Mid year is the perfect time to reevaluate your plans for 2015. Too often, owners put together a great game plan at year-end, but by June 30, those plans have been abandoned. Over the past 20+ years working with hundreds of business owners, we’ve developed these six key leverage points to jump-start your year. The key to this exercise is that it does not over-complicate things. Simplicity leads to execution.
Start with a single blank sheet of paper. Divide this sheet of paper into six sections – one for each leverage point below. Next, you’ll fill each section individually.
1. Your Schedule
Your time is the one commodity that you cannot increase. No matter how successful you are, your time is a scarce resource. Because your time is limited, you need to believe that you have control over your time. Don’t yield that control to anyone — this commodity is far too valuable. Take a few minutes and make a list of all the tasks you do in a week. Be sure to write down everything you can think of, whether it’s payroll, professional networking, or working on a client project. Next, circle the few things (no more than five) that provide the biggest return for you. These profit hotspots are the things you need to be spending your time on over the next six months. On a separate sheet of paper, note these important items, and commit to doing them regularly over the next six months. As simple as this is, most owners struggle to stop doing some things — what I call throwing things overboard. Become a master at regularly throwing things overboard. Some things don’t need to be done, some should be delegated to your key people, and some need to be outsourced.
2. Your Health and Spirit
It’s important to take care of yourself first. If you can’t function at full capacity (mentally, physically, or spiritually), you can’t help the key people in your world. Taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for your business and those close to you. Most owners report a few priorities in this area: go to the doctor and get a check-up, start or upgrade their exercise routine, take more time off, and do something everyday to nurture their spirit.
3. Your Key People
Your people are your largest financial and time investment. Working on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of your people is one of the best ways to make you business more enjoyable and valuable. Do your people have regular goals? Is the time horizon of their goals position appropriate? By time horizon I mean that the higher up someone is in your organization, the longer-term they can generally measure their goals. For your top managers, annual or quarterly goals are fine, but for many businesses are best served when their front-line people are focused on daily or weekly goals.
Write down the three highest-payoff activities you can do with or for your people to make them more effective through the next six months? Other business owners have said things like implementing weekly staff meetings, making sure everyone in their organization has some type of weekly metric or measurable goal, and getting better training on their CRM system.
Sales are one of the most important areas of your business, and it’s an area where frequently money is wasted because of lack of management. Are you, or your sales manager, meeting with your sales team on a weekly basis to have detailed discussions about your sales pipeline? As an owner, when you fail to manage your salespeople and sales managers, you waste money.
In one column, write down the names of the next six months (July-December). In the next column, write down six things that, if implemented, could take your sales organization to the next level. Owners have reported that things like identifying a top 20 hit list, getting coaching for their sales professionals, and implementing reporting systems for salespeople to be accountable for their daily or weekly sales goals. With a little attention, this major problem can be fixed easily.
At this point in time, marketing is just as much science as art. With all the tools at our disposal, business owners are able to increase the ROI of their marketing efforts. Yet many small businesses rely on marketing campaigns that are not even measurable. Consider stopping all marketing if the results cannot be measured. Instead, look at the tactics that are working and focus on those.
In the fifth section of your paper, list all of your business’ marketing activity. Circle at least three, but no more than five, activities that have been proven most effective. These will be measurable items. At the bottom of the list, write down the one thing you are not doing that you should be doing. Put it in all capitals, circle it, bold it. Implement this single marketing initiative by December. One thing people report is that staying in contact with their current best customers is a key marketing initiative. Can these customers provide you with referrals? Are there additional services or products you could provide?
6. Make a Stop Doing List
John Maxwell once wrote, “Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.” If you’ve been in business for more than a few years, there are surely things that you or your team are doing that were initiated some time ago, but are no longer producing the necessary results.
Going back to your first column, you’ll see the list of everything you do in a day. Look closely at that list again, focusing on the items you did not circle (the tasks that are not most valuable). Look over those remaining items, and find the least relevant, least profitable uses of your time. You know what these things are. Stop lying to yourself, write them down, and commit to stop doing these things. Owners found that they could stop involvement with organizations that are no longer valuable, or taking meetings that aren’t helpful. Ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time?”
With these six simple steps, you can lead your business into the third and fourth quarters with renewed zeal and focus.
Harry J. Plack, CPA is director of Plack Group, LLC. The Plack Group helps business owners maximize their progress in business and in life.