Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.  A disaster.  You didn’t plan on it (DUH!).  You certainly didn’t want it.  But you have to deal with it or your business is in serious doo-doo.

Experience and commonsense suggest that quickly and openly acknowledging an experience your customer or client or patient found compromising and then doing something positive in response is not only likely to retain their business but make yours even more attractive.  It’s called response-ability — your ability to respond to the need of your client for a ‘warm fuzzy’ about your business or practice is . . . huge.

Airbnb . . . screwed up but . . . recovered nicely!
Airbnb is an online service that allows people to offer their home to others, for a fee.  It’s a cool idea, actually.  Say you’re traveling to Paris, France.  You check available accommodations and Voila! you have a not-so-commercial way to be ‘in country’ that most travelers will never know.

Unfortunately, risking a great experience exposes you to a not-so-good one, too.  That happened to a lady in San Francisco, CA who used the online service and had her home trashed by her ‘guests’.  Not good.  Airbnb’s initial response was to blame the client and protect itself.  Evenutally, due to public outcry, it owned the problem and went to great lengths to remedy the lady’s situation.  As a result, Airbnb turned ‘lemons into lemonade’.

______ happens.  When it does, learn to recover quickly, decisively and effectively!

Planning is a good thing.  Action is, too.  Together they are . . . great!

The moment you begin taking actions to achieve your goals you’re no longer planning.  You’re DO-ing!  And that’s a whole new ballgame.

Lesson: The Apollo Spaceflights
Before lift-off, before ever leaving earth’s orbit, the Apollo astronauts had a ‘plan’ for their mission to the Moon.  It indicated where and when the astronauts would be from lift-off to touch-down.  But their flight plan could never anticipate all the things that could happen.  That’s why they made ‘minor corrections’ — a 2 second engine ‘burn’ here, a 5 second ‘burn’ there — throughout the mission.

Historically, the astronauts were on their ‘flight plan’ only about 2% of each flight!  But, by regularly evaluating their position and taking corrective actions as needed, they always achieved, in the end, a successful flight.

Evaluation is Diagnosis . . . Done After ‘Lift-Off’
You begin your planning process by assessing where you are, now.  As you implement your plan, you want to assess how you are doing ‘now’ at regular intervals over time.  You want to compare your ‘actual vs. planned’ results.  As you find discrepancies (trust me, you will!), you can use a problem-solving process to help you take actions to correct the situation.  Eventually, you will achieve your larger goal because you’re making corrections ‘in-flight’.

Periodic evaluations and corrective actions . . . lead to SUCCESS!

You set a goal because it’s important.  Achieving it makes you more likely to succeed.  You want to achieve your goal. That’s where the ‘Methods’ step of your planning comes into play.

Actions Achieve Goals
Achieving any goal requires a series of coordinated and aligned actions that turn your goal into a reality. For example, a ‘Vision’ goal might be to earn your M.D. degree.  Your ‘Milestone’ goals might be to earn A’s in math, biology, physics and chemistry classes in college.  And, one of your ‘Structural’ goals might be to register, attend and complete a course in how to study effectively.

Structural Goals Address Roadblocks
Once you establish your long-range goals, you’ll see things that, if not addressed, will prevent your vision from becoming a reality.  Earning your M.D. degree requires not only the intellectual ability but your successful performance as a high school, university and medical school student.  In business, not having a supportive organization or not having people who can perform as you need and expect to attract and retain clients are ‘roadblocks’.  Those are what you set goals — and take actions — to address.  Why?  Because until you do, your ‘vision’ is at risk of not being realized.  Simple.

Goals help you align actions to remove roadblocks to your success

As you look at your business through the 4 ‘filters’ we discussed yesterday . . . a clearer sense of where you are  today will emerge.

Goals . . . What You Want ‘To Be’
Robert Browning knew about goals (“. . . else what’s a Heaven for?”) and you want them, too.  Why?  Because they help you bridge the difference between where you are now and where you want to be in the future.

Vision Goals . . . are goals that inspire you to achieve —  e.g. “Let’s win the SuperBowl!”
Milestone Goals . . . are goals that measure progress toward larger ones — e.g. “Let’s win the Divisional Championship”
Structural Goals . . . are goals you set to address factors that affect your success — e.g. “Let’s find a quarterback who can win games!”

Of the three, the highest utility value comes from Structural goals — because these kinds of goals improve the business structure that supports your success.

You’ll want to have goals to improve the ‘structure’ in each of the areas identified earlier

•  Personal
•  Organization
•  People
•  Financial

3 Kinds of Goals . . . All Good . . . if you use them

D = Diagnosis
Growing your business requires that you know 3 things:

Baselines . . . where is your business . . . today?
Projections . . . where do you want your business to be . . . in the future?
Discrepancies . . . what variations do you find as you use your plan?

