That’s why most people read books. They read all these books, they get all these great ideas, and they never execute on any of them. That is one of the questions I ask people. I say, “Read this book.”They say, “That’s a great book.” “What did you execute? What did you implement? What’s changed in your world because you read this book?” Most of the time it’s like, “I think about things differently.”
It’s funny you bring that up because a buddy of mine was asking me what conferences am I going to next year and what’s my rationale for that? I said actually for the last three years I’ve pulled back from doing a lot of that. Because I found that I would go and I would get all these ideas and then I wouldn’t do anything with any of them because in a lot of cases they either weren’t a great fit for us or it was for a business that was at a different stage. You go to the conference though when you’re made to feel like you got to get all this stuff and do all this stuff. One of the things that we’ve been doing lately is trying to very closely match here’s the information we were taking in with here is when we’re going to take the action with the information. I don’t want the information until I’m at a stage where I can take the action with it.
I went to three conferences in a row, and one I booked last year. By the time I get to this year I was like, “I don’t really want to go to these things but I’m going to go.” The last conference I went to, I actually took an index card and I said, “Everything that I walk away from has to fit on this index card.” In the back, I wrote these questions, “This thing that I think I want to do, does it have a measurable ROI in the next 30 days? If not, it can’t go on the card. Why do I think I want to do this? Is it because it’s new and shiny and I’ve never heard of it and it sounds like it’s fast money but it’s not?” I wrote these little qualifying questions on the back of the card.
I’m taking notes like I always do, but I actually took the card, I wrote down four things on the front of the court, took all the notes and threw them away. I came home from the conference with this little card. I was like, “I’ve got 30 days to implement what’s on this card or I’m throwing the card away too.” It was a revolutionary way for me, because I got rid of all the guilt. Every conference I go to moving forward, this is how I’m going to go in. This is my lens. It got to go on this card, and I’m not even going to take the notes, I’m just going to write the stuff on the card as it comes up. If the card’s full, no more. Even if I’m halfway through the first day like, “That’s it, done.”
The great news is you can travel home a lot lighter.
It’s interesting with the conferences, because one of the things I started doing at the conferences is I have been going for the relationships. Instead of going for the content, I’m going for the people. I’m looking to see who the people that I know that are going to go, who can I meet up with and build a better relationship with. I went to conference, big huge industry, 4,000 people, and didn’t go to a single session. Some friends of mine rented a house and they were live streaming the conference at the house, but there were about ten or fifteen of us. We came and went most of the couple of days, a beautiful house on the coast, and we just hung out and talked and figured out how to work together. Hence we had our own mini conference. It was great.
It’s funny, it came up in this conversation last week around this topic, and that to me is the key, because the information that you’re going to learn at the conference, what I found after going to a lot of them is that there really aren’t any secrets. We’re going to share the secret with everybody right now, there aren’t any secrets. The real value to me is who can I meet and how can we figure out a way to help each other that’s meaningful, not just, “Let’s talk,” but “Let’s make a mutually beneficial relationship, but what could we do that’s meaningful.”
There’s tons of value in that and totally worth paying for the conference and not going to any of the sessions. Probably bigger ROI and fewer notes. I think that’s fantastic advice. I know that your real expertise is in helping entrepreneurial businesses get their act together when it comes to planning and doing that in a very efficient way. I’d love for you to share some of that with us and tell us what you’re most excited about right now in business.
Here’s my thing with planning and the reason why planning is so powerful. It just helps you make really good clear decisions that are in alignment with what it is that you ultimately want to build. We understand what your vision is for your company, and not just we want to make a bunch of money, help a bunch of people, but getting specific. How big a company do I want? What kind of company do I want? Do I want virtual folks? I made a decision a long time ago. I had employees, I had a lot of payroll. I don’t want payroll anymore. I have contractors, and I want my contractors to be very entrepreneurial. I want to be their favorite client, but I want them to have other clients because they’re going to learn and grow beyond me. That’s part of my vision for my company, when you get clear about what it is you want, what do you really want to build.
I want a seven-figure business. Is that $1 million or $9 million? Because there’s a big difference between a $1 million business in a $9 million business, so don’t tell me you want seven figures. If somebody says, $1 million business, why? What’s that going to do for you? I know a lot of failing million-dollar businesses. We had a client one time, it was $50 million, and he was failing miserably. It’s getting clear about, “Actually, what I want is this much profit.” Let’s start with that. What kind of customers do you want to work with? Who do you want to serve? How do you want to serve them? What do you want to be known for? What are the things that you really care about that are deeply personal and emotional? Once you understand that and have that, then it’s pretty easy to create a plan and a series of actions and milestones to get you to that place. It becomes this great decision making tool because you keep asking yourself. Is this thing that I’m getting ready to do or this thing I’m getting ready to spend money on moving me significantly towards that vision?
If it is, I’ll think about doing it, but if it’s not, then it’s one less thing to have to think about. It helps clarify all the things that you want to accomplish in life. Then we take that vision. Visions typically can be far out. We start breaking it down into some near-term milestones, some three-year targets, some one-year goals, and then we ask really specific questions around those one year goals and say “If you’re going to hit those goals, something in your business to change.” If your goal is to double your business in a year, you’re not going to get there by working twice as hard, and you’re not going to get there by hiring twice as many people. Something’s got to change significantly in the systems inside your business. The big systems in your business are your strategy, your financial management, your lead generation or your revenue generation, your profit maximization, and your people.
Looking at those systems and those bunch of subsystems within there, figuring out what has to change, what system do I have to add or improve to make me hit those goals this year. Once you figure out what systems you need to work on, then you can sit down and go, “I need to work on my revenue generation if I’m going to hit that revenue goal. I need to make more money.” What are the projects within that that I’m going to have to do? Do I need to refine my sales funnel? Do I need to get better conversion between the stage and that stage? Do I need better and more targeted lead gen? What is it specifically that I have to change?”
We can say, “We’ve got a project to work on.” Once we have a project, then the project gets break it into tasks and get it done, but it’s understanding that change that has to happen systemically in the business. Once we’ve got that, then it’s easy to figure out, “Here’s what I have to do. Here’s what has to change in my company this year for me to get different results.” We can organize all of that on one sheet of paper or make it simple. I said earlier, that for me and for my clients becomes the true north. That’s the thing that you go to every single day. “What am I supposed to do so that I can hit those goals?” This thing. It becomes a series of tasks.
The most important thing you said there which I have not heard it said that way before, is that having that plan gives you this decision making framework. I haven’t heard it put that way before and there’s some elegance to that. I’ve seen a lot of companies do their planning, they lay this thing out. It’s a brilliant plan. It’s got all these grand goals and all that, and then they get into February and they start adding stuff because there’s something else new that’s interesting. There’s this scope creep to the strategic plan, and they get around to the end of the year and they go, “I guess we’ll use the same plan again because we didn’t get any of that done.” What you’re saying is lay the plan out and then that’s your enforcer. It’s a way to say no, it’s a way to discern, “Should I do this or not?”