In Alice in Wonderland, as Alice approaches the Cheshire Cat she sees a signpost with many arrows pointing in many different directions, down many roads. Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, "Which road should I take?" The Cheshire Cat replies, "Where do you want to go?" When Alice replies that she doesn't know, the Cheshire Cat concludes, "Then ANY road will do."
The moral of this story? If you want to take the right road, you need to have a clear destination in mind, and some kind of map to get you there.
With the New Year so close at hand, right now is a great time for you to plan the road you are going to take in 2008--especially with financial goals. You help your clients, and now, you should help yourself.
You might ask, "Why bother? Is it worth my time and energy to plan my 2008 goals?" The answer is a resounding "YES." Most successful individuals, and companies for that matter, have goals and an action plan to reach those goals.
Every major company has a written plan. So should you. Even companies that are more than 100 years old have a written plan. There is very little chance that after 100 years these companies will forget what they do for a living, but they still have a written plan so that they can define their goals clearly and reach them in the most effective and efficient manner. If these companies have a written plan, so should you.
If you plan for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. If you don't plan for tomorrow, tomorrow comes anyway.
How much more money would you like to earn in 2008 than you earned in 2007? What level of assets under management would you like to achieve? How many new accounts do you need to open? How much new money will you have to bring in?
What must you do in order to get there?
You can have all of the things that more money brings---the ability to give more to charity; a better lifestyle for yourself and your family; more freedom and choices; independence; more free time; and more control over your own life. Who wouldn't want to have all of that?
You need to have unreasonable dreams and reasonable goals. Your goals should be high enough to challenge you, yet low enough to reach. Remember, a goal that could be impossible to reach in 2008 might easily be attained in a few years. Wouldn't you be better off aiming for the moon and missing it than aiming for the ground and hitting it every single time?
Develop a plan. A goal without a plan is just a wish. One of the best investments you can make in your future financial success is to write down your top business goals for 2008 and to look at them at least twice a day, every day for the next year.
It's like a roadmap, with a "YOU ARE HERE" mark and "GOALS" as your destination. Your plan is simply the roadmap you should follow to get you from here to there in the shortest amount of time.
You must write down your goals and your plans in order to better focus and clarify your thoughts. Looking at the written document gives it more weight in your mind and helps you to stay on track. The more you focus on your goals, the better chance you have of reaching them.
Some years ago, I was delivering a peak performance sales training to a group of producers. During a break, a young man walked up to me and said: "I think about my goals so much that I don't have to write them down or look at them anymore."
Not true! Imagine that you were going to have your dream house built just for you. You bought a beautiful piece of land on top of a hill with an exquisite view and all of the privacy that you could want. One morning, the builder shows up with all of the material, all of the tools, and all of the workmen.
You ask him: "What are you doing?"
He says: "I am going to build you one of the most beautiful homes of all time."
"Great!" you say." Where are the plans?"
"Don't worry," says the builder. "I have all the plans in my head."
What would you think of that builder? What are the chances that your new home would look exactly as you had envisioned? Actually, what's the chance that your new home would look even remotely the way you had planned?
The same logic applies to your business goals and plans. If you don't write them down and look at them often, there is little chance that you will achieve your objectives.
If you can't write them down clearly, you probably don't know exactly what you want. If you did not know what your goal was, how would you know if you actually achieved it? What if you accidentally bumped into your goals? How would you know? There is very little chance of suddenly bumping into what you want without knowing what that is.
You need a written plan because you can't get from here to there if you don't know where THERE is. Or, as Yogi Berra said: "If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up someplace else."
Your plan should be much more than a simple "TO DO" list. Your long-term goals should dovetail comfortably into your highest personal and professional ethics and values. Your 2008 goals should fit nicely into your long-range goals.
For example, let's say you want to increase your assets under management by $10 million by the end of 2008. If your business were straight-line oriented, that would mean you had to increase your AUM by about $835,000 every month. You know that is not going to happen. You might have to fill your pipeline during the first few months by prospecting heavily, and the AUM should increase over the balance of the year.
The important lesson here is to have an exact, measurable goal to be reached by an exact date--say a $10,000,000 AUM increase by December 31, 2008. Once you define an exact goal, you can easily figure out the activities required to achieve it. You do not have to increase cash inflows by the same amount each month to reach your yearend goal, as long as you continue to work toward it. With a clear idea of what you want in the future, you will be more productive in the present.
Now that you have a clear idea--both in your mind and written down--of how much more money you intend to earn in 2008, make a list of five things you would do with that extra money.
When setting goals, the "what" is a picture or feeling attracting you towards that goal. The "why" determines the amount of energy you will put into attaining your goal and how long you will persevere.
The "why" also determines the height and the number of hurdles that you will be willing to overcome in order to get what you want. Then picture the "what" pulling you and the "why" pushing you.
You do not have to stop with only five things on your list of what you will do with the extra money you earn. Make the list as long as you like; the longer the better!
Which of these people do you think will get past more setbacks before quitting: The one with five things on their list or the one with 100?
Give yourself an enormous personal advantage in 2008. Write down the exact amount of money you want to earn in 2008, why you want that money, and then write down the specific actions you will take in order to reach that goal.
You can accomplish just about anything you ask of yourself. Make your goals specific and clear. When you know exactly what you need to do, you are well on your way to success.
Gary Wollin (www.garywollin.com) is a Warren Buffet-style investment advisor with 45-plus years of Wall Street experience. Regularly featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other publications, he writes and speaks on sales, customer loyalty and the stock market.