On the Road to Success, Where are You Going?

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

At a crossroads, Alice asked the Cheshire cat which path she should take. The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” When Alice replied, “I don’t know,” the cat said, “Then IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

Too many times we get all caught up on the journey, the day to day activities; we don’t ask ourselves where are we going? What is it we really want to achieve?  You must have a clear, definite and compelling reason for your actions or you will not have the motivation and drive to give it your best to succeed.

In business we can be so focused on cutting costs, being more efficient or developing a better lead generation system that we don’t ask why are we doing all of this and what are the results that we really want. If you do not have a great reason, a compelling reason, your employees won’t have a good reason to give you their best either.

Right now is a great time to stop for just a moment, take a break and catch your breath. While you are there take a moment to re-orient yourself to make sure that you are on the right path for you at this time in your life.

Start with being honest with yourself. Don’t think about what anyone else will say or think, or who might be disappointed in your answer. Forget what has happened in the past or attempts that have failed. Just ask yourself, “What do I really want in life?” What do you really want to achieve? Be as clear and specific as possible, but if you can’t be specific then be vague, but answer the question the best that you can.

Are you heading in the right direction? If you want to go to the North Carolina Mountains, you don’t want to head toward the Outer Banks.

Where do you want to go? IT DOES MATTER!!

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Super Busy Costs you, here is a Solution

From so many commitments that you can’t seem to breathe, to working so hard on everyday problems and issues you never seem to see beyond today. ‘Super busy’ can look different for different people.

Define “Busy”
You need to be able to define what it means when you say that you are “busy.” Everybody is doing something every single hour of every day. What does your busy look like? Are you working more hours than is healthy, are you inefficient because you cannot solve a time management issue, or do you have a problem saying no and are now overcommitted in a number of areas and cannot seem to juggle it all?

A very common scenario is growing in a business until you are maxed out, then hiring someone to help in the front office. This person handles all the phone calls, customer complaints, invoicing, bill payment preparation, errands, occasional social media posting, and whatever else you can dump on them. But it is never enough. So, who is the next person that you can add to take some load off of you? You can’t afford someone who doesn’t produce income.

The Hard Part
More importantly, why is your “busy” a problem? You need to determine what really going on that is causing you to be too busy. What are the implications of you being so busy? What is the price?  Is it causing stress, sleepless nights? Maybe it is impacting relationships in your life, but you just grunt on and keep going, not knowing when or how it will stop!

The Solution
Find time. Take time. You might need an hour, so take it in 10-minute increments. Whatever it takes, but do it. You must find some time to breathe.  Once you take some time, we invest that time to find a little more time, and then we take that extra time to make more money to buy you your freedom. Here is where you start.

First, list ALL of your roles and responsibilities, from selling to the prospect to cleaning the toilets. Whatever you do in the company as a part of owning your business, WRITE IT DOWN!

Second, prioritize every listed item from the most critical and money producing activity to the least.

Third, look for ways to delegate or contract out the less income producing and impactful activities to someone else. If you are worried about quality control, as many are, that is a problem of systems and management skills (and Crossroads Consultants can help you with that).

Fourth, make a plan. Once you have freed up some time, use it to plan out your future and solve problems of delegation, control and bringing in more income. It takes time to make a good plan but that is what you need to have the freedom you need to reach your goals. Being Super Busy can be great for the ego, but the cost can be devastating.

Stan Broesder is the owner of Crossroads Consultants a business management and growth consulting company. If your business is going to grow the owners and management team must grow with it, or it won’t work. Marketing today is beyond the expertise of most owners and manager. In order to effectively market your business and grow you need someone who can plan and manage your marketing. Crossroads Consultants will provide you with a lower cost provisional marketing management solution. Contact Stan at 980-241-0189 or Stan@MyCrossroadsConsultants.com

How to Maximize Your Marketing Results

Most business owners are very knowledgeable and even specialize in a particular product or service, but marketing. Marketing is usually decided when vendors convince you that their product is the right one for you.

