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The ONE Thing Your Professional Services Business MUST Have!

Jun 19, 2008
Here's a challenge: Do you know the ONE thing that separates the successful (including the obscenely successful, like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) from the also-rans? Think you do? Perhaps then you also know that this same ONE thing makes more of a difference than pretty much anything else to ensure that your small business will one day become a big business, rather than a failure statistic? Anyone can do it, and it doesn't require special skills, proprietary tools or expensive resources.

Shall I put you out of your misery? The ONE thing you MUST do for your business is to set clear, specific, time-linked goals.

What? That's it? Boy, what a build-up for so little ... but before you drop this article in disgust and go on to something else, answer me this: What are your revenue goals for the next three months? How many new clients are you planning to close between now and then? What's the planned average revenue per client you close? Can you also answer those three questions for the remainder of the calendar year? If not, why can't you answer those questions?

Most people who can't answer those questions tell me that plans are irrelevant; it's results that matter. What's the point (they ask) of plucking numbers out of the air that may or may not match reality? Why not follow the Nike approach and 'Just Do It'? After all, plans and goals don't put money in the bank. And of course they are right; in the same way that drawing up plans for a new house doesn't put a roof over your head - or does it? Do you know anyone who successfully owner-built a new residence WITHOUT first drawing plans? Neither do I, and that's exactly my point.

Let's take a few minutes to understand the value of focused business goals to you; and while we're about it we'll highlight the three steps to successful goal-setting:

The Journey versus The Destination

Shall we begin by visualizing ourselves driving in a car? I usually frame this visualisation within the context of the M3 Motorway in Hampshire, heading for Southampton. (If you unfamiliar with that route you may want to Google it.) The key question is this: Is that a GOOD or a BAD thing?

No idea, right?

We couldn't answer that question without at least some context, so let's add a little to our visualisation. Let's say that we are trying to get to Heathrow airport. (For those unfamiliar with the area, Heathrow airport would be behind us, and getting smaller in the rearview mirror). Now: Is that a GOOD or a BAD thing?

Isn't it amazing how a simple thing like knowing where we want to go can make such a difference? Goals do that for your business - they give context to your analysis of progress and strategy. They allow you to decide whether to keep doing something or to stop and do something else, because they allow you to understand whether your efforts are moving you closer to where you want to be, or taking you further away.

There or Thereabouts

Let's just take a moment to delve a little deeper into your destination as context. If you were heading for the airport, would it be enough to know which county it was in? Of course not! In fact, even having the main airport entry road as a destination wouldn't be good enough - you would also have to know which terminal you were flying from, and where the rental car drop-off point was.

Likewise, it's not enough for your business to have the goal of 'being successful'. What does that mean? Take the time to define success. Remember too, that even if you didn't set up your business to get rich you need financial goals. After all, money is the only means we have of keeping score!

The Tyranny of Time

Of course there are further aspects of context that enhance our visualisation. So, let's imagine that we have turned the car around and are now heading towards the airport. The clock on the dashboard reads 14:12.

You're ahead of me by now: You want to know what time the aircraft is leaving before you can tell me whether we're on time, right? See how powerful that could be for your business? Not just WHAT you want to achieve, but WHEN you expect to be achieving it. So if what you are doing isn't producing results fast enough, you can start trying something else, because you know where your business should be at a certain point in time. Since you are the driver, you are the only person who can make those changes - and you need the context within which to do it.

Don't fall into the trap of setting your timelines too far ahead. (Many folk I speak to can tell me what their five-year revenue goal is, but not their current-year goal.) Within the context of our visualisation, what good would it do to know that we have to get to Heathrow in two weeks time? There would be no urgency, no immediate need to consider progress and direction - nothing to help us enhance performance. In short, an opportunity wasted. You - and your business - deserve better than that!

In summary, the ONE thing your business cannot do without if it is to succeed is goals. Those goals need to be clear, detailed and timely. If your business doesn't have that, don't delay! You could be on the road to Southampton at this very moment!

Having goals is not the end of the story, as many learn to their cost. The single biggest excuse I hear for not having goals is: 'I set goals in the past and didn't achieve them, so what's the use?' It's not too dramatic to say that such people are emotionally scarred by their past inability to achieve their goals - but should they be blaming the goals? Does the problem lie elsewhere? This subject is explored further in my article "Two Essential Components of Achievable Goals."

David Deakin and Zee2A Limited 2008.

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About the Author
David Deakin, CEO of Zee2A, works with Professional Services Executives yearning to take their business to the next level. Through one-on-one mentoring he helps them create sustainable marketing strategies that attract more clients at profitable rates. To learn more, sign up for his e-zine, or enquire please visit www.zee2A.com.
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