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Goal-Setting & Planning to Grow Your Standout Business

Lesson 12 of 16

Break Your Target Into Projects


Goal-Setting & Planning to Grow Your Standout Business

Lesson 12 of 16

Break Your Target Into Projects


Lesson Info

Break Your Target Into Projects

So far we've got a 12 month goal, a quarterly target that you're going to work toward, and now it's time to break that target down into projects, the little pieces of the puzzle, in other words, that are going to help you get closer and closer and closer, bit by bit, to that 12 month goal. Now I want to talk a little bit about why planning goes so wrong. (laughter) Because, you know, I think most of us plan for our businesses, a lot of us plan in January or at the end of December. We are exhausted and we take that week or those two weeks or maybe that weekend or that spa vacation. (laughs) And we're like OK, I'm going to plan my business now. And this is the year it's going to be different, right? Every year we do this, this is the year it's going to be different. And we sit and we set our plans down on paper, we use a pen instead of a pencil. (laughter) We send them off to our team or our friends or our mastermind groups and we're like, yes! The planning process is done, it is time to...

make the money, right? And then what happens? Life. (laughter) Business, work, customers. Plans aren't static, plans change. And one of the reasons plans change is that we expect our plans to be linear. First you do this, then you do that, then you do this other thing, then you do that other thing and then boom! Your goal is reached. But really, the way we reach goals looks a lot more like this. (laughter) It took me a while to figure out how to do that in Keynote, by the way. (laughter) Straight line easy, other lines very different. This is what actual progress looks like. We think this looks like a mess, right? We think this is a problem and if only we could straighten things out into that linear first you do this, then you do this, then you do this, then boom, you hit your goal, that we would be able to stick to our plans. In my opinion and having done this now for a long time, I don't think we can ever turn our plans into those linear, easy to follow, to do lists. And instead, we need to embrace the reality of this. We need to create plans that integrate this kind of action, these kind of chain reactions into our plans, so that instead of being surprised, we've anticipated them. And so that's why I like to talk about the difference between linear action and integrated action. Linear action assumes that you do the first thing first, the second thing second, the third thing third. And when that plan goes wrong, you don't know what to do. It's another reason that we stay so in the weeds because if you can't take the first step and the second step and the third step you just, you end up staying there in the weeds. But really the key to getting out of the weeds maybe isn't taking steps in any one direction at all, maybe it's spreading your wings and flying up to a completely different path. To me that's the difference between linear action and integrated action, we need to stop assuming that there is a list of things that must be done in order and start realizing that that messy progress of I'm going to work on this project for a little bit, then I'm going to work on that project for a little bit, I'm going to complete this by this deadline and take action on this thing over here, that's how real progress is made. And if we could just make our plans anticipate that, take that into account, in fact even take advantage of that, then we'll all be better off. Because any action you take has chain reactions. Anything that you do is going to have consequences, some of them will be positive, others will be not so positive. But if we can take advantage of those, if we can integrate that into our action plans so that we're not constantly trying to just go step one, step two, step three, then we can create action plans that we actually follow. And part of that is simply breaking annual goals down into quarterly goals and realizing that you are only going to be able to see out just as far as the headlights of your car, but that's enough to get where you're going, if you remember the EL Doctorow quote that I shared. And so what we're going to be focused on today is just your first quarter plan. So we actually, in terms of the year, so to date this, it's April fourth, which means technically the first quarter of this year just happened. But we're just going to assume that you're working on a 12 month goal and not a 2017 goal. (laughs) Or whatever year you're watching this in. And, and so we're going to just start like today was the beginning of your first quarter and we're going to create that plan from here. So my quarterly plans look something like this. Now you might have a few more projects, you might have a few more pieces of your plan, but this is where I always start off. So I have a quarterly target that I name, which you just did in the last lesson. And then I take that quarterly target and I break it down into at least three projects that need to be completed to make that quarterly plan, or that quarterly target a reality. Because again, it's not just a linear process, there are multiple things that need to fall in place for that target to happen. There are multiple things my business needs to be working on at any given time to make that target a reality. So the first step here is to take your quarterly target and to break it down into at least three projects. For the purposes of this class, we're going to assume there are only three projects, but the, you know, there's a high likelihood you'll have more than that. (laughter) So BJ, we finished up the last lesson with you in the hot seat and we said, we totally threw you for a loop and I made your 12 month goal a 12 week goal. So now you know what your quarterly target is, it's to get 20 retainer clients. And that's a lot to chew on, so there's a lot, there are a lot of projects that might need to get