It’s almost half-way through the year and that means it’s a great time to take a minute to figure out if you’re where you wanted to be when you set your business goals back in December or January.
What were you thinking when you read that sentence?
- Uh, I didn’t set goals for 2015. I just take things as they come.
- Yes, sure am on track! Thanks for asking.
- No, things aren’t turning out the way I planned.
Regardless of how you answered, it’s time to set your course of action for the next 6 months (because who wants to be working hard in December?).
“Uh, I didn’t set business goals for 2015.”
Look, I get it. In Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTP and P stands for “not gonna plan ahead for anything I don’t have to.”
I used to resist planning ahead, setting long-term goals, and committing to a course of action. I could create small victories on the fly—what more could I want?
Turns out, I wanted a lot more. If you’re resistant to set long-term goals or commit to a long-term course of action but you still have ambition informing your vision, I hate to break it to you but it’s time to make a change. You don’t have to over-plan, but you want to action with a particular destination in mind.
Your Next Question: Where do you want to be a year from now? Where do you want your business to be a year from now? What’s it going to take to get there?
Setting your destination helps to set your strategy.
“Yes, sure am on track!”
Congratulations! So am I. I’m exactly where I planned to be. And now that I’m here, I’ve been able to adjust my plan to reach a stretch goal I had in mind but couldn’t quite see the path to.
If you’re right where you want to be, it can be extremely helpful to look a little farther down the field. Maybe you were hoping to kick a field goal at the end of this drive and instead, you’re in position to go for the touch down.
Do you know the course of action you’ll need to get there? Do you have the tools or planning processes in place to make that happen?
Your Next Question: What decisions will help you reach your stretch goal? Is it time to hire some one new? Raise prices? Offer something that’s been on your mind? Cut away deadweight from your business?
Strategy is all about decision-making and you’re in a great place to do it.
“No, things aren’t turning out the way I planned.”
I’ve been there. I’ve created great plans only to have certain variables not go my way.
One of our Quiet Power Strategy™ clients, Jennifer Racioppi, who helps high-performing women create the personal fortitude they need to put in the work, talks a lot about resilience. Resilience is the ability to change course when the going gets tough. It’s the quality you need to spring back up when you get pushed over.
Resilience is hard work.
But it’s so worth it.
If things aren’t going to plan halfway through the year, it’s time to make a commitment to yourself, your business, and your customers to reexamine the plan and adjust it based on the new information you have.
Your Next Question: What course corrections do you need to make?
Whether you haven’t had time to finish the project you thought you could, whether deals didn’t close as easily as you thought they should, whether all your pitching for media mentions and guest posts as fallen flat, you’ve got new data to work with. Take what you’ve learned and change course.
No matter how you answered…
No matter how you answered, it’s probably time to get some support in reaching your business goals. I’ll be opening pre-registration for the Fall session of Quiet Power Strategy (my hands-on business coaching program) in a couple of weeks. It might be exactly what you need to get where you’re going.
Of course, you can find support lots of place: colleagues, friends, mentors, and team members. Just don’t try to go it alone, okay?
You don’t get where you’re going (whether you’ve just decided where that is, you’re picking out a stretch goal, or whether you’re changing course) without help.
Resistance often sounds like strategy: I’m doing what works for me.
You push away tactics, techniques, ideas, or strategies that push your comfort zone, challenge your personal status quo, or feel a little too “real” because what you’ve been doing has succeeded to a point.
But I’ve seen the insides of too many businesses that seemed like they were “working” and I’ve guided too many entrepreneurs through reviewing what’s “worked” in the past to take your word for it when you tell me you’re doing what works for you.
You don’t know it’s really working until you can measure it and track it.
Of course, the easiest way to measure something’s effectiveness is to try doing something different than you’ve always done in the past.
First, you need a way to measure the effectiveness of something. “Feeling” like it’s working isn’t enough. How many leads are coming in? How many deals are you closing? How many people are buying from each email newsletter you send out?
Next, you need to try something different. If you feel like your “Work with Me” website page is performing well, look back over your books and determine how many inquiries and how many sales you’ve had from that page over the last month or so. Then, create a new version of that page. Maybe you reduce the copy, change the headline, or experiment with a new inquiry system.
For the next month, track your inquiries and sales again. Which is better?
As many others have said, “Hope is not a strategy.” You can hope that what feels comfortable is really working for you; but until you measure your success and try something different, you just don’t know.
Yes, determining what’s really going to work takes, well, work. But when that work translates into greater leverage, more time, and greater revenue, you’ll thank yourself for it.
