Focus on Your Goal, Less on How You’ll Get There

“Don’t tell me something’s impossible.
Tell me what it would take to make it possible.”

– Burke Franklin

Read Business Black BeltExcerpted from Business Black Belt, by Burke Franklin

After we figure out what we want, we immediately start to figure out how to get it. We can achieve the same result in many ways. Don’t get too caught up in how you will succeed because you might miss the perfect opportunity for doing it — just a different way.

After we figure out what we want, we usually start to figure out how to get it. I’m sure you can do what takes to get what you want, but that may be the very place you get yourself into trouble. Often, we can achieve the same result in a variety of ways. This lesson is about understanding the what and not getting tangled up in the how you will succeed. Otherwise, you might well miss the perfect opportunity for getting exactly what you want (or better).

The phenomenon goes something like this: you establish what you want, then you set about the process of how to get it. Given your resources and knowledge, you develop a strategy, then a plan of action—as crude as it may be. At this point, your energy shifts away from your goal to your action plan. The goal itself is almost forgotten in favor of all the things you now have planned to do.

How often has this happened to you? A salesperson is pitching their product and misses the part where you say, “Yeah, I’ll take one.” That was their goal, but the salesperson keeps on selling anyway. You want to buy. The sale just happened sooner than they thought it would. Some salespeople think that the only way to make their sale is to give their complete pitch and do a series of certain things because that’s what it takes to sell their product.

“Yeah, I’ll take one,” is often a reaction many salespeople aren’t prepared to handle. The salesperson is too focused on how the sale should happen versus being connected enough with you to realize that their goal has been achieved without having to follow their predetermined plan.

A customer of ours wrote a business plan to attract an investor to give him the cash he needed to buy a LearJet to start a jet charter company. While the investors were grilling him, another guy who owned a couple of jets read the plan and decided that his planes would be better cared for and leased more frequently with our customer… instead of cash, our customer got two jets! What if our customer was stuck on the idea that he first needed cash, then he could buy a jet? What idea are you stuck on?

Another variation on this theme involves something (or someone) coming along that is actually better than what you had in mind as your goal. Sometimes, if a better albeit different solution comes along that doesn’t fit our original vision, or it doesn’t match our expectations of what we thought would or should happen, we may pass it by. It may not fit our reality. We ignore it. It’s not right. (We make it wrong.) It’s not going to work. Again, while our head is down working our scheme, we often miss the fact that we’ve achieved our goal, or that it may have [already] arrived in a different package.

Go ahead and make something your goal and start to figure out how you’ll achieve it. Remember to keep the result you want as your top priority, in the likely event that a different/better way of reaching it shows up unexpectedly.

How to tune your mind for solutions
Let’s expand on this concept: Think for a moment about the color red. Look around right now for everything that is red. Notice how everything red jumps out at you. Did you notice the green things? Probably not. Now try it again with the color green. See how easy it is to tune your mind for what you’re looking for? Now try this: Look at your life and focus for a moment on your problems. What’s wrong? (Keep looking around with focused intensity and I’m sure you can come up with a depressing list…)

On the other hand, look at your life and selectively see what works. What’s working for you now? Do you usually look for what works or what doesn’t work around you? What if you were to consciously tune your mental radar system (actually it’s your Reticular Activating System) to seek opportunities and solutions to your problems just like you looked for the colored objects? (You have probably noticed this phenomena occurring unconsciously just after buying a new car — suddenly you see them everywhere!) Anyway, I think you’ll find that it’s almost impossible to find solutions while your mental radar is tuned to seeking problems. It’s also almost impossible to find solutions when you are looking for reasons to support why your problems are the problems they are. (Ever try to give a person some ideas while they are steeped in their problems? “La-la-la-la, I can’t hear you!”)

Note to self: Remember what that looks like the next time you are tuned to your problems and someone else tries to offer solutions to you!

When you are having a ‘bad day,’ try taking a mental inventory of everything that is working in your life. Remember to be grateful to those who provide the good stuff. Acknowledge your gratitude for your ‘luck,’ what does work, who is doing a good job, that you can see this page, and even that you live on high ground this week.