Are you wasting your money?

When you have multiple tactics that are not strategically aligned you may think that your investment is working when actually only one is working well and the rest are a total waste of money.

In today’s fast changing and an ever evolving digital world, you need to rely on some marketing principles to plan your business growth. One of those principles is making sure your marketing tactics actually work together.

Check your marketing efficiency and effectiveness:

  1. Are you using a list of tactics or do you have a sound strategic marketing plan to direct limited resources?
  2. Do you have clear goals for what you are trying to accomplish and can you measure real dollar results?
  3. Do your marketing and sales departments work together strategically and tactically?

Crossroads Consultants is not a marketing provider and therefore is an independent third party when it comes to evaluating and developing strategic marketing, planning and management systems. Developing a group of aligned tactics will work much more effectively and efficiently.

Crossroads Consultants has worked with a number of clients where we saved them money very quickly by decreasing or eliminating low return marketing tactics. We were able to reallocation those resources for tactics that better fit the company’s goals and overall strategies for growth.

Get an independent review

A Marketing Performance Profile is an analysis and recommendation report. Crossroads Consultants provides this report to give you the foundational elements you need for future marketing decisions. With this report you will be able to speed up product and service launches, select better and additional marketing tactics and know when to decrease or eliminate others as well.

A Marketing Performance Profile report determines what you are trying to accomplish and then evaluates each tactic to those goals. It provides a better foundation for a marketing strategy and planning. It looks at each tactic individually and collectively to save you money and see better results.

Contact Crossroads Consultants for a Marketing Performance Profile and to plan a marketing strategy to grow your business.

In order to maximize your marketing results start with a Marketing Performance Profile.

How to kill the dreams of a great strategic plan!

Many people say that strategic planning doesn’t work. That if you create a plan one day, it is obsolete the next. Or you have these great plans and then you can’t implement them, so what good are they? But it doesn’t have to be that way. The biggest problem with strategic plans is there is not enough thought put into them because most people just want to get it over with instead of creating a tool that will help them to reach their dreams. There are some strategic plan killers that you need to be aware of.

1. Going through the motions.
When management is in trouble, someone will get the bright idea that the solution is to just create a strategic plan. While it may be a tool for the solution, the mere paper won’t solve your problems. In order for a strategic plan to be effective you have to do it right and within the boundaries of which it is designed to work. Too many business owners sketch out their thoughts with a little input from a couple of key managers and then say “Here it is, our strategic plan!!

2. Preconceived notions and a closed mind.
Another killer is not really having an open mind during the process. The process turns into a “let’s justify what we want to do” instead of pulling the facts into the process and allowing it to generate the best strategy for the company. This may seem minor, but it is also one of the biggest reasons why strategic planning is not done in the first place. “I know where we need to go and what we need to do” I am just having some difficulty figuring out how to get it done”. Exactly! When the strategy is right the “how” is almost obvious.

3. Power plays, agendas and politics.
Too many times the process is crippled by those who have their own agenda in mind. From the beginning they have determined to figure out how to get a project, or program into the plan so that there department is better off and they are the hero with their people. But power plays compete against others also with agendas. One member in the process knows what you want and will indicate to you that you better support his agenda or he will make sure yours is killed along the way. Or after what you did to him last year, now it is pay back and you are out as far as they’re concerned. When individuals on the team think they are more important than the company, its purpose, values and all stakeholders, you will end up with a plan that will fail.

4. Not thinking about implementation.
When your plans are designed without thinking about how the plan is going to be implemented you are in for trouble. Part of the process is to assess where you are as far as your assets, resources and opportunities. Looking at your strengths and weaknesses, you determine where you can position the company to have the greatest competitive advantage. If you try to claim a position that you do not have the skills and knowledge to defend, you are going to have a difficult time. You have to think about those who will be implementing the plan.