Vision plus hustle doesn’t equal results.
Every day I see business owners with lofty visions and hardcore hustle fail to get traction and reach their goals. They’ve got big ideas and aspirations and they’re putting in lots of hours, but growth is stalled.
If that sounds familiar, you’re in good company. This problem is something that micro, small, large, and even enterprise businesses run into.
Nilofer Merchant, in her book The New How, defines this problems as an “Air Sandwich.” She writes:
An Air Sandwich is, in effect, a strategy that has clear vision and future direction on the top layer, day-to-day action on the bottom, and virtually nothing in the middle — no meaty key decisions that connect the two layers, no rich chewy center filling to align the new direction with new actions within the company.
In your business, this likely manifests as feeling out of touch exactly how your hustle translates into results. You feel a little (or a lot) fuzzy about what you should be focusing on and what really counts. You spend quite a bit of time seeing what “works” but what works doesn’t seem replicable, sustainable, or capable of building true momentum.
To solve your sandwich problem, you need to commit.
Strategy, as I explain in my newest book, is all about making decisions. And decisions require you to say “yes” to one thing, and “no” to something else. They require you to commit to a direction and plan of action.
Between vision and hustle are the strategic decisions you make about What You Want to Create and How You Want to Connect with customers. These are things you try willy nilly, they’re things you commit to, lean in to. They guide your day-to-day action and bring your business closer to its goals.
If you’re feeling like your business has a sandwich problem, ask yourself where you’ve been avoiding commitment.
Where are your opportunities to make key decisions about how to reach your goals, not just what you need to do on a daily basis to stay afloat?
And what’s been keeping you from making a commitment to a more productive direction?
You grab a name tag, a glass of white wine (thank goodness for wine), and scan the room for someone you know. It’s filled with women in smart dresses and men in layered sweater-shirt combos. The light is manageable but low.
Really, the fact that you turned up at this shindig without a fallback buddy is kind of crazy. All you can see in the room is small huddles of people vacillating between laughing politely and furrowing their brows, well, politely.
Finally, you spot another lone wolf. You slowly start walking toward her and nervously ask her a question. You make polite smalltalk until one of the initiated invades your little duo of sanctuary.
You try to move on to another group, another conversation, another opportunity. Each time you make your approach the butterflies in your tummy turn into bees. They buzz up to your head. Your brain is overcome by the swarm. Sooner than later, you bail.
You just put yourself through something akin to hell and don’t even have a business card to show for it, let alone a real connection with someone knew who can help you book a new client or land a new account.
Maybe this isn’t your worst-case business-building scenario (it is mine). Maybe yours is sales calls or speaking gigs or email marketing. Maybe you love being funny but hate the expectation to perform. Maybe you love diving deep but hate holding someone’s hand.
Business tends to create opportunities to take action that make you feel uncomfortable, disquieted.
Worse, business can put you in a position where you think you need to do things that are painful, unprincipled, or sleazy.
Even when you reject the worst of those things (really, don’t do anything that makes you feel sleazy), you succumb to good advice, solid plans, and tried-and-true formulas that just don’t sit right with you.
Case in point: “If high-powered entrepreneurs go to networking events, surely I should to. That’s just a good plan.”
I’m going to let the cat out of the bag early: you don’t need to do anything in your business that isn’t aligned with your personal values or guiding principles.
But you knew that.
You’re not one to compromise your beliefs, your values, or your principles. It’s part of what got you into business in the first place.
What you probably don’t know is that there is a strategic way to develop a plan of action that is aligned with your personal values and guiding principles. There’s a strategic way to allow what makes you most effective and compelling turn into tactics and then results.
In other words, when you’re clear on the strategy, you can reverse engineer the tactics that are going to work best for you. Better, you can innovate new ones that put you light years ahead of the rest of the market. It’s not a matter of finding the right guru, formula, or expert; it’s a matter of becoming your own expert.
Let’s go back to the example of the networking event. This is a nightmare scenario for me. It’s not as bad as it used to be but it’s still really bad.
I want to connect with people. I love finding kindred spirits and people who want to help me fulfill my vision. But walking up to people at a networking event is not a condition for success for me.
I’ve had to ask myself whether I needed to push myself to accomplish this “should” of business or whether I could find a different way to connect with people.
This is a core question on Quiet Power Strategy™: How do you want to connect with others?
Too often, we focus on how we should connect with others. Or we fixate on what will work best to connect with others based on what’s working for other people.