“Is Now”
You start by establishing a baseline for how your business or practice is . . . today:

AREA 1: Personal
This includes your personal vision and goals that reflects your business as a success.

AREA 2: Organization
This means how effectively your business supports your people to produce the revenues that support your vision and dreams.

AREA 3: People
The difference between your people and your profits is their performance.  So who you have ‘on staff’ and what they offer is important to know.

AREA 4: Financial
In a way, financial is a two-part issue.  First, it’s about the numbers you need to support the vision you hold for yourself and your business. At another level, it’s about the decisions you’re making and actions you’re taking to market and sell your services.

Know where you’re starting from . . . find your baselines

OK, so you know you want to use a process to plan what you’ll set a goal to do.   Here’s the process!

D = Diagnosis
Here you assess where your business IS NOW.  A journey starts with a single step and that step has to start somewhere.

O = Objective/s
Your Diagnosis will reveal things that need your attention.  Typically these are things that are keeping your business from becoming what you want it to be — your vision for it, if you will.

M = Methods
These are the means for achieving your goals.  This always requires actions.  And, when you create a group of actions designed to achieve a goal, you have an Action Plan.

E = Evaluation
As you implement your plan, you’ll want to periodically check your progress.  And, if your reality isn’t what you planned, you can make adjustments to put things ‘back on track’.  Little by little, step by step . . . that’s how you create success!

Plan to be successful . . . and use D O M E to plan effectively

You know, deep down, that when you plan to make something happen it’s more likely to happen than if you don’t plan.

Planning Isn’t Goal-Setting
But often people confuse setting goals with planning.  They are not the same thing.

Planning is a Process, Not a Practice
Don’t misunderstand, setting goals is a key part of planning.  But planning is different.  It’s bigger.  It’s a process, not a practice.  If you confuse goal-setting with planning, you risk being ‘busy’ rather than ‘productive’.  Here’s why.  Planning helps you identify what you want to set a goal to do.  If you don’t do the planning first, you may have a goal.  But it may not make you more productive.  Busy?  Oh yes.  But productive?  Maybe.

A Planning Process helps you find Goals worth achieving!

Yesterday we learned that you use goals to address factors that are limiting your growth. Let’s say you have a great product but no distribution system, you want to build a distribution system more than you want to improve your product.  (OK, you want to do that but think in terms of priorities!).

Enable Your Existing Strengths
A candid and thorough assessment of your current business operation will reveal a number of strengths you possess that can help you attract, serve and retain business with ideal clients for your business. Once you know what can help you do that, then  . . .

Set Goals To Reduce Limitations
You want to set goals to eliminate any factors that restrict your ability to use your existing strengths to attract, serve and retain ideal clients for your business.  As you saw yesterday, not having a way to generate sales (limitation) of your great product (strength) deserves a goal to change that situation — ASAP.

Reducing limitations enables strengths and supports growth

Growing your business, and the revenues that suggests, begins with a clear assessment of your business as it is . . . NOW.

Goal-Setting is NOT The Same as Planning
A common mistake we see as business consultants is that clients confuse planning with goal-setting.  They are not the same.  Anyone can set a goal. And achieving it may or may not help you grow your business.  Only the goals that make your existing strengths more available to you are likely to generate growth.

Planning . . . Makes Your Goals Meaningful
While you can set a goal to do anything, you want to be aware of the risk of being busy at the expense of being productive. What makes you productive?  Achieving goals that remove ‘roadblocks’ on your pathway to being a more efficient and effective company.

For example . . . let’s say you have a product or service you offer.  It’s truly fantastic.  Competitors fear you!  That’s a strength.  But, your only salesperson just took a position in Atlanta.  What do you do, now?  Set a goal to improve your great service?  NO!  You set a goal to get a new salesperson, right?

Removing Roadblocks . . . Enable Strengths!

To some, “PLAN” is a four-letter word.  That’s unfortunate.  To paraphrase a popular bumper-sticker, “If you think it’s tough to build a business with a plan, just try doing it without one!”.

As a consultant at LIMRA International, I facilitated a business planning process that enabled companies to seriously outperform their peers and competitors.  SERIOUSLY OUTPERFORM!

As the financial services’ trade association, we knew what every peer company was doing.

So it should be of interest to you to know that of nearly 60 companies using this planning process, when we pulled 5 firms at random and compared their growth against the growth rate of their own peers, the WORST performer was doing about 240% BETTER than their peers.  The BEST performer was doing almost 1,500% BETTER than its peers.  Today, it’s called The Profit Project™:

HOW did we do this?  Good question.  Look for more specific details in the coming days.

Planning is a critical factor in your business’ growth