When you started your business, you knew what you wanted to do. But over time, things can get a little cloudy.
"As businesses become more complex, ideas change and 'shiny objects' pop up to knock you off track," says Gino Wickman, founder of the leadership consulting firm EOS Worldwide and author of Traction:Get a Grip on Your Business (BenBella Books, 2011).
To be successful, however, entrepreneurs need to define a crystal clear vision, says Wickman. He offers these eight questions entrepreneurs can ask themselves to maintain their focus and become more productive:
1. What are your core values?
The philosophical beliefs of any company will stem from the owner's core values, says Wickman. Entrepreneurs should define three to seven characteristics – such as honesty, collaboration and enthusiasm – that represent the company and its employees. Wickman says when you identify these values, you can quickly create a company culture and assess whether to hire or fire someone according to how they match the company's values.
2. What is your core focus?
A company's core focus is the service it provides to the world. Often this is called your unique selling proposition, and its what sets you apart from your competition. Once you have a clear vision of your core focus, Wickman says you won't be distracted by those things that don't fit your focus.
3. What is your 10-year target?
This is the number-one overriding goal of your organization, says Wickman. He suggests entrepreneurs ask themselves what is the most important thing they want to have accomplished in the next ten years – the big win. The target could be revenue related, such as reaching $10 million in sales, or sales related, such as getting a referral from every client. Then the company should focus its energy in that one direction.
4. What is your three-year picture?
Wickman says entrepreneurs need a clear idea of what their company will look like three years from now. Write down your mental image or create a vision board. This picture will help you set goals to reach your 10-year target and will serve as a blueprint for creating a one-year plan. For example, if your 10-year target is to reach $10 million in sales, your three-year picture might be closing a quarter to a third of that.
“When your mind’s eye can see something, it’s more likely to happen,” he says. “It’s a simplified approach to strategic planning and will help an entrepreneur get ideas out of their head and onto paper.”
5. What is your one-year plan?
Each company should have three to seven goals each year that will move you towards your three-year picture and your 10-year target. Wickman says he doesn’t believe in multipage plans with countless priorities, objectives and initiatives.
“The simpler they are, the more likely they are to be achieved,” he says.
6. What are your quarterly priorities?
Entrepreneurs should identify a main priority for every 90-day period, such as close $500,000 in new business, document the delivery process or implement new marketing strategy.
“Research has found that humans can channel their energy on one goal for about 90 days before they start to lose focus,” Wickman says. “Four of these will come together to form a one-year plan.”
7. What is your marketing strategy?
A company’s approach to marketing should be simple, says Wickman. First, identify your ideal target market, including demographic, geographic and psychographic information. Next, identify the unique solutions you have to offer your market’s biggest fears, frustrations or worries. Then identify the best way you can get this information across to your target market. And finally, decide what kind of guarantee or promise you can offer your market to create confidence.
“Your goal is to cut through the marketing overwhelm and put perspective clients’ minds at ease,” Wickman says.
8. What are your issues?
Getting your fears and worries onto paper can be therapeutic because it allows you to deal with them more objectively, Wickman says.
“Once everything is before you in black and white, it’s much easier to get into execution mode,” he says.