Last year, you made a promise to yourself: If you were encouraged by my last column, you set a goal to increase your assets under management by a certain amount in 2008. (See Wealth Manager, Dec. 2007, p. 10) Maybe you haven't started yet, or perhaps you did start and your program stalled. What happened? Well, life happened. There are always a large number of things, personal as well as professional, demanding your time and attention. You've gotten off track and maybe become a bit discouraged. What should you do now in order to achieve your previously set goals?
You are not alone in this. The classic example of stalled goals are New Year's resolutions. And it's not just prospecting for assets. It's many things, including diet and exercise resolutions. Want proof? In January, it is always crowded at the gym. You have to wait for machines while all of the other people who resolved to get into better shape populate the place. By the beginning of March, the gym is pretty empty, and you can have almost any machine your heart desires. What happened to those other people? Have all of them decided to stay in lousy shape? Of course not.
The commitment associated with setting goals dwindles over time. Motivation fades, and there are many blocks on the road to success. Do you tell yourself you have failed? No. It's very important for you to understand that you have not failed; you have stalled--now start moving again! Don't concentrate on what you haven't done and haven't accomplished. You cannot get ahead by looking backwards. That's like driving your car down the road by looking only into the rearview mirror.
Simply recommit yourself to your goals. Concentrate on what you plan to do right now.
Write down the answer to these three questions:
1. What are my goals?
2. Why do I want them?
3.What do I have to do in order to get there?
We discussed the first two questions in the December 2007 article. Briefly, written goals are much clearer than goals you simply think about. The act of writing them down, exactly, forces you to focus your attention. The clearer the picture of a goal in your mind, the easier it will be for you to move towards it.
Writing down the reasons why you want to achieve a goal adds a powerful level of motivation that determines the amount of energy you will put into reaching it. We all know people who have had the worst time losing five or 10 pounds. We also know people--maybe the same people--who have lost five or 10 pounds so that they could fit into a dress or a suit for a wedding or a bathing suit just before summer. The point is that you have to be very clear about your goals because it is almost impossible to hit a target that you can't see, and the stronger your motivation, the better your chance of succeeding.
Make a plan and work it.
Dreaming alone isn't enough. Now that you have the "what" and the "why," you should create your "how"--your plan, your roadmap for getting from here to there. A clear, exact plan is absolutely necessary in order to make your dreams come true.
You may have set a formidable goal for yourself, one that appears to be almost unobtainable at the moment. The smartest thing to do with any big goal is to break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces. Make a new commitment to achieve your goal of increasing your AUM and then determine the exact first step you are going to take in order to assure your success. Take that first step right now.
For example, sitting here today, it might appear impossible for you to dramatically increase your AUM by the end of the year. On the other hand, if you broke that goal into smaller pieces, it certainly would be very easy for you to achieve the interim goal of staying 15 minutes later today and coming in 15 minutes earlier tomorrow.
As it becomes easier and clearer for you to see how a very small action will lead directly to your goals, you will find it easier to continue to take these small actions. You might even want to take larger bites, eventually.
The first activity necessary to boost your AUM is to fill your pipeline. You want to develop a large number of good leads and prospects. The bulk of your time should be spent marketing.
You know all the things you are comfortable doing in order to fill up your pipeline; for example: networking, advertising, writing articles, giving talks and seminars, asking current clients for referrals, etc.
The more you fill your pipeline at one end, the more sales materialize out the other end.
If you are going to become successful, if you are going to reach your goals, you need to be very quick out of the starting block. It is necessary for you to develop a sense of urgency in your everyday activities. Once you have decided on your goal, you must take some action right away. You need to get the ball rolling while you are still excited and motivated. The sooner you put your plan into action, the more likely you are to achieve your goals. To avoid procrastinating, make a commitment to doing one thing, right now, to get you closer to your goals.
Next, you've got to set priorities and each and every day you've got to take care of the top ones. Very often, there's a tendency to set too many priorities; if everything is a priority, nothing is. Focus on your long-term objective and not on your present activity because sometimes the activity looks like hard work. For example, I hate doing sit-ups. I try to avoid them whenever possible. When I finally break down and do sit-ups, as I'm doing them, I visualize having a flat stomach and 6-pack abs. If I concentrate only on the hard work of doing sit-ups, I find myself stopping short.
Establish milestones so that you can mark your progress and remain motivated to reach your goal. Create a system to monitor your progress, and then reward yourself. There is nothing like accomplishment to get the feeling of accomplishment.
Give yourself some reward when you win. It doesn't have to be major or expensive. It could be a nice dinner or a bottle of wine or a small electronic device. Give yourself a small reward for a small success and bigger rewards for big successes.
One of the best ways to keep on track is to let someone else know about your goal. Share your goals with people who will support and encourage you. Ask them to keep tabs on you. You want someone who will keep you accountable. You don't want someone to constantly torture you by pointing out your failure. You want someone who will simply ask you on a regular basis: "How are your goals coming along?" and, more specifically, "What have you done this week to advance yourself towards your goals?"
If you do all of the things you promised yourself that you would do, I guarantee you that 2008 will be your best year ever.
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.