By Jeff Fortney
The crisp fall air brings with it a time of planning, something I like to refer to as decision time. This is when companies big and small hold meetings, gather information and make decisions about the coming year. They set goals, establish timelines and develop plans that they believe will help them reach the growth targets they have set for the year ahead.
Although it may seem too soon to focus on 2014, the logic of making decisions now about the approaching new year is sound. Setting goals is only the first step. Establishing the action plans that will help companies reach their goals is also critical – and time consuming. Putting off this task to the start of the next calendar year will likely result in lost sales.
Although planning sessions vary greatly, they all entail a similar process: examine what is going well within the company; then examine what isn't working, or what is not reaching its full potential. These are obvious steps in goal planning, mirrored by myriad companies no matter their size. The purpose is to set a destination for the coming year.
In my early days in the business world, a mentor once likened these goals to the end of a road trip. For illustration, he would say, "Over the next year, I want to drive from San Francisco to Maine."
He noted that just as there are many routes from San Francisco to Maine, there are many potential action steps to lead a company to its goals. He told us our job was to develop the road map that would help our company reach its destination.
Smaller ISOs and merchant level salespeople don't have others available to design such road maps for them. They must set their own goals and then determine the steps toward achieving them. Not only that, they are also driving the car. However, though they begin each trip with good intentions, they often end up taking unnecessary side trips.
One exercise that can help avoid detours is called "What if?" The process is straightforward. After setting a goal – such as growing production by a certain percentage in the coming year – and then brainstorming about possible ways to attain the goal, participants take a step back and ask, "What if?"
For example, let's say you decide the only way to grow your business is to focus your outreach in a specific market segment. The common action at this point would be to just jump in and test the waters. Instead, ask, "What if I concentrate on this particular segment?"
This isn't a simple question. The answer is not, "I've had some success in that segment, so I can easily expand on my success by concentrating my efforts even further." Although that may be part of the answer, it's critical to dig deeper.
Drill down into the impact of the action by answering these specific questions:
Simply put, it truly is decision time. Even though you are focused on making the current year successful, taking extra time now to plan for the following year will help you hit the ground running in January and get out ahead of your competition.
Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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