If you’re like every owner I’ve worked with over the years, you left a job and started your own business spurred by the dream of what that business—and your life—could look like. It’s what inspired you to choose the entrepreneurial path and what motivated you to persevere when it got really hard. But after some time living in overwhelm, focusing so much on keeping your business going, you may have forgotten the dream.
The new year rekindles that familiar sense of possibility for some; for others, it does the exact opposite, sparking dread at the idea of another year dealing with all the familiar frustrations. Whichever side of the coin you fall on in this moment, the only way to realize your dreams for your business—the ones that got you this far—is to start the new year with a goal-based plan that will help you see the year ahead with clarity.
So what are your goals for 2020?
If you haven’t already developed them, now’s the time. Yes, from now until the end of the year, the distractions are many. But your only chance to get the results you want is to take stock of your business now, to think about the dreams you hope to achieve and translate them into goals you actually can achieve.
How? By creating a Strategic Objective for each goal using a clear, three-step process.
Let’s get started.
1. Create a vision for your business.
If you want your business to grow, you need to develop a vision—whether it’s a single goal you want to accomplish in the next year or one you’re hoping to achieve several years from now. Vision creates foundation. And the key to having a successful vision or goal is that it has to resonate personally for you. If it’s only head-centered—created because you know you need to or think it’s a good idea—it probably won't turn out as you hope it will.
So for this first step, think about one dream goal you want to achieve next year and just let yourself dream. Don’t let “not knowing how” stop you. The moment you set that limit, you start thinking, “Well, I can’t do that,” or, “Who am I to do that?” At this stage, give yourself permission to imagine. Figuring out how to accomplish your dream comes later.
Here’s what this step looked like for a former client of mine, Andy. At the time, Andy had a landscaping business in Portland, Oregon. He was frustrated that his business had no brand recognition and that he couldn’t grow it.
“If you could really have your business the way you wanted, what would that look like?” I asked him.
“Well, I’d want to change the type of work we’re doing. I’d want more clients who are looking for unique custom projects—high-end landscape designs like you see on the Street of Dreams.”
“What’s the Street of Dreams?”
“Oh, it’s an annual event here for professional designers and the public. It’s an entire street of one-of-a-kind luxury homes with custom everything and amazing landscapes. I’ve always wanted to do the landscaping for at least one house. It’d be great marketing. But it’s expensive. I could never get the cash upfront.”
That’s where I stopped him.
See what he did there? He thought of an excellent goal—one that would help with his desires for financial growth, more visibility and finding new customers—but then he immediately shut it down. Why? Because it’s not an easy goal, and he let “not knowing” get in his way.
To achieve a challenging goal takes some strategy, which starts by breaking down the goal with each of The Seven Essential Systems so you can see the complete systemic needs and—from a leadership perspective—what it’ll take to meet those needs.
2. Baseline your business today against your goals for the future.
Without an idea of exactly where your business is right now, you’re operating from a pie in the sky. Establishing a baseline reality helps you see your starting point and consider where you realistically are on the track to completing your goal. If you have multiple goals you want to achieve in the new year, go through this process with each one.
Here’s what this looked like in action for Andy.
“I think your vision to work on the Street of Dreams sounds like a great goal to plan for. So before you discount it for financial reasons, let’s look at your systems today and see what you really need to do in order to get there, starting with Leadership. You’re clear on the vision, but do you have any experience designing for the Street of Dreams?”
“Yes, I landscaped a few houses back when I was working with a different firm.”
“Okay, so that’s a start. You know what it takes. Now what about Management—what’s your team look like?”
Together, we went through each of the Seven Systems:
- Customer Fulfillment
- Lead Conversion
- Lead Generation
By the end, Andy had a clear understanding of where his company stood. Along with taking stock of things like his team roles and bandwidth, he also clarified the assumption that he didn’t have the capital to start the project. It turns out he did, but it would take a few changes. Now he could look closely at what his business needed to do to achieve his goal of landing (and completing) a project on the Street of Dreams.
3. Design a goal-focused plan.
Once you’ve identified your goal and where you are on the path to achieving it, you can distinguish what you need in order to get there. Go back to The Seven Essential Systems and work out your needs for each one. Depending on your goal, some of the systems will take more attention than others.
For Andy, the Street of Dreams project needed its own promotional campaign, budget and team. Here’s a sample list of questions that we addressed as he built his plan:
- Are you clear on the vision?
- What’s your role in this project?
- What branding material do you need to create?
- How much marketing will be done by the organization running the event?
- Are there any restrictions on how you can market your participation?
- Who is your most probable customer? How do they align with the audience who attends this event?
- What’s it going to cost to do this?
- Who’s going to create and monitor the budget plan?
- Who’s going to be accountable for creating the project proposal? What about the project team?
- Who’s going to lead the initiative?
- What steps do you need to put in place in order to find the right kind of person to run this?
- Customer Fulfillment
- What does customer fulfillment look like with this goal?
- What’s the end result you’re aiming for, and how can you measure your success?
- Lead Conversion
- Do you know what it costs to produce one sale?
- How many sales do you need?
- What sales goal do you have, and how did you arrive at that?
- Is your Lead Conversion system documented?
- Lead Generation
- What lead generation channels best represent your brand?
- Which channels are the most effective for this campaign, and why?
- What are the messages truly communicating? Is that the message you want? Is that the message that will help you get closer to making your goal and dream a reality?
Conclusion: Implement your plan.
By the time we completed the Strategic Objective process for this goal, Andy had answered the hard questions and could see everything that was needed to work toward it. He quickly realized that for business owners, it takes more than just you to implement your plan. It takes your entire team. And it takes a mentor.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your vision for your business at the end of next year? Think of some dream goals you’d like to accomplish and work on your Strategic Objective for each one. And if you want to take your planning to the next level, check out our new guide: Your Annual Plan 2020.