Goals are not enough.
Now you might be wondering if I’m against goals all together. The answer is no. I am probably one of the most goal-oriented planning individuals you will meet. I live by my goals and to-do lists. And, while I love these things, they aren’t enough. In order for goals to be effective, they need to be focused on the right things. You can accomplish just about any goal, but it might not always deliver the results you want.
Take, for example, a common revenue goal. Almost every accounting firm I work with has a revenue goal. There are a million ways you could reach that goal. For example, you could take in 100 price-sensitive, high-maintenance tax clients to meet your magic number. Or, you could bring in 25 high-value, low-maintenance tax clients and still meet that same goal.
Adding a focus helps ensure your goals are eliciting the right behavior because it defines the activities, not just the outcomes. I have always been a firm believer that the right activities will always accomplish your goals. Even more importantly, it keeps you focused in the present, rather than the future—which is critical from an execution standpoint.
Taking our same example above, we can take our common revenue goal and add a focus. This might involve partners having lots of conversations with qualified prospects and COIs (centers of influence) rather than hitting a specific revenue number. Or, building visibility in a new niche could include involve spending time writing and speaking on content for that particular niche.
Adding a focus has some other benefits. It can keep motivation afloat throughout the year. Focusing on activities seems less daunting than hitting an arbitrary figure—thus decreasing the fear factor of failure. It is also easier to help employees identify their role in achieving the goals. While a partner might be focused on having the right conversations with clients, a staff member could be focused on cost-saving behaviors.
Now, the timeframe you set might not always be met, so patience is required. However, we almost always find that the right activities will always lead to the goals you set, and often surpass them.
Sarah Johnson is the chief growth strategist with Inovautus Consulting, a firm that works with CPA, law and professional service firms to help them grow more effectively, and author of “Practical Ideas for Growth,” a blog dedicated to growing professional firms. Her counsel and strategies have helped move firms to the next level in their marketing and sales efforts. Connect with Sarah at 773-208-7170, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.linkedin.com/in/sjjohnson.
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