done. So, what are three projects you know, just off the top of your head, three things you need to accomplish on the path to actually getting there? So I have my three projects which is the cold calling campaign. OK. Right away, Facebook ad campaign. Great. For regeneration, to get more leads coming in. Mm hmm. And strategic partnership slash referrals, so building a few strategic partnerships to refer me to psychotherapists. Perfect, three projects, boom, done, sold, love it. (laughs) All right that's, thank you for that wonderful example, that was perfect, I didn't even plant you. (laughter) OK, not this time anyway! (laughter) Another time, all right, so I'm going to give you, I'm going to show you the full example here with my business, CoCommercial, and the project that we literally worked on in quarter one, which was to grow our membership by 150 members. I'll tell you right now, we blew that goal out of the water, so this plan worked, so that was awesome. So, whoop, there we go, so the first project that I came up with was to reorganize our team and fill in the holes in our organization. So I took our org chart, the way it had been, and I reworked it. So I actually physically changed the structure of our organization, I changed who went where, and then I hired into that, that was the first project. What other projects do you think I did to make that a reality? What projects might you do, if you wanted to grow your membership community by 150 people? Outreach? Outreach, sure. Patrice? We did Facebook campaigns with some free trainings. Yes, I did do some Facebook campaigns with some free trainings, definitely, yep, Katrina? Classes like this. Classes like this, yes, this is part of the second quarter plan for growing membership. (laughter) Yes, very good, we have a third and a fourth quarter plan for that, too. Yeah, excellent, all right, so some other things that I did was we actually did a rebrand. So I rebranded the program, the association both visually, so I changed the color scheme, the logo, all of that and verbally, we changed the messaging behind it, so sort of what the brand was from a story perspective. And then the outreach piece was that we designed and executed a grand reopening campaign. So those were our three main projects for that first goal. Now not all of these actually have to do with getting to that 150 members, right? If I was only, a linear action plan for that might be only focused on marketing or sales. But I knew that other things were going to come up, that we couldn't grow that fast without fixing some of the other things because there were going to be chain reactions, right? And that's why reorganizing our team was a really important part of that because by reorganizing the team I could actually take advantage of those chain reactions. And that's why rebranding was also really important because I felt I couldn't actually execute the marketing campaign that I wanted to execute with the brand that we were living in, to that point. So again, instead of realizing after just going all in on marketing because it was a marketing type goal, it was a sales type goal, instead of going all in on that and then wondering why or bemoaning the fact that I was running into challenges in this area or that area or that area, I incorporated that into my quarterly plan. I took advantage of the chain reactions I knew would happen if all I did was focus on marketing and sales and I built that into the project plan for that first quarter. So this goes, we're going to go a lot further here. Once you've broken that down into your three projects and you can go ahead and put that into your project plan now if you haven't started that, once you break those projects down, the next thing is to name action steps and action standards for each project. I will explain the difference. (laughs) Action steps are actions that you take in the course of that project that you will cross off your to do list once and it will be done forever. Action standards are like habits or routines. They're standards of action that you have to do week in or week out, day in or day out, month in or month out. And so action steps need to have due dates. We need to be able to say the deadline on this step, to get this project done and to keep us on track for this quarterly target, is such and such a date. Action standards instead have metrics. I need to write this many posts per week. I need to send this many e mails. I need to pitch this many magazines. I need to make this many cold calls. And so it becomes a routine and you measure the effectiveness or the completeness of your action by whether or not you have met that standard, make sense? So action steps, you cross it off, you're done. Action standards, you might cross it off, but it's just going back on the to do list next week or tomorrow or next month, OK? Almost all projects have actions on both sides. There are going to be things that need to be just checked off the list and there are going to be things that need to be incorporated into your routine or into one of your team member's routine. Example, same thing, growing our CoCommercial membership by 150. Our projects, again, were to reorganize our team and fill holes, to rebrand both visually and verbally, and to design and execute a grand reopening campaign. What do you think are some of the action steps I needed to take to reorganize our team and fill holes? What are some of the actions that I would need to take to reorganize our team and fill holes? Yeah? You need to identify what those holes are. Yes. Hopefully understand how your team is actually currently organized. Yeah, absolutely. Other things? Annette? Figure out who could do what, like who could fill those holes? Yes, so identify prospects? Yeah. For hiring, yeah, absolutely. Interviewing, yeah. (laughs) I had to interview a lot of people. Maybe not as many as I probably should have but that's just how I roll. So, yeah, absolutely, so really looking, analyzing our org chart, identifying potential prospects. Calling, or, you know, setting up interviews and actually having conversations with people