Business owners fail to set goals because they get too busy. They are often focused on the wrong things, such as running a tight ship rather than investing in the appropriate resource to enable the business to grow. The upshot of this is that in many cases, the owners run out of hours in the day to hold regular Board or management meetings and it is extremely rare to find a small business with the discipline to hold an annual goal setting session for the year ahead.
It’s our contention that if you are a professional advisor, you should be offering goal-setting sessions as the bedrock of your business improvement service. There are three reasons why we believe this:
- It is a service that is relatively easy to provide. If you have the skill to facilitate a meeting, you can run a goal-setting session
- Clients receive enormous value from such sessions. We have worked with hundreds of firms and have strongly encouraged them to integrate planning and goal setting into their service offerings. We frequently hear positive affirmations based on client feedback
- A goal-setting session is an ideal platform to leverage into a range of business improvement services that can create enormous value for your clients (and for you in the process).
Let us make something very clear; we are NOT advocating that you write a 39-page business plan for your clients. Most business plans are not worth the paper they are written on and rarely see the light of day once they have been written. What we DO think you should be doing is running a goal-setting meeting with your clients, the output of which is a concise project plan with clear accountabilities for implementation. Two very different animals. The latter is infinitely more valuable.
At PANALITIX, we have this philosophy internally. Our process has been as follows:
- Each member of our management team provides their perspective on the relative importance of the company’s goals for the upcoming year. This is done initially in isolation so that individuals are not influenced by the views of other members of the team
- The results are then aggregated and discussed in one of our scheduled weekly management meetings. A consensus is reached as to the primary business goal for the next 12 months
- We then undertake an assessment of our current competencies in 41 functional areas, each of which is assigned to one of five key business areas (attracting new clients, managing existing clients, product development, team development or optimizing processes)
- We then use our proprietary Strategize tool to create a project plan that takes into consideration the relative importance of our goals and our self-assessment of competencies
- Next, we assign a Person in Charge, a priority and a deadline for each project on the plan
- Every week at our management meeting, we review each project, with our aim being to complete projects in a timely manner and with a quality outcome so that we achieve our stated goal.
This process has seriously improved the way in which manage our business. Why couldn’t you facilitate a similar process for your clients? We would suggest that not only could you do that but, importantly, that you could train up and coming team members to be able to deliver the service, meaning it is not partner-dependent.
To pre-frame a goal setting service with your clients, ask this simple question:
‘Bob, Martha, I was talking with some of my other clients recently and one of them made the comment that they spend more time planning their vacation than they do setting goals for their business. I was wondering, does that ring any bells for you?’
And then zip it – let the client think and talk. It is a provocative question and it is designed to have the client think deeply about their approach to managing their business. Resist the temptation to jump in and fill the silence if the client does not respond immediately. As you become more involved in business improvement work, you will notice that the real value accrues when the client finds the answers for themselves.
Once your client’s eyes have been opened to the fact that they (almost certainly) do not spend enough time working ON their business, they are ripe for a discussion on where they would like the business to go.
When you do engage a client in a goal-setting session, never prejudge what the outcome might be. We recall one of our members facilitating a session where the outcome was that the owners decided to sell the business immediately; in another case, it transpired that one owner was planning to retire in three years but hadn’t thought to inform his partners beforehand; several resulted in the advisor becoming involved in detailed profit improvement programs with clients. It doesn’t matter what transpires; the key is that helping your clients to set goals is a service that creates significant value.