickey but, until you do something, you’re going nowhere!

This article is not the place for a comprehensive discourse on how to write a decent plan – there’s not the room – but I hope it has reinforced the need for you to spend time working out what you should be doing and where you want to be going.

As I wrote in the previous article, as a business coach, we start with an assessment of your business, in terms of the drivers of profit then we make a plan and then we get on and do it. In the next articles in the series I’ll discuss some of the problems and opportunities I find my customers are often confronted with and some of the things we’ve done.

If you want to ask me something specific, about your business, please do so. Either ask me and I’ll respond in an article or ask me a private question.

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4. Book yourself a 10-minute chat with me. We’ll talk about whether coaching is right for you now and if it is, we’ll go further into the process before you have to make your mind up.

See you later.

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