so I could fill those holes. What about rebranding visually and verbally, what are some of the things I might have needed to do? You could do a whole PR campaign, you know, just to showcase that you are rebranding. Yeah. And you could use examples for people that are actually in the course. Yep. To tell, you know, the story of, you know, how CoCommercial helps people, what they've accomplished, you know, what their initial goals were and how the community has helped them to reach those goals. Yep, absolutely, we in fact did those things. (laughs) What else, anything else that we'd have to do, in terms of rebranding? New logo, visual, copy. Yep, new logo, new visuals, new copy. Colors. Colors, yep, all of the things, right? And they were all on the list, you've got to check them all off. It's like Pokemon, gotta catch them all, right? (laughs) Gotta do all the things to get the rebrand done. Yeah, so it looked like this. Action steps, I had to hire a marketing director by February 10th, hire a community advocate by February 20th, promote Rosie by March first. For rebranding, we had to inform our members that the rebrand was happening because this is not a new thing, it's been around for five years, it's hard to believe but it's true, so we needed to inform all of our new members by February 15th, we needed to build a new landing page by February 20th, we needed to change the internal branding, so on the community itself, by February 22nd. Then for the design and execute grand reopening campaign we needed to order T shirts for delivery by February 28th, I have some, I'll give them to you. (laughs) We needed to schedule our webinar series by February 28th, we needed to write an e mail campaign by March first. So all of those things, plus a whole lot more that I couldn't fit with this size font so that you could actually still read it, had to happen. What about action standards? We had to do things like weekly executive meetings, that needed to get added to the calendar. Weekly team meetings, so my operations person meeting with our other team members. I needed to check Asana five times a week, I'm not there yet, guys, I'm not there yet. (laughs) But I'm working on it. I check it maybe two or three times, which is two or three times more than I was checking it before. For rebrand, we needed to re-message our new branding at least once a week so that our members remembered, so that our members remembered that we were actually still here, we just were called something different. I needed to post to Facebook about the membership three times a week, I needed to post to Instagram one time a week. So you see the difference here? These are action steps that have deadlines, once they're done they're done, these are things that the project actually isn't going to be completed unless I create these new habits, these new routines and that, very likely, my team members need to do the same thing. Questions about that? Questions about dividing your project, or your quarterly plan down into projects, action steps and action standards, yes? Sometimes one of the problems that I run into is too many projects. So have you found like per quarter, I mean I know it varies depending on your goal, but per, like what's a good project number to kind of stay in the sweet spot? Because I'll get like way too many. Yes, I mean I think I always use three for a reason. Yeah. I don't know that I would reach too much further than that. Yeah. And, you know, those were pretty big projects, right? They weren't, it's not that I, I think the difference, understanding the difference between an action step, like something that you can do kind of once and done, or in a day even, and a project, where a project is going to take time. Whether it's a sprint or it's a marathon, it's going to take some time, is important because I think often when you do start getting too many projects going on, you're kind of blurring the lines between things that are just items on your to do list and then those organizational pieces of the puzzle. Almost the difference between deciding what's a chapter and what's a paragraph in a book, right? And so look, I would look at each of those par, each of those projects and say, is this the whole story, or is there actually a bigger story here that's the chapter that I'm trying to tell? I like that. Does that make sense? Yeah. OK, I just came up with that on the fly. That's good. So I'm glad that worked, yes? OK, so say you actually complete your projects earlier than you anticipated. Yeah! Should you revisit, you know, what your goals are and then assign additional projects, or should you just, you know, stay in your lane and just, you know, stay there and then wait until the next quarter to work on those projects? Yeah, so the question is if you, if you complete your projects early and hit your goal? Or you haven't hit your goal yet? No, say you've hit your goal. OK and you've. And you've completed the projects. Should you, you know, move forward and add an additional project to your list? I, this kind of ties into where we're headed with celebration plans, but I would celebrate the crap out of that. (laughter) OK. Um and I would say that I think it's probably a really good opportunity to do two things, one, to take a break, so kind of stay in your lane, but as you're staying in your lane make sure you're taking a break. Because just like with celebrating, we don't take breaks as entrepreneurs often enough. And so if this is a place where your plan was great, your execution was fantastic, you've hit your goal, you're done with your projects, give yourself a nice break, even if it's just a steakation, you know, where you put up an out of office responder and just enjoy the day a little bit more. Or hopefully you're enjoying your day regardless, but, you know, you do your own thing. And then, as you look to your next quarterly target, make sure it's a big enough goal, make sure that you're reaching far enough. And I think over time, you know, there are going to be times when you make it all happen faster than you expect to, there are also going to be times when you