Anytime you’re having a bad day, look to see what you are focused on. See what happens when you shift focus. Change colors. If you have invested a little time in analyzing the problem and clarifying any assumptions, this process of finding a solution or achieving your goal will become easier.

Nature is constantly talking to you — with answers and directions
Ever wonder why you hear a certain song over and over again? Ever wonder why different people make similar comments to you? Ever wonder why particular situations repeat themselves? Ever wonder why particular situations repeat themselves? Try asking questions without being in a hurry for the answer — and be open to the messages and answers whenever they might appear — they’re everywhere.

The idea is that you are looking for a new action to take, a new way of looking at your situation—you must do something different to change the results you’ve been getting when you do what you are already doing.

Business Black Belt Notes

  • Set your goal and remember that you want to reach your goal even if you get there by a different method than you planned.
  • It doesn’t always take cash to get what you need.
  • Tune your mind to look for solutions to get what you want.
  • Answers will come, maybe not right away nor in a form you expect — stay open.

How to purchase your copy of Business Black Belt,..

A Tip for Handling Criticism

Ugh! Not another complaint… That’s how it may feel to you, but let me give you another way to look at criticism.

Be appreciative that they are giving their criticism to you and not blabbing to a hundred other otherwise prospective customers or friends. (Or worse, posting to blogs, Facebook and elsewhere!) Plus, for every suggestion you hear, there are probably a hundred customers or others who may be thinking it, but are not telling you.

I’m always appreciative of feedback (criticism), presuming that my customers and friends, by speaking up, are actually interested in helping me to improve my products, service and business. And my own effectiveness.

Even if you may have heard the same criticism from several others before, enthusiastically acknowledge their ideas as if they are the first (or only) one to tell you. “Wow, thank you for telling me. That’s a good idea! I really appreciate your contacting me and telling me directly!”

Be patient (not defensive) and hear them out (because you want to know everything they’re thinking). Even ask, “Can you give me any more detail…?”

Most people love to feel like they have made a contribution. In fact, if you get a similar message from several people you can tell that perhaps it is you and not just one other person out there with an attitude. To take this a step further, I wrote in Business Black Belt, about getting the messages from the Universe — When I get a similar message from 3 independent sources (someone speaking to me, someone else speaking to me, a song on the radio, a bumper sticker, an overheard conversation, etc.) I presume that the message is for me and that I must act on it ASAP. They usually start as a whisper like this, but if I fail to accept the message, it gets louder and eventually something costly and perhaps painful ensues.

Try it… listen and look for the messages. What are they telling you to do? Avoid it. See what happens next.

How a good business plan can help your company survive.

Why even write a business plan? There are certainly many excuses not to write one: They’re more trouble than they’re worth… It seems like a writing exercise that’s a waste of time… Nobody reads them anyway… etc. etc. These are notions many entrepreneurs and business owners share about business plans and business planning in general. I’ve had these thoughts myself, even though I invented business planning software. (I did, BizPlanBuilder was the first, 1988.) The truth is I didn’t even like planning at all. There are too many things going on. Too many changes. Plans are useless especially when they keep you stuck on a narrow path and, if you are really anal about it, you will miss opportunities just because they aren’t in the plan. Are we on the same page? Since I have been through everything entrepreneurs go through myself, I have learned a few things about the benefits of business planning I think you should consider:

Just give me more sales and we will be fine
Like most entrepreneurs and business owners, you think you real key to survival is simply more sales. Everything else can be managed if you have enough sales. Sales are good, we agree. It’s the structure of your money-making machine that suffers if you let this tail wag your dog. What are you building here, where is it going, how will you most efficiently use your cash to do the right things first? Even if you are not in survival mode, carefully mapping your investments of cash is a wise move. Reducing costs is always a priority. Adding the right thing(s) next is crucial to avoid hiccups in your growth and wastes of cash on projects that must sit and wait until another priority is in place first. A good plan enables you to sort through your puzzle pieces and complete the picture efficiently.

