How to Create an Effective Action Plan | Brian Tracy
How to Achieve Business Goals
If you’re a business owner, you know that accomplishing goals is sometimes easier said than done. Whether your goals are related to basic operations or long-term growth, the key is to identify clear, concrete desired outcomes. Set goals that are specific, measurable, and actionable instead of goals that are vague or overly ambitious. Develop an action plan, and stay on target by tracking your progress and rewarding yourself along the way.
Setting Actionable Goals
Assess your business’s finances and identify your needs.Review your profit and loss and cash flow statements to get a snapshot of your business’s overall health. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and tailor your goals to your business’s needs.
- Suppose your goal is to expand your flower shop, and you initially want to open a second retail location. However, you find that your delivery sales are growing twice as fast as your walk-in sales.
- Instead of opening a full retail space, it might be more profitable if the second location serves as a hub to expand your delivery range. Your overhead would be lower, you’d increase your customer base, and you’d expand the strongest area of your business.
Conduct market research to pursue the most relevant goals.Research your market so you can prioritize your goals based on your customers’ needs and your industry’s trends. Check government and university studies, trade publications, and professional association resources related to your industry. Look for information about growth in your industry, new technologies, and changes in customers’ preferences.
- For instance, when you research the floral industry at large, you find that florists generally aren’t reaching younger generations, haven’t adopted digital marketing strategies, and are losing foot traffic.
- Based on this research, you decide a small delivery hub is definitely better than a more expensive retail space. You can use the money you’ll save on overhead to create a delivery app, streamline the ordering form on your website, and expand your digital marketing.
Set clear, actionable goals instead of vague, audacious goals.You’re more likely to achieve goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (SMART). Create clear, doable goals, identify specific tasks to accomplish them, and establish a timeline of when you can complete each task.
- A SMART goal would be, “Expand my delivery service within 6 months by establishing a hub to increase delivery range, store inventory, and process orders.”
- Vague, overly ambitious goals would be, “Double my sales” or “Export products internationally.” These goals don’t provide any information about how or when you can achieve them.
Break up long-term goals into smaller steps.Big, long-term goals can feel overwhelming and leave you asking, “Where do I start?” Break quarterly, annual, and multi-year goals up into more manageable weekly and daily steps. Have patience, divide and conquer, and check your progress weekly to stay on track.
- For example, opening a second location within 6 months might seem daunting at first. Start by reviewing your finances and setting your budget. If necessary, apply for a business loan to fund your expansion.
- Next, scout potential sites by researching demographic statistics and searching for available properties. Finding the right spot might hold up the process, but aim to sign a lease (or a mortgage) within 2 or 3 months.
- After signing a lease, allow around 6 to 8 weeks to complete renovations, acquire inventory, and hire new employees. Break these tasks up into even smaller steps, such as “Week 1: plumbing and electrical; research wholesalers. Week 2: painting and decor; advertise job openings.”
Inform your staff about your business goals.Your employees need to be up to date about your business goals in order to achieve them. When you set goals, communicate them clearly to your staff, and identify specific ways that your team can achieve your desired outcomes.
- Suppose you run a sales team, and you want to increase your client retention rate. If your salespeople aren’t aware of that goal, they might spend most of their time trying to gain new clients instead of focusing on retaining customers.
Developing an Action Plan
Make a reasonable timeline with specific tasks.After setting a clear business goal, identify the specific actions needed to achieve your desired outcome. Type a step-by-step plan with detailed daily and weekly tasks. Set realistic expectations when you estimate how long it will take to complete each action.
- If you’re expanding your business, a specific task might be, “Compare census data, median incomes, property values, and walkability scores for potential second locations.”
- When pursuing development goals, such as opening a new location, remember that you still have to run your business. If you set unrealistic time frames, you’ll either fail to achieve development goals or drop the ball on your current operational tasks
Identify the resources each goal requires.All goals demand resources, such as time and money. After identifying the specific steps your goal requires, establish how much each task will cost, what supplies you’ll need, and how to utilize your staff.
- For example, if you want to expand your digital marketing, review your finances and figure out how much you can pay a new marketing specialist. Factor in the cost of posting job advertisements and the time you’ll spend interviewing candidates. Alternatively, calculate the cost of hiring a recruiter.
Delegate tasks to appropriate team members.If you have employees, identify tasks that you don’t have to complete yourself. Assign these tasks to members of your staff with the right seniority and skills. When you assign tasks, explain an employee’s responsibilities in detail.
- For instance, if you’re expanding your business, you might need to negotiate a new lease, but an employee could scout out locations and research local demographics.
- If you’re an owner-operator and you employ a general manager, they have the seniority to review your financial reports, set budgets, and interview new hires. However, you wouldn’t want a lower-level employee to carry out these tasks.
Establish ways of measuring success.For simple tasks, measuring success might only entail checking a box or crossing off your list. For complex development and operational goals, you might track your progress by reviewing financial data, analyzing web traffic, or tracking returning customers.
- For example, you can just check a box for tasks such as conducting market research and advertising a job opening.
- If you opened a new location to grow your delivery service, track its performance by reviewing your delivery sales.
- If you invested in online advertisements, redesigned your website, and increased your social media presence, look for increased web traffic and online orders.
Sticking to Your Plan
Keep your plan and desired outcomes on display.Post your goal and action plan in your office or write them on a whiteboard so they’re always visible. Your plan will be out of sight and out of mind if you tuck it into a drawer, and you’ll be more likely to put off important tasks.
- Put up a calendar or timeline to maintain a bird's-eye view, post agendas with daily or weekly tasks, and display charts and graphs that track progress.
- A vision board with images related to your goal could also help you stay focused.
Evaluate your progress and update your timeline each week.Review your action plan, check off completed tasks, and identify tasks that weren’t completed that week. Tasks from the previous week should then become the following week’s priorities. If necessary, adjust your long-term expectations periodically to account for these delays.
- For example, if you didn't get a chance last week to hire a contractor for your second location's renovations, that task becomes this week's top priority.
- If things get pushed back, don’t lose your focus or get frustrated. Obstacles and delays are bound to happen, so try to be flexible.
Celebrate when you achieve small goals.Since it can take months or years to reap the benefits of long-term goals, staying motivated is tough. Rewarding yourself and your staff when you reach smaller milestones can help you stay on target.
- If your goal is to increase your daily revenue by 30% over the course of a year, you could reward your staff at 5 or 10% intervals. Incentives might be gift cards, spa or golf days, or gadgets.
- For simple daily tasks, something as small as a gold star on a calendar can be effective.
Include down time in your schedule.If you get burned out, you’re not going to stay on track. Instead of running yourself ragged, give yourself permission to take days off. Schedule a day each week to do things you enjoy and keep your mind off of work.
- If you can’t take an entire day off, set aside at least a few hours for down time. When you’re refreshed, you’re more efficient and more likely to complete tasks.
Video: How to Achieve Your Goals - The 5 Disciplines of Execution | Tom Ferry
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