All the shoulds and best practices in the world aren’t helpful if they’re not helpful, effective, efficient, and fulfilling to you and your business.
When I coach clients through developing their business strategy, I ask them:
- How have you best connected with others in the past?
- What conditions do you need to really create a connection with someone?
- What kinds of conversations lead to lasting relationships?
- What kinds of people are you looking to meet?
- When do you feel most persuasive or compelling?
Then, we create a plan that creates those conditions, sets them up to meet those kind of people, and helps the feel more persuasive and compelling.
For me, that means space to think about how to approach someone, time to consider my responses, the ability to research people first, and clear expectations for behavior. I’m an introvert, can you tell? That means that I’ve relied heavily on Twitter to connect with others. That’s lead to speaking engagements at Etsy headquarters, CreativeLive, and Pioneer Nation, among others. It’s also lead to relationships with bestselling authors like Chris Guillebeau, Sally Hogshead, and Nilofer Merchant. I can say with confidence that trying to networking-event my way to those connections would have failed miserably. I’m just not suited for it. And that’s okay.
This kind of strategic workaround works for any area of your business that’s feeling especially uncomfortable (or, worse, sleazy). Step back and look for way around. It doesn’t mean you’re copping out if you don’t take the hard road, it means you’re smart.
That said, you can’t just ignore the hard road; you need a strategic plan to get the results you want without having to do the things you don’t want to do.
That’s what my new book is all about. It’s coming out on February 10 but in the meantime, you can pick up a special sneak preview by clicking here.
The other day, I was scrolling through a friend’s wall on Facebook looking for a post. I noticed that, in fact, most of the posts weren’t from her but were other people posting on her wall celebrating this or sharing that. I thought, “Wow, all those wall posts are signs of just how influential she is. Maybe I need to work harder so that I be that influential too.”
See what happened there? I allowed a positive metric of one person’s success tell me I’m not as successful as I’d like to be (or as successful as she is).
I had a similar conversation with a couple clients recently, too. They were concerned that their communities didn’t act the same way a competitor’s community acted and worried that was affecting the performance of their businesses.
When we see disparities like this, our natural inclination is to find fault with ourselves. Self-judgement is the reflex.
What if, instead, you saw this as a result of your personal strategic decisions? What if you decided to express your own results as Key Performance Indicators of your core strategy and then seek additional ways to manifest those results?
For my business, effusive posts on my Facebook wall might be fun but they don’t really reflect the way the awesome people who read my blog or work with me would naturally respond to my work because of conscious choices I’ve made in my strategy. Instead, they write emails, Tweet me, or invest 3 days time to watch me on CreativeLive. For the clients I mentioned above, their own awesome people respond to their work by making taking serious action toward their goals and sharing much more privately.
We all have different ways to “move the needle” on our businesses and each of those methods has different corresponding effects. One person’s strategic decisions create different outward effects than another person’s. What’s more, those strategic decisions (her Quiet Power) are unique to that individual and her business. What works for me won’t work for you. What works for Marie Forleo won’t work for me. What works for Facebook won’t work for Marie Forleo. And as a result, our successes all look different.
Plenty of people will try to sell you one-size-fits-all tactics and give you can’t-lose metrics to follow, but the truth is that there is no correct solution save the one that is most effective for you and your business.
Your business strategy should be dictated by What You Want to Create and How You Want to Connect. The decisions you make in those two areas dictate Who Your Business Attracts and How They Respond. Understanding the interplay between these areas helps you stay out of the weeds and out in front of your business. Instead of making reactive decisions or action plans, you make proactive ones because you’re guided by metrics and indicators that are actually relevant to your own personal strategy.
You should choose who you’re going to pursue and how you’re going to measure their response based on what’s actually going to create results for you.
Look at the unique people your business attracts and how they respond to your business:
- What strategic decisions have you made that attract those people to your business and influence how they respond to it?
- What indicators of success can you extract from how your people respond?
- What reactions would show you that you’re on the right path?
- What responses or methods of response could you use to track your effectiveness?
You might find that Facebook shares fit both your strategic decisions and the direction you want to take next year. Or you might decide that email subscriptions are where it’s at and you want to do everything you can to have your people respond by subscribing. You might choose purchases as an indicator of effectiveness and work to understand how your strategy influences the way your awesome people choose to buy.
As you look to the coming year, choose one indicator to monitor closely. Experiment with your marketing and sales efforts to see how you can affect that indicator. Then pay special attention to how you can use that indicator to reach your business goals.