5. Lack of creativity.
Closed minds, agendas, power plays, going through the motions, and no thought about implementation will cause a major lack of creativity. Each one of these killers will kill the creative thinking process that is needed to create a good strategic plan. That creativity will help to strategically position the company where it can best defend itself in the market place and enable it to grow into higher profit margin territory. It takes open minds that are free of reprisals, political consequences and preconceived agendas.

The problem is that no one in the process walks into a strategic planning meeting and announces that they have an agenda, closed minds, etc. They come in with smiles, enthusiasm, and say all the right things. It is the facilitator of the meetings that must keep a watchful eye to make sure that the pure process isn’t hijacked along the way.

Strategic planning is one of the best tools that management can use to secure the long-term viability and security of the company. Follow the process and make sure you have a skilled facilitator who cannot have an agenda beyond a successful strategic outcome.

Which way to go? Too many choices!

On Friday morning you see a pile of tasks on your schedule that kept falling over from each day during the week. Two items on Monday dropped into an already full Tuesday, which then dropped 5 items onto Wednesday. Now on Friday it is way more than you can do and you hope you can push it out over next week and so you dump it on to Monday.

Too many opportunities
In business today there are so many opportunities and choices and things to do. All of them are urgent and important, at least it seems that way. So how do you handle phone calls, complaints, emergencies, emails, proposals, bills, critical undelivered materials that you need to get your project completed, and on, and on, and on?

The Big Rocks Story
There is a great story that is often told in seminars that deal with planning and time management, but most people miss the point. It is generally called “The Big Rocks” you can read the story <here:> or go to: http://www.successfulacademic.com/ezines/apr252005.htm

There will always be more to do than you can possibly get done, more opportunities, no matter if you see them all or not. The key is developing your skill of prioritizing. It is a matter of being able to look at all of the tasks, opportunities and urgencies and determining which are the most important to do at this time. Okay, I would agree it is a little more difficult than that. But if you look at a few key principles of setting priorities you will at least improve your skills and start making great strides in the right direction.

Not values again!
Deciding what is most important is where you start the process. And in order to do that you have to decide what your values are. “You have got to be kidding, really?!” It is like the old joke when a robber meets a couple out for a walk. The robber jumps out from the bushes and says “your money or your life!” So the man grabs his wife and shoves her toward the robber who is stunned and says, “What are you doing?” Too which the man replies, “I thought you said my money or my wife”. Yes values are important. You wake up in the middle of the night because you thought you heard something. When you get halfway through the house you realize there is a fire at the far end of the house, what do you do? 1. Grab your most recent Sports Illustrated, 2. Rescue the fish 3. Get the marshmallows or 4. Oh, yeah, wake up your family.

Life isn’t that easy, but it helps to understand ahead of time what your values are and even which are more important than others. Loyalty is a very important value, but is it more important than integrity? You get two big project opportunities, but you cannot handle both. You must decide which has priority, money or an opportunity to expand into a great developing area of your industry. Again the choices won’t be that easy. In fact, the problem is that the choices are subtle, and NOW. The choices that are the most difficult are the ones that demand your decision right now and the consequences are sometimes obscured.

Watch your emotions
Too many times our emotions play a role in our prioritizing skills. When we don’t have our values down clearly it is an opportunity for our emotions to create conflict and frustration. Having a clear understanding about our goals and our values is critical to being able to prioritize our lives.

Learn to see end results
In developing our ability to prioritize our opportunities and tasks we need to develop our ability to see the value of the outcomes of our efforts. To be able to think through the effects of our work and the value of those results is critical and is missed by a lot of people. We’ve all known someone who could buy things at garage sales or from the classified ads and could turn them around and make money on them. They would see a motorcycle or boat along the road with a for sale sign on it and the next thing you know they bought it and then sold it within a week for a nice profit. How do they do that? It isn’t luck. They know the value of certain items and they know a deal when they see it. What happens is some of us try that and lose our shirt and scratch our heads. You have to know the value of the outcome.

Clearly understanding your goals and your values and understanding the consequences of our choices, while keeping your emotions in check, are important to being able to prioritize your life. Creating the discipline to follow through on what you know is best, and to do the most important thing now is the key to success.

