When you run a business it means you’ve already closed several important goals. You made concrete decisions and acted on them to make your business a reality– whether your business started out as a bright idea hastily jotted out on a napkin at your favorite coffee shop, or an excited audio recording you made on your phone while you were out doing the groceries and stumbled into a full-fledged vision.
Now whether you’re just starting out, or already matured your business into stability, or you’re at the stage where you can think of expansion, there are always things that you need to keep an eye on, just to make sure you don’t run yourself down while managing the eventual snags and roadblocks on the way to realizing your goals.
Here are 4 thoughts to keep in mind when you’re planning ahead and thinking of obstacles to your progress.
ONE: Make a “plan to fail.”
Plans survive when you have reliable data to help you make alternative decisions. At this point you should have enough data available to see when and where your goals can come to a halt. Thinking ahead is a mentally tiring activity, yes, but in terms of creating back-ups, alternative plans, and disaster recovery blue-prints , the labor and discomfort NOW are small beans compared to what you save by avoiding problems and minimizing the impact of the ones you can’t avoid — as well as creating enough buffers to cushion you in case you’re blindsided by this thing called life.
Planning to fail in this context also means including and eradicating the small, easily overlooked items you do on a regular basis that actually don’t do anything to add positive, real value to your life or advance you in the direction of your dreams. They are the innocuous habits and the small ruts and routines that take small slices of your time and tiny dribbles of your energy and attention, and let them to run out to nowhere.
We start out with a set amount of energy and will-power every day, and those tiny ruts can be the ‘invisible’ leaks that sap at your bigger efforts and important goals. For a week, try to look, really look, at how and where you spend your time each day, and try to see what you can change so you can plug up those leaks and start gaining back your energy.
TWO: Use the leading brains of your niche to see the future.
In any industry there will always be market leaders. The big names, the authorities, the titans…Look to mine their experience for knowledge you can use to improve and prepare your business for today and for tomorrow.
Examine your industry. What are the trends being forecast for the next year? What about the bigger changes being foreseen to affect the industry over the next 5-10 years? Can you see yourself still reaching that point with the same business, or will you need to make deep-sweeping changing (incrementally) to be able to compete and thrive still?
If you belong to a business group or think-tank, now’s the time to check-in and see what’s got everyone concerned and buzzing about. Don’t underestimate the power of knowing people in the know. Knowledge is power, and power is an advantage, if you’re aware you have it and know how to leverage it.
THREE: Plan to take the indirect route
Traffic happens when things slow down at certain juncture and movement comes to a practical standstill. Identify the areas where the ‘logjams’ are most likely to take place. Thinking of potential bottlenecks can help kick your brainstorming into high gear and energize you with the knowledge that there are things you can still accomplish, and you don’t have to endure unavoidable delays fruitlessly.
There are reasons that successful businesses have assorted methods to engage with customers and improve their marketing — they cultivate multiple streams of communication in the same way that people cultivate multiple streams of income. If one begins to fail due to changing times, there are other avenues open, and many markets segments still to sell to. Cultivate multiple ‘projects’ with varying levels of progress so when you stall on one, you can redirect your energy towards the others while waiting out the first.
FOUR: Don’t forget the other stuff that makes up your life.
Well, there will be times when you won’t be able to move forward in certain areas. Things just happen and you’re stopped in your tracks. Again, going back to the traffic analogy — this is the time where you engage in bringing other, smaller projects forward and work on them. Sometimes all it takes is time to let the situation fix itself, and waiting things out productively will help you keep the momentum going.
On long commutes, for example, many people have praised their smartphones for helping them write stories, learn languages, and listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Time spend waiting for something to happen can be spent attending to other things that are just as important to you.
Focus on what you can do, not what you couldn’t. Some situations make it impossible to move forward. A key person is unavailable, you get sick, there’s a storm warning —something happens, and you can’t or couldn’t move forward.
In the same vein, focus on what you did do, what you weren’t able to do. Feeling bad saps at our self-esteem and can cast a pall on the future, especially if you have a tendency to pessimism or catastrophizing — both of which can poke massive holes in your willpower and self-image. Looking at what you can do orients you towards action and change. Ride that momentum out.
When you have ambitions it means you want to get somewhere. You have a goal, you want to attain something. The kind of goal you want decides the means and methods you need to use to attain it. And since the world isn’t perfect, hardly anyone gets to reach their goals without encountering obstacles, dead ends and problems on the way. These are just four methods you can use to help keep moving in the direction of your goals.
Related article: 5 Ways To Fail Without A Business Plan
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