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Hopefully, if you’re considering a new venture, a new job or a new project of any kind, you’re excited about it. If not, you’re beaten before you begin. Any truly successful person is so because they’re passionate about what they do. Chances are if you’ve read even a couple of the previous Actionable articles, you’ve picked up on our passion for passion. It’s a crucial first step.
As author, speaker, and serial entrepreneur, Carissa Reiniger (oh, and she’s 27 years old) reminds us in her book Inspiring Entrepreneurs, passion alone is not enough. Once you have an idea that grabs you, one that truly fills you with fire and enthusiasm, (regardless of whether you’re an entrepreneur or just someone starting something new) you need to sit down, pen (or keyboard) in hand, and take a hard look at the “business” side of things. You need to start with a plan.
“Five-year strategy sessions are good – but not ultimately effective because without a tangible, actionable, measurable plan, people’s wheels start to spin.”
Inspiring Entrepreneurs, page 105
Three key words in there – “tangible”, “actionable” and “measureable”. You may have heard of “SMART goals”; the acronym standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Reiniger’s three focus words are similar, but with one key differentiation – what she’s talking about is the plan, not just the goal.
Goals are great. They get you excited, and ideally provide an end point to direct all your efforts. But goals alone are only one small piece of the puzzle. “The Plan” is the next step – the path you intend to take from Here (current reality) to There (realized goal). A plan is what distinguishes a goal from a wish. So how do we make a “tangible”, “actionable” and “measurable” plan? For Reiniger, experience has shown that one year is the optimal time frame to work within.
The advice from Inspiring Entrepreneurs is straight forward: Instead of complicated planning and big picture strategy sessions, pick one, tangible, actionable and measurable goal for the next 365 days, and then work your butt off to make it happen. Everyone needs a plan, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Patience, Patience, Patience (Oh, and Hard Work)
“We find that with our clients, almost 100% of the results happen in the last six months of the one year that we work with them, but ALL of the work we do in the first six months is a crucial part of the building process – building credibility, contacts and momentum.”
Inspiring Entrepreneurs, page 105
Farmers know this: You can’t collect the fruit the same day you plant the seed. And yet, in our “instant gratification” society, we very often get frustrated when we don’t see immediate results. Reiniger (and the other entrepreneurs polled for the book) preach patience. It’s always those who work just a little bit longer and try just a little bit harder that realize the success they seek. So often we give up on something just before that “tipping point”; that moment of success when things start to slide into place. Seth Godin wrote an excellent book on the phenomenon known as “the dip” which plays a major factor in the success of the few and the failure of the unprepared. Having a one year plan can play a key role in providing the motivation and direction to keep going when times get tough. No matter what the venture, remember the old adage –
“That which is easy to attain is rarely worth having, and that which is worth having is rarely easy.”
Time Out with a Newbie
“Taking time to reflect on your business … will allow you to work on your business, instead of always working in it.”
Inspiring Entrepreneurs, page xi
Come up for air every now and then. As mentioned, whatever the project you’re working on, chances are you got into it because you loved the idea – you were excited about the potential. It’s easy to get lost in the “work” though, and to lose sight of the objective. Taking scheduled breaks to reconnect with your purpose, passion and plan can have a major effect on your attitude and productivity during your “working” hours.
Reiniger has a very specific structure and set of activities she recommends for creating “breathing time” when involved in any long term project. (Can be found on page 128 of Inspiring Entrepreneurs.) One great idea from that structure is as follows:
Have Monthly Accountability Meetings with Someone Else
Meet up with someone monthly to run through your progress and monthly activity. Here’s the cool part – it’s even better if that person knows very little about your business. Their lack of insight will force you to review all the details of the project more clearly than you would on you own. Their distance from the project will also give them a unique perspective and, while their role is really meant to be more of a sounding board, they may offer valuable insights as well. As an added bonus, their interest in the project will help to rekindle your own passion, as you share your vision of what’s to come and what you’re doing to get there.
Inspiring Entrepreneurs is a brilliant little book written by a dynamic and driven young woman. With contributions from dozens of highly successful entrepreneurs and jam packed with exercises and worksheets, Inspiring Entrepreneurs is a must have for any aspiring entrepreneur or person interested in taking on a new project in a leadership role. Not to be missed.