8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The dog days of summer are at their longest, and our attention spans are at their shortest. This year seems to be one of the slowest we can remember, and yet suddenly it’s almost Labor Day! Where did the time go? How did we not accomplish all the things we had planned to finish before the kaleidoscope of Fall colors began to offer us a sneak peek of what’s about to appear?
Thinking about a five-year plan is always a big pill to swallow. How do you plot out those next 1,825 days? Generally, if you’re like so many of us, your current goals might still be in the incubation stage, but still, it sounds good to have a five-year plan, doesn’t it? We try so hard to be buttoned-up and smirk at all those business and self-help books, yet success often alludes us.
Satisfaction works on its own timetable. The way to influence and control that darned timetable is a unique mix of preparation and timing (among the other factors that just popped into your mind). The inexplicable thing about success is it sometimes happens when you least expect it, but generally because of your efforts. No matter what, we must plan, strategize and plot the blueprint of success. There’s no way around it.
So, as we near Monday’s annual calendar milestone, here are five time-tested approaches that, if done well, may alter your future for the better, and for real this time. Future success, here we come!
Related: Are You Meeting (and Setting) Customers’ Expectations?
1. Create a partner program
As an entrepreneur, you’re accustomed to wearing hats of every shade and purpose. One minute, you’re the CEO setting a vision, and the next, you’re on the ground hurling sales pitches to a potential customer. If you only want to be sufficient or scrape to get by, you’ll keep juggling those hats. If, however, you want to create a more powerful trajectory, you need the advantage attained from the communities of other select individuals.
A partner program lays the foundation for other people or organizations to become associates and help with your sales process. We all have sales needs. Nothing happens without sales, whether you are a B2C, B2B or even a B2B2C business. Finding others to partner with will help you spread the message quicker, as well as in a broader and more effective manner.
An endorsement by a partner might be just what a potential customer needs to make the decision your way. Start by creating a list of possible people and companies you work with who can also benefit from the association. Create a first, second and third tier of possibilities. Then draft a package that makes their lives easier. The more you take on your own shoulders to give them a self-contained bundle, the more likely they are to say yes and come on board to help.
3. Outline financial milestones
This one may seem like a no-brainer if you’ve already done financial projections and spreadsheets galore. The general manner in which most people work is to be specific only for the very near future and then to have a random, huge figure for their “one-day” scenario. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Most entrepreneurs will have a spreadsheet of everything they need for the next six-12 months and then say, “I want to hit the $100 million mark within a few years.”
OK, yes. That’s a nice starting point, but to be effective in the next five years, you want to make sure you have more detailed information for what you’ll need in terms of expenses and what your goals are in terms of revenue. You don’t need a monthly breakdown for five years; yet having a quarterly one for years three through five will help you more than you can imagine. It sets those parameters in motion and provides you with benchmarks to meet along the way.
3. Examine failures
Every business has competitors — either direct or indirect. Most people assume a competitive analysis is to help isolate unique selling points and the differences to highlight. Those are critical, but there’s also another reason to research the competitors in your field. To find out who failed, and most importantly, why.
If you want your business to succeed for the next five years, you need to make sure you aren’t setting yourself down a path that has brought failure for others. Research like crazy and create your own spreadsheet analysis of who failed and why. Learn from what they did wrong and re-examine your own business to see what similarities you’ve planned. Try to eliminate the things that may have caused their demise, or twist their problems around. Bring yourself great success by planning far enough ahead to sidestep their roads of failure.
Strategically, it’s also valuable to know how others failed. When you speak with potential partners, investors or customers, you’re then able to allay their fears and have them see you as the ultimate maven.
4. Have a CTA roadmap
The heart of every sale is an enticing and evocative call-to-action (CTA). If the buyer isn’t compelled enough to become a customer, you’re in a bind. Your business depends on your ability to have a CTA Roadmap that takes into account their complete journey.
Ask yourself questions about the path your customers take with your product or service and outline a series of CTAs that work for each phase. A new consumer to your product or service won’t have the same desires and transformation goals as one who is further along in their journey. If all your CTAs are the same, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to nurture a repeat customer.
Don’t think of a CTA as a piece of copy that’s written as you create a webpage. Think of it as the path your customer takes. Again, chart out each step. Create a list of coinciding actions they’ll want to take, and match them with a CTA that speaks to their heart and mind. Then embrace your sales agenda and make sure the CTA you’re burnishing into their brain is the one that triggers a reaction in precisely the manner you’re seeking.
Many think a support team consists of virtual assistants, salespeople and some freelancers who step in when you need a squad. A support team can be far more important and strategic. Consider, or even reconsider, a picture-perfect team as you set your sights on the five-year goal line.
One of the most helpful types of support entrepreneurs overlook is an advisory board. Your spouse, your friend from business school or an old colleague are all great stand-ins. They’re the lowest-hanging fruit in terms of who you’ll ask for advice and feedback. Don’t stop there. Most people make that mistake. They look at the hand in front of them, see a clear answer and then forget the longer-term picture.
When you create an advisory board, expand your thinking. Aim for the stars and design your dream team. Who could help you the most? Is there a trailblazer in your industry who you admire and would flip over if they were a mentor or advisor?
At this point, step out of your comfort zone. Find a way to contact some of these aficionados. Speak from your heart and experience. Let them know how much they’ve already influenced you and that you’d be honored if they would consider being an advisor. Offer them equity or a fee if you have it (or if you have to). You may get rebuffed, or worse, be surrounded with silence. Push on and seek that golden moment when one of those industry stars agrees to help. Your dream team has just hit dream status.
Related: Your Biggest Obstacle to Growth May Lie Within Your Own 4 Walls
Five years is just around the corner, so why not meet that date with five years of a new kind of success? Before you know it, the time will pass as quickly as your attention span. Take these five steps right now as we approach the symbolic fresh start of Labor Day to set the course for your best possible success.