We’re halfway through the year now, and this is a great time to ask yourself the question: Am I on track or off track?
You may follow this with a second question: How on earth do I know?
To some extent, how you feel will give you a clue. If you feel like business is good and things are running smoothly and you have the money, time and energy to do the things you want to do in life, there’s a good chance you’re on track. If you’re worried and stressed, you’re putting out fires at work, and there’s never enough hours in the day, you’re probably off track. What those feelings don’t tell you is what to do about it. That’s why it’s a good idea to take an analytical approach to assessing how things are going.
When I’m evaluating whether I’m on or off track, I like to look at profit, people and processes.
Is Your Profit On Track?
Hopefully, you set profit-related goals at the beginning of the year. (If not, please have a look at the Numbers for Financial Health section of my blog Your Business’s BMI and Other Numbers.) Now’s the time to revisit those goals and see if you’re bringing in enough sales to generate the revenue you need. If you’re not, ask yourself:
Do I have enough strategies to bring in business, and am I using them? I recommend having 2-3 marketing, networking and selling strategies that you use on a regular and consistent basis, plus 4- 5 additional strategies you can implement if your core strategies stop working.
Is my target market working for me? I recently realized that the market I was targeting was generating an average sale too low for me to meet my revenue goals. By redefining my target market, I was able to get back on track.
Is my weekly activity level high enough? If your strategies for bringing in business are working and your target market is properly defined, it may be that you’re not getting in front of enough people each week and closing enough deals. Focus on getting those initial appointments on your schedule but also—more importantly—following up with prospects and asking for the sale.
These may seem like basics, but it’s easy to neglect them because they seem so…well, basic. They’re basic because they work, so if you’re not on track, get back to them. They deliver. Check out my blog Do You Have Enough Money Coming In? for more.
Are Your People On Track?
Your people help you deliver your promise to your clients; they bring your vision into reality—but only if they are performing. To determine if your team is making it happen for your business, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have enough people? If you only have yourself, the answer is definitely NO. You cannot do everything yourself and expect your company to survive, much less thrive. Start by getting some kind of assistant—virtual, parttime, in person—and getting some of the administrative things off your plate. Then, look at your organizational chart (you do have one, don’t you?) and determine who you need to hire next to take your business to the next level.
- Do I have the right people? It’s not just about having warm bodies. You need a team of A-players who provide gold standard service to your clients, every time. You may think you have a good feel for who’s doing well and who isn’t, but you need to do a formal assessment. When a deck-building client of mine evaluated his crews, he discovered that two of them were actually losing him money. When assessing my team, I like to use stoplight colors: green means they are rocking it; yellow means they’re doing okay but aren’t performing to expectations; red means they’re not bringing it to the table at all.
- Am I developing my people? Honestly, those red-performing people usually need to go. They just weren’t a good fit, and there’s probably not much you can do. People in the yellow can often grow into green performers. They need mentoring and training to bring out their best. And don’t neglect those green A-players! Your best employees are your best because they are motivated and ambitious; they want something out of their work and out of life. Help them get that.
We don’t always remember to think of them this way, but your team members can be and should be one of your business’s greatest assets. Helping them succeed keeps your business on track. Check out my interview People, Position, Passion! with Strategic HR Coach Kay Congdon for more.
Are Your Processes On Track?
When was the last time you left the office without worrying? If you can’t remember or if it’s been a while, it may be because you don’t think things will run smoothly without you. That’s either because you don’t have the confidence that your team will do things the right way, or because your team doesn’t know how to. Processes are the solution. To gauge the status and effectiveness of your processes, ask yourself these questions:
Do I have processes in place? You’re an expert at what you do, but you didn’t become an expert overnight. You had to figure out the best way to hire someone, to provide service, to bill clients. By documenting the functions of your business, you pass that expertise onto your employees so they can do it just as well as you do. At a minimum, you should detail how the following processes work: hiring, intake and onboarding; product/service delivery; customer service; and invoicing.
When did I last review my processes? If your business is growing, your business is changing. What worked last year or even last month might not work now. Develop a schedule to review your processes. You don’t have to review them all at once; looking at two or three at a time is plenty, but make sure you get around to all of them periodically.
Do I look for ways to improve my processes? Remember above how I told you that documenting processes enables you to pass your expertise onto your employees? When you build up a team of A-players, you may not be the greatest expert on every aspect of your business anymore. Look to the team members who are doing the work to identify ways to smooth out bumps and create efficiencies.
Having comprehensive, well-communicated processes is part of building a team of A-players. Processes increase your confidence in your employees because you know they’re trained and empowered to deliver.
A sidenote: Even when you have confidence in your employees and in your processes, it can be hard to let go. Check out my podcast Are You Addicted to Your Business for some encouragement.
What If You’re Off Track?
After answering the questions above, you may find that you are actually off track. Please don’t freak out, and don’t give up. The purpose of these questions isn’t to make you feel bad. It’s to help you see where your challenges are and offer opportunities for overcoming them. You can overcome them! You have plenty of time.
I say this from experience. I shared about how my target market was a little off earlier in the year, and I had to make adjustments to it. I’ll be honest: That was discouraging. I wished I had realized it sooner. But at least I realized it! The more you know, the more power you have to change and improve. So have a brief moment of disappointment, then ask yourself, What can I do right now, today, to get back on track?
So, If You’re On Track, You Can Just Chill. Right?
Wrong! If you’re on track, congratulations! That’s awesome. I’m proud of you, and I want you to take time to pat yourself on the back and appreciate what you’ve accomplished.
But unless you’ve reached all the business, professional and personal goals you could ever imagine and are living a life more amazing than you ever dreamed, you are not done, my friend. Here’s what’s next for you:
Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t slack off. If what you’re doing is working, keep working it.
Get out of the office. If you are meeting your revenue goals, your people are performing and your processes are in place and working, you need to be out there living more of your life. Not someday. Not tomorrow. Today. I mean it. Stop reading, and put something for yourself on your calendar right now: lunch out with a friend, a long weekend away, that class you’ve been wanting to take. Life is for living, so please start living it.
Take it to the next level. What’s your next summit? It might be a higher revenue goal, expanding your business, identifying a #2 to take on more of your responsibilities, planning a trip or taking some significant time away. Whatever it is, take advantage of the momentum you have to map the path to your next summit—and start climbing!