Can it prevent you from doing something stupid?
Actually yes. Entrepreneurs are infamous for jumping on deals. All kinds of deals… but do these deal make sense for your business? A good plan includes flexibility to take advantage of opportunities along the way — it provides a context, a framework for what kinds of things you will do as well as not do. If you are good at remodeling homes, you may not do well to suddenly start manufacturing cars, even if you can get a good deal on the equipment. However, it would make sense to jump on deal for some concrete equipment… Be careful venturing into a business where you may not have credibility with customers (where they believe that you can provide a good product or service). Building a successful business is hard enough, keeping focused helps your customers understand what you are about, believe that you are good at it and be enthusiastic about referring others. A good business plan will keep you guided in the right direction and provide room for the right deals.

Don’t wait for the money, get going now
That’s right. What can you be doing now to build your business? What can you do to add value to your business even if you really need investment capital? What can you be doing that will generate sales? Zooming out to a 50,000 foot view of your business can be a very enlightening experience. Where does your company fit in the world, where is it going, what opportunities do you have, who is around who can help and what can you do next that is within your capacity to do right away? Developing a good plan enables you to see the forest and the trees.

What happens if you are successful?
Failure is easy… Look for an excuse everyone will believe, quietly close up shop, put your tail between your legs and slink away. No problem. People do that every day. The real problem surfaces when there is a lot of money on the table. Your work has paid off; orders are piling up you and have a rapidly growing company on your hands. I call this a “high-class problem.” Believe it or not, this is often where may companies fall apart. With a good plan in place, you will already have an efficient structure in place your next moves will be the right ones.

But how do you get there from here?
Have you ever started your car only to discover that one of your sparkplug wires is disconnected? Even a perfectly good V8 runs like crap if just one cylinder isn’t firing properly. It’s not like the remaining 7 cylinders will still get you going — barely — it’s as if the entire engine is almost worthless even if just one plug wire is disconnected. Likewise, it can take just one employee, who either just doesn’t get it or just isn’t with the program to mess everything up. It is vitally important all of your people see and understand the big picture. I recommend having them contribute part of the plan themselves — they’ll see the big picture as well as design in their part to make it work. A good planning system enables collaboration and provides ideas each person can adopt as their own.

You don’t have to do all the work yourself.
Tom Sawyer got the other kids in his neighborhood to paint that fence. I’ve been in those meetings where everyone is going in different directions, their noses in everyone else’s business, but their own. Collaboration gone a business plan is their opportunity to design what they will do as well as review what everyone else has designed for themselves to do. You no longer need to be the center of tension. The plan is. You are the referee making sure that all the parts move together and that all spark plugs wires are connected. With a good business plan in place, the right hands know what the left hands are doing, making your management job easier.

Doing the math will set you free
Ever have a day when you ask yourself if this business is even worth going on with? (I had this feeling once myself.) You may be surprised to discover that if you were to tweak one area of your company, many things could change. A brief top-down calculation may show you exactly where you are off and what, if you were where you would like to be, that would look like. You would also have some straight-forward logic to share with those whose job it is to make the improvements. You may also be surprised to [re]discover the true potential of your business and rekindle your enthusiasm to go on. Having a good business plan provides a tremendous sense of relief that you are on the right path.

The same thinking that got you into trouble will not get you out of trouble.
– Albert Einstein

For a moment, pull you head out of the sand
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the details and emergencies with running your business. You must look at your situation differently. If this were someone else’s company, could you fix it? You probably could. What if you could step away from some of the emotional attachment and systematically compare each component of your business with a structure that included a variety of ideas cross-pollinated from many industries? No blanks to fill-in, just ideas to discard. These may also trigger many ideas from everyone involved. Implementing one’s own idea is a lot of fun and very motivating—as you well know. With a good business planning process, you could harness this power within everyone who works with you.

The plan is nothing, planning is everything.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

The planning process has to be easier
If it were more difficult to go through the business planning process than to just go on with your business, no one would ever do it. As you will discover, the business planning process is worthwhile. Plus, you will produce a document you can use much like a composer uses sheet music — every musician can see exactly how to play their part. Of course, we have an elegant solution to help you through the planning process and to develop a comprehensive business plan for your business.