Why is Planning so Hard?

Few actually plan

Studies have shown only 3% of the population, actually do any serious planning. However, almost everyone agrees that there is great benefit to planning and would also agree that the more important an event or complicated a task is the more important it is to plan for it.

How to plan is easy.

There are so many books written on the subject of planning it is very likely you have more than one in your own personal library. So it can’t be that we don’t know that we should do it. And it can’t be that we don’t know how to do it. The “how” is easily found for anyone who wants to know. But the reality is that planning is just hard. It is not fun or exciting, and usually not a very pleasant experience. It is like your taxes, you feel good when you are done not because of the great pleasure in the task, but the fact that it is over.

So why is planning so hard?

You can see that it isn’t hard physically, and it really isn’t all that hard mentally. The problem is that planning is extremely hard emotionally. I know we might not like that answer, but just think about doing some financial or other type of planning. Eventually you will feel it, that “in the pit of your gut” feeling.

Embarrassing questions

Proper planning asks a lot of questions. When we don’t have answers to these questions, we’re embarrassed, we don’t feel so good. Our security, confidence and self-esteem slip a little. When we don’t have answers to our questions then our future becomes a little more in jeopardy. We feel like we are being judged. “What do you mean you don’t know which is more important to you? If you don’t know, who does?”

Everyone has plans.

We plan to retire, go to the islands, learn how to paint, write a book, etc. But the reality is that we don’t really plan. It’s more like having a dream about things. Now according to recent statistics 18% of Americans over 60 years old are very confident in their future and retirement. However, a full 37% have less than $1,000.00 set aside for retirement. Are they planning to retire?

Beginning to see reality?

When you start to really plan, you begin to see reality and it often isn’t as pretty as we had dreamed that it is. Proper planning forces us to see reality and not just our dreams. Proper planning shows us where the real obstacles are in our dreams. We have to face them in order to fix them and that is really hard. I am beginning to feel a little sick myself just thinking about it. Are you with me?

Planning scares me!

I am afraid of the truth. I am afraid to face my own inadequacies, weaknesses, and blind spots. Proper planning makes me feel vulnerable. It forces me to remove the mask and look in the mirror of reality. When that happens I am afraid others will see me, the same way. One of the biggest reasons that businesses guard their strategic plans is because it can show their weaknesses.

I feel ignorant.

Proper planning also reveals my ignorance. There are holes in my road map to the future, gaps within my GPS and the unknowns are risks that I don’t know how to handle. When you can’t answer a question in your planning it becomes a potential threat. What will you do if…? How do you prevent your competition from…? What do your customers think about…? It’s what you don’t know that can hurt you, and that can be a little scary!

Secure your future.

The good news is that when you have identified your weaknesses, the holes in your map, the potential risks, threats, etc., you can now begin to solve them and eliminate them. When your future becomes clearer and the road you are on, more secure, your life will dramatically improve. I know this is a backward way of thinking about it, but if nothing else, planning will prevent things from getting worse. You may not feel better, but the truth will, shall we say, set you in the right direction.

There is an emotional struggle

The sooner that you are willing to admit that there is an emotional struggle to really putting the effort into proper planning, the sooner you will have a plan and be prepared for the potholes and detours of life. Start simple if you have to, even a short “To Do” list is better than nothing. But push on, and move to the more emotionally risky questions and address all the aspects of proper planning. When you are done you will feel better because, one, it is over (at least for today). And second, because you will have the confidence you need and also the energy to move in the right direction. You will sleep better, play harder, and work smarter. Your competition will be less of a threat. Your customers will be more satisfied. And your business will have a much brighter future.

Quick Plan

Here are four simple steps to start (plus one):

  1. Write out your goals.
  2. Be honest in your assessment for where you are now.
  3. Try to understand the obstacles and inventory your resources.
  4. Create a path of tasks, responsibilities and benchmarks.

Plus one: Get some help if you need it!

 A man (or woman) with a plan is far more confident and focused than a man with just a dream.

