525,600 minutes…

The former off-Broadway musical, Rent, opens by posing this question: ”525,600 minutes…how do you measure a year?” As 2010 draws to a close, I have some questions for you. Have you invested your past 525,600 minutes the way you had planned as you watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in 2009? One year ago, what were you envisioning for your future? Did you plan to be more healthy and happy…to have better and richer relationships…to have a more successful business and greater financial independence? How’d you do?

Like you, my minutes of the past year have been both up and down. On one end of the spectrum, I’ve experienced the awesome highs of watching my two year old son grow, traveling with my family and seeing most of my clients return to more prosperous times. At the opposite end, I’ve personally endured the ebb and flow of our economy and the deaths of two relatives. But, I wind down 2010 feeling good overall and looking hopefully to an awesome next year. Yes, it will certainly be filled with ups and downs too, but I’m confident I will have the strength and support to endure and surmount any challenges that come my way.

With the New Year just days away, the coming days and weeks are a perfect time to take stock of the past year and make plans for 2011. Make a decision today that, when the clock strikes midnight on the eve of December 31, 2011 you will be able to look back at this moment as the turning point for the planned-for success, health, wealth and happiness you will be enjoying!

Here are six simple questions to assist your review and planning for your life, career, and business:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What should you do more of in 2011?
  4. What should you do less of in 2011?
  5. What should you start doing in 2011?
  6. What should you stop doing in 2011?

(Author’s Note: These questions make a great employee survey. If you don’t know the answers, your employees probably do.)

Don’t Let “Hope” Be Your Only Strategy For A Better 2011

Earlier this year, a financial services firm was airing commercials that had people walking around carrying their number…the amount they would need to save for a comfortable retirement. Did you see them? In one of the commercials, a fellow happens upon his neighbor who is on a ladder trimming his hedge. The neighbor asks him what he is carrying and he explains that it is his retirement number. On the hedge, the neighbor has a number too, $GAZILLION. When questioned about how he will achieve his number, the neighbor offers that his plan is to blindly throw money at it and “hope” something good happens. The point of the commercial is that most people don’t have a retirement plan. Instead, they have a guesstimation of what they might need for retirement and then randomly save when they think about it.

Unfortunately, many search firms take a similar approach…they tend to “hope” things will turn out all right but don’t spend any time developing and implementing proactive plans to achieve their future sales, growth, and profit goals. Don’t get me wrong, “hope” is vitally important to your success, but it must be coupled with actionable planning. Zig Ziglar says to go as far as you can see and you will always be able to see a little further. In his book, Many Miles to Go, Brian Tracy explains how when crossing the Sahara Desert, you cross it “one oil barrel at a time.” Though simple, these are strategic visions, or long-term goals — those markers in time that you are striving toward. In the Bible, it says “Where there is no VISION, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) This could probably be rewritten to say, “Where there is no HOPE, the people perish.” In other words, if you have no HOPE, no VISION of the MEANINGFUL POSSIBILITY in your FUTURE, you will lose your reason to get out of bed each morning. You’ll have nothing to strive for, no “oil barrel” on the horizon.

Setting Goals for the New Year

Goal setting begins with a clear vision of what you want your ideal life or your ideal business to look like at some point in the future. This is your “WHY”, that is “WHY” you do what you do. For me, I have a picture of my ideal business which is comprised of both financial rewards and delivering incredible value to my clients. My business vision is driven by the picture of my ideal life, which includes me, my wife, and our son…our security and lifestyle. The picture of my ideal life and providing for the security of my wife and son are my motives or motivation for building my business. These are the things that help me keep going, when the going gets tough. Make sense?

How about you — what will your “ideal” (i.e. perfect) life, career, or business look like on December 31, 2011? What is motivating you to achieve this ideal? Remember…BE SPECIFIC! What will you be doing most of the time? What will your revenues or income be? How many and what types of searches will you complete? Who will your customers be? What type of employees will you have? Etc., etc., etc. Now, come back from the future and answer this question: “What will have to happen?” What new skills will you or your company need? What challenges will you or your company have to overcome? What will you have to start doing, stop doing, do more of, and do less of?

Stepping Stones to Your Future

Your goals then become the steps for making your vision a reality. Whenever you are struggling to do what you say you are going to do in order to achieve your goals, check your vision and motives. Once you are sure these two items are in order, go back to the construct of your actual goals. Here are some goal setting tips:

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  1. Be specific, versus general or vague. For example, “I complete 24 retained searches and total billings are $960,000 in 2011,” versus “My billings are more than 2010.”
  2. Make your goals measurable. Without a measure, you will be unable to know if you are moving toward your goal or away from your goal. For example, with our goal of 24 retained searches and $960,000 in billings, measures tracked could be one signed search every two weeks or $80,000 billed per month.
  3. Align your goals with your values. Strive to accomplish the goals you want to accomplish versus striving to accomplish the goals others want you to accomplish. In my experience, the latter leads to frustration and failure. The reason for this is that when the challenges come, as they surely will, you will lack the resolve to overcome them because it wasn’t your goal to begin with.
  4. Set realistic goals. If you only billed $100,000 in 2010, it might be unrealistic to expect to bill $1,000,000 in the coming year, but extremely possible to bill $200,000 by completing twice as many searches. Realistic goals will cause you to wake up each morning eager to get started, whereas unrealistic goals will typically discourage you and often will cause you to give up.
  5. Set a specific date or deadline for the achievement of your goals and set sub-deadlines if necessary. Be sure to monitor your progress toward goal achievement on a regular basis. By regularly monitoring your progress, you will allow time for course corrections en route to your goals. For example, with our measure of $80,000 per month, if there is not nearly $20,000 in the bucket after the first week of the month, you can ask why, make changes, and strive to hit your monthly goal.
  6. Make a list of everything you can think of that you can do to achieve your goals. As you think of new activities, add them to the list. Keep doing this until your list is complete.
  7. Organize your list into a plan. Decide the priority and sequence of the items in your list. What is most important? And, what must be done first, before something else can be done?
  8. Determine the obstacles you will have to overcome, the additional knowledge and skills you will require, and the people whose help you will need to accomplish your goals.
  9. Take immediate action on your most important goal! The longer the period between the decision and the action, the less likely you are to get into action. Do something every day that moves you toward accomplishing your most important goals!
  10. Believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can accomplish your goal. Remember the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “I can summarize the lessons of my life in seven words – never give in; never, never give in!”

What’s In It For Me?

Still not convinced you should spend time in the days and weeks before our New Year setting goals and developing a plan? Studies suggest that goal setting and strategic planning will increase your business results from 12% to as much as 1,100%. From my own personal experience (and that of many of my clients – including several search firms), I’m convinced that written goals and planning will allow you to accomplish more of what you want to accomplish…FASTER…than not having written goals and plans. Zig Ziglar often says, “Positive thinking won’t get you everything, but it will sure get you more than negative thinking will.” I would offer a similar statement, “Written goals won’t ensure your goal accomplishment, but will significantly increase your chance of goal achievement!”

No, you don’t have to spend months developing a plan in a three-ring binder that lands on a shelf collecting dust. Instead, try this simple, four-step approach:

  1. Clearly define what your search firm (or business) would look like if it was “ideal” in one year.
  2. Assess your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  3. Determine the “gap” between where you are today and the changes necessary to achieve your “ideal” future business. Typically, this consists of maximizing your strengths and capitalizing on your opportunities or minimizing your weaknesses and protecting against your threats. These become your goals!
  4. Get into action bridging the “gap” (i.e. accomplishing your goals)!

Turbo-charge Your Results in 2011

In closing, I want to offer two additional ways to turbo-charge your results in 2011. Often, one of the greatest challenges in planning is how to make your team aware of your goals and objectives, but more importantly, get their emotional buy-in or engagement so they passionately strive for the company’s goals and improve performance. A sure-fire way to do this is to sit down with each of your team members and help them develop both business and personal goals based on their wants and needs. Use the same goal setting steps previously recommended and develop 3-5 goals for the year, as well as each quarter in 2011. Additionally, you might consider following author Verne Harnish’s suggestion of a quarterly theme. Your quarterly themes might be based on your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats. Finally, I want to encourage you to write your top ten goals every day. I learned this technique from Brian Tracy and it has been my experience that when I am doing this I am achieving my goals and when I am not, I am usually falling short of my goals. Again, start with the previously mentioned goal setting steps, but write the goal in the personal, present tense, as if it is already a reality. For example, “I earn $500,000 by December 31, 2011.”

Here’s to your successful planning and a great 2011!


this article is from the December 2010 print Fordyce Letter. To subscribe and receive a monthly print issue, please go to our Subscription Services page.

Ron McNutt is an executive coach and recruiter in Charleston, South Carolina. Prior to becoming a certified coach and starting his own company, Ron spent nearly twenty years contributing to the success of public and private companies (from start-up to $100 Billion plus in revenue) in the commodity and healthcare industries. Ron is available to assist with your planning, coaching or recruiting needs. He can be reached at 843-628-3953 or ron@ronmcnutt.com.

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3 Comments on “525,600 minutes…

  1. Ron,
    This is one of the better blog entries I’ve read in 2010. I’m going to remember these points as I steer this ship through 2011 and beyond. By the way, I’m a big fan of the musical Rent so it was nice to see the 525,600 minutes allusion. Now I can’t get the song out of my head…thanks a lot! LOL

    In fact, I actually think I could use some major points of this for one of my sermons in the near future. (I’m a pastor for my church in addition to running my own search firm). You even made it easy for me and included Scripture! Thank you.

    I wish you and your family the best for a Happy New Year 2011.

    Warmly,
    Sung N. Kim
    Servane Cross, Inc.
    Redding, CA

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