thought, oh, that was a great goal, but really, it was too big, and over time, that's going to start to balance out a little bit more and you'll get a better idea, yeah. All right and we've got a couple of Internet questions, excellent. All right, Varvara says in your example all your three projects are connected to one goal. What if I have more goals than one? Should I have three projects for each of them? You should stop. (laughter) Seriously though, Varvara, one, one goal. Because I would love to, like when was the last time you achieved all three goals or all five goals or all of the goals that you set at once? And even if you have, maybe you're a super productive, hyper efficient, awesome business owner, and I'm super jealous, but also, how focused do you feel? How well prioritized are you? How legitimately efficient is all of the process and all of the work behind it? Because what I find is that often people who lack that focus, lack priorities, this core problem that we've been trying to deal with, one of the main culprits is setting too many goals and not being able to decide which one is, which one is more necessary, which one has to happen now, which one can wait. And so that's why one goal. One goal for every 12 months and then one target for each 12 week period, so for each quarter. The reason that that works is because it doesn't mean you don't set other goals, it means you understand what the organization is. So that 12 month goal doesn't mean it's the only thing you accomplish in 12 months, in fact this whole planning system gives you at least a way to accomplish all four of your targets, plus that 12 month goal, that's five goals, that's pretty good for one year. But what it really means is that now you have a hierarchy of what's important. So that goes back to that kind of trade off question that we talked about earlier, where, you know, in Essentialism he talks about how there are going to be trade offs, we need to learn how to anticipate them and not fear them, or not try and avoid them and this is a place where trade offs occur. So your goal here isn't necessarily to say oh, I'm not going to do those other things, your goal is to decide which one is in service of the other. So like earlier I was talking about, you know, with Leslie, she was like, I think that I would like to launch this collection and have it in stores and I would like to get featured in a home decor magazine. And what we did, by deciding that it was the home decor magazine that was most important, was simply saying, this other thing now is in service of that bigger goal. So Tara, what if you're also kind of like, you have a goal for this new business, but you have your other business going on, too and maybe part of that would be maybe wrapping up that business. Yes. As part of the goal. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, for you that's either this quarterly target or it's the next quarterly target. Right, because you're going to want to wrap that up before you really start moving. Now whether that's, well I should say, whether that's a quarterly target or whether it's a project in service of one of your other quarterly targets, that's up for you to decide. And that's, again, where this choice piece comes back. Where you're going back to taking control, instead of waiting for control to happen. This is a choice, it's a trade off. Which of those one goals is going to be your core focus and which of the other ones are you either going to get rid of, or use in service of your other, of that main goal? Does that make sense? OK, next question, Facebook User says, if your goal is to sell x amount of product, is it wise to prepare for that ahead of time with new hires or stocking up on product, or is that too risky, in case you do not meet your goals? (sighs) All right, this is a tough one. It largely depends on your propensity for risk. How many of you guys like risk, like risk is fun? Yes, yes, yes, some of you. How many of you are a little less risk taker? Yeah, so there's definitely some things here that I would look at, in terms of create, finding a balance, sort of finding, literally, a balance, what's, you don't want to tip the scale too far one way, or tip the scale too far the other way. You don't want to sell too much before you bring on hires, but planning out can actually help you with this, planning out further is part of the process. So if you know 12 months from now you want to sell x amount of product, you also need to know what's the team look like to make that happen? What does the infrastructure or systems in your business, what assets do you need to make that happen? And then as you're setting your quarterly targets you want to be looking for milestones that you're going to hit, to trigger parts of that bigger plan. All right, so maybe you know that your quarterly target is to, in this case, maybe do a trade show, and at that trade show you anticipate selling a certain amount of product. You want to know that you've got a hire lined up for after that trade show, so you can actually fulfill those orders. And so my, even for me and I am a risk taker, my goal would not be to hire first to sell later, it would be to line those things up as closely as possible. So that means sometimes being really honest when you're hiring and saying, I think I'm going to have a need, my plan is to have a need for you at the end of April. I understand if that doesn't work for you, but I'd like you to consider the position when it's available and I'll let you know. There's nothing wrong with saying that. I'm not going to say it's going to work out every time because it won't, there will be times when you lose that person that you really, really wanted because they had to find something else. But, if you are honest and up front with people, I mean corporations do this all the time. They interview ahead of time and hire later. Right, they do informational interviews, they set up a bench that they're going to hire from and then they hire when people are needed and I think we should be doing that more often, too. So Facebook User, I hope that helps.