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Fourth Quarter — Are you going to make it?

How close are you to reaching your year-end goals? Are you 75% of the way there?

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Whether you are trying to hit a sales target, or revenue target how are you doing? Maybe you are trying to lose weight or reduce personal expenses. Do you know where you stand?

Making assumptions

This line of questioning assumes quite a few things that are generally not true in our world today.

First, there is the assumption that you really do have a specific goal that you are trying to attain. It is amazing to me how many people do not set real goals. Goals in your head are mushy and iffy at best. It is like the guy who told his wife he was going to 25 pound in January and then in December claims that he said it was 5 pounds. We wouldn’t dare write it down; because we know our wives will find it and show it to us in December.

Second, there is the assumption that you know where you are right now in relationship to that goal. One of the first things to go in the demise of our goals is keeping track of where we are. Instead, we go with the gut. Yeah, I’m doing all right! I haven’t balanced my bank accounts or my accounting software lately but I have some money in the bank and some people owe me money so I am doing… okay! I haven’t stepped on the scale but I haven’t changed dress sizes so I must be doing okay. But do you know where you are compared to your goal?

Third, there is the assumption that having set the goal, knowing where you are, that you put together some type of plan and are following that plan to achieve the goal. Many people have the plan of “just work harder”, “put in some extra time”, “just keep going it has to turn around sometime”! Hope is not a strategy and winging it is not a plan. You need a real plan!!

Finally, there is the assumption that if you are not going to reach your goal at the current projections, that you know how to change your action plan to still reach the goal. But of course if you knew how to produce more than you are currently doing, you would already be doing it right? We sometimes forget that the plan that was designed nine months ago may not be sufficient and with new data and opportunities that arise in those months you might be able to increase productivity.

So now what?

What do we do here at the start of the fourth quarter? There are several things that you have to do if you are going to turn around a plan that is falling short.

First, make the first three assumptions real. Clarify and rewrite your goals. Figure out exactly where you are today. Do the work to balance the books, step on the scale, etc. Review your plan to see if you are following it or not. An honest look at the plan and the reality of your life may be just enough to show you that you can still make it.

Second, take a hard look at what are the obstacles that you are facing to reach your goal. This is very important and most people skip by this one and it can cost them. Take the time to clearly outline all of the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goal. The better that you are able to describe your obstacles, the more likely you will be able to overcome them. Don’t say, I don’t have enough time. Be specific, what else is demanding your time and preventing you from achieving your goal?

Now, here is the hardest part. Finally, you must change what you have been doing, if what you have been doing is not getting it done. The hard part here is the mental game. The argument is “if it were possible I would have thought of it already”. Or, “I can’t work any harder.” But if anyone is able to produce more with less time and effort, then you can. All it takes is learning how to shift gears and then stepping on it.

Look at your greatest achievements for the last 9 months or longer. What was it about that sale, new customer, loss of weight, or whatever that gave you a higher return on your investment of energy, time and money than other activities? Can those mini-successes be duplicated again? Are there small changes that you can make that would make them happen again? What are your greatest strengths profit-wise? What activities produce the most profit? How can you concentrate on those and maximize your time and energy?

Now is not the time to give up!

Now is the time to focus and renew your commitment to your renewed and clarified goals by working smarter, figure out where you are, list your obstacles, decide what you are going to do to overcome them and then track how you are progressing. If you have set worthwhile goals than it will be worth you investing some time to make sure that you reach them. Of course, it starts with setting a real worthwhile goal.

Stan Broesder, is a Management Consultant and Business Coach who lives in Lincolnton, NC. He has worked with small businesses for over 20 years. He has a Masters in Business Administration degree and specializes in helping business owners to improve their productivity, profitability and control of their business and life. His clients enjoy less stress, greater sense of purpose, an increase in productivity and greater profitability. You can find out more about Stan on his website:  www.MYCrossroadsConsultants.com,  call him at 980-241-0189, or email him at:  Stan@MYCrossroadsConsultants.com