One of the key challenges for any business is to remain focused and invest resources for maximum pay-off. It’s said that 80% of a business’s activity accounts for only 20% of total profits. In plain language, most of the work we do is unfocused, poorly designed and ineffective. In today’s competitive world, no business, whether it’s an individual professional or a large manufacturing operation, can survive with that much lost time and wasted effort. A business plan can help, but most small business owners (and some managers/supervisors) hate doing them! In the spirit that any map is better than no map, here are my top ten keys to creating your own map to success:
1. Have a dream. This sounds simple and obvious, but answering the questions: “Why am I doing this? What’s the big picture?” can lead to profound changes in many organizations. Too often in the daily grind, we forget to think about where we want to go, or why we started the business or took the job in the first place.
2. Make the dream bigger. What if the whole world bought your products or loved your service? What would it mean if your profits, or your personal income were 10 times greater? How about 100, or 1000 times greater? What shifts in focus would that require? Would your daily routine change? Would you spend your time and energy on different problems, attend to different priorities? Why wait?
3. Make the dream clearer. Have a precise description of exactly what you want and hang it in your office, in the employee lunch room, in the restrooms, and on the dash of your car. Use key words, phrases, a photograph of your future office building or whatever symbol will crystallize the dream and make it real for you and for every member of your team
4. List 100 obstacles that will get in your way. Enlist staff, friends, competitors to help. Ask your customers to join with you in looking for the roadblocks, blindspots and bottlenecks that prevent you from growing. Make it a matter of personal pride to never have a problem pop up that you haven’t already considered.
5. List 1000 solutions, 10 for each potential problem. The key here is creativity, flexibility, and responding instantly when the unexpected happens. Expect the unexpected, and have a file of alternative solutions at your finger tips. It’s called contingency planning. Do it!
6. Get tons of advice. Have your accountant, your attorney, your insurance agent, your spouse and your cousin take a look at this. If you can’t explain it to them, will you be able to explain it to your staff? If these people don’t understand and support your plan, will you be able to maintain your own enthusiasm over the long haul?
7. Get GOOD advice. After explaining your dream and your plan to lots of people, sit down with a handful of those you trust the most, and pay them to give you their best feedback. Lots of people can give you technical advice, expert advice, and even friendly advice. Wisdom is more important, and harder to find.
8. Create the path of least resistance. Using the dream as your goal, and knowing the obstacles that could get in your way, begin mapping your way through the wilderness to your destination. What’s the easiest, most direct, route? What’s the safest route? Which combination of activities and priorities makes the most sense?
9. Take action. Once you know where you want to go and have a path to get there, start walking! Too many managers put their business plan into a nice file folder that is never looked at because they are too busy working “hard.” Instead, use your efforts and your plan together so that your effort is focused, productive and smart!
10. Re-assess often. Just as someone hiking across barren territory needs to periodically stop and check their map and compass to avoid walking in circles, business owners and managers need to check their direction and their priorities. Conditions change. Opportunities pop up or disappear, new problems arrive or the nature of the dream changes. All of these things will happen. Plan for it! Regularly step outside your business to re-assess and redefine your most important tasks. You can’t afford to spend 80% of your effort in busywork and unprofitable distractions. Re-assess and stay on course.