Class Description

So you launched a business and made the leap. 

Congratulations! But now you are a year or longer into being a business owner and you are HUNGRY for more. 

You have put in the hard work to build your business to where it is today but big decisions about what to focus on and what opportunities to pursue, threaten to slow your progress. 

You want to make the right decisions for your business and your customers so you can feel confident, focused, and accomplished as a small business owner. 

Goal-setting & Planning To Grow Your Standout Business helps you make the right decisions about your ideas, opportunities, and plans so you can earn more money and save time on the path to your dream. 

Whether you’re offering a service, selling online programs, or designing a product, Tara guides you step-by-step through setting the goals and creating the plans that will grow your business. 

By the end of the class, you’ll have a framework for knowing: 

  • What to focus on to grow your business without working harder 
  • How to know which project comes first so you’re never backtracking 
  • How to know you’re making the right decisions for your business so you can achieve your vision 
  • How to set goals you can actually achieve with the resources you currently have 

Tara is a bestselling CreativeLive instructor, with a wide variety of business classes including the first step for entrepreneurs, Build a Standout Business. She is the founder of CoCommercial, the business association for digital small business owners and the author of the book Quiet Power Strategy. Tara’s work has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., and Design*Sponge. Her podcast, “Profit. Power. Pursuit.” was named one of the top women-hosted podcasts for entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur magazine. 

By the end of this class, you will have a clear vision of what you are building, a clear path to build it, and a project plan to take you closer to turning your vision into reality.  


Donna Herbster

Packed with truly helpful info and lots of actionable steps, Tara delivers an amazing amount of value in this class! I'm in the early stages of business development and what I have learned here has shifted my focus, brought me greater clarity and a list of things to consider as I plan what, when and how I will deliver an exceptional experience to my clients. I have followed Tara's work from the beginning and she continues to outdo herself time and time again...she is a powerhouse of wisdom and experience, as well as a fun and easy to follow speaker! I highly recommend this class.

Winn Clark

Excellent class and maybe the best online class I've ever taken. It's a great combination of practical and dream big and Tara's credible and funny. I can't wait to go back, listen again and dive deeper into the assignments. I'd recommend this class to anyone who wants to grow their business!

Deb Fels

To Tara and CreativeLIVE: Thanks for your commitment to small business owners. You offer empowering mentorship with smarts, heart, and power - I'm grateful. Tara, I've sought the matching resources for my business as I've evolved, this AMAZING course truly rang my bell. Thanks for the traction, your willingness to keep growing forward, and not settling for less!