With only ten days left in 2007, I’ve been thinking about my goals and plans for 2008. These are not the infamous ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ that everyone makes with good intentions and then forgets about by January 15th. I’m talking about short and long term goals for my business and action plans for the next 90 days.
In fact, as I’ve been interviewing successful entrepreneurs for my forthcoming book, The Baby Boomer Entrepreneur, I’ve discovered that planning is a big part of their success. They don’t all use the same methods, but successful entrepreneurs all have a clear vision of what they want their businesses to be.
The first step to planning is to have a long term vision of where you want your business to be not just 90 days from now, but 12 months, three years, even ten years from now. When I was first introduced to this concept by my coach I didn’t really understand why I should bother. I barely knew what next week would look like. How could I ever think about ten years down the road?
But over time I’ve come to appreciate the value of this task. If you don’t have a vision – a big vision – for your business, it’s easy to get bogged down in the every day details, to get distracted, to get off track. For a long time I only focused on the bare minimum I needed to earn in my business to get by. And guess what? By focusing on the minimum, that’s what I got.
But when I started focusing on my long term goals and what I wanted for the bigger picture, things started to take shape. Opportunities started to fall into my lap. People started coming to me. I began to get excited about my business again. Instead of dragging myself out of bed just in time to get my son to school, I was leaping out of bed at 5 am so I could get a couple of hours of work in before having to make breakfast.
Now don’t get me wrong: a ten year vision is not carved in stone. We change over time, and what we want will change over time also. The current vision for my business is very different than the one I created 15 months ago. This is because I’ve learned more about my business and about myself. I have a better idea of what I want my business to be, not what I think I should want it to be.
Was the vision I create 15 months ago a waste of time because it wasn’t quite right? No! First, it was right for me at the time. I’ve changed a lot in that short period. Second, I’m absolutely convinced I wouldn’t be where I am, working on exciting projects, writing a book, and writing a blog, if I hadn’t gone through that process.
The other planning tool successful entrepreneurs have is a mission or purpose statement. When my coach asked me to create a mission statement for my business I resisted. I couldn’t see how this would help me. And I didn’t know what it should be. But after dragging my feet for a few weeks, I finally created one. Then I stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it.
Several months after writing (and forgetting) my mission statement I was asked to teach a writing course at Georgian College here in Owen Sound. Much to my surprise, I loved teaching. I loved interacting with students and helping them learn some of what I knew.
I also began talking with a friend and colleague about creating a workshop – Everyday Law of Attraction. I was really excited about this workshop but felt I was getting off track with my business.
Then I pulled out my mission statement. It read: “To use my writing and speaking skills to tell stories that excite, inspire and teach people.” Creating a workshop wasn’t getting me off track, it was finally getting me back on track.
Rediscovering my mission statement and using it to guide me was a real turning point for me. It was my mission statement that gave me “permission” to go ahead with putting on the workshop. It also inspired me to start writing my book, to create this blog and to start adding teaching, speaking and podcasting into my mix for 2008.
The best part is, as I’ve started focusing on my true passion, the other side of my business – copywriting – has also started to grow.
After creating a mission statement and long term vision and goals, how do I know what to work on when I get out of bed each day? That’s where my 90 day action plan comes in. I set a small number of goals (two to four) that I want to achieve in the next 90 days. Then I create an action plan and plug the action items onto my calendar.
Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve been much more productive. That’s because I’ve been working on tasks that move me forward towards my goals, not just engaging in busy work.
Over the next ten days I’ll be spending some time creating my goals for the year and my 90 day goals for the first quarter of 2008.
If you have a planning system or tool you use for your business, please add a comment and tell us about it.
Andrea J. Stenberg
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