Mind the GAP

Mind the GAP

Ever feel like your business is driving you, rather than the other way around? If so, you may be suffering from a Goal Alignment Problem – aka GAP…

Chances are, when you launched your business, you didn’t give too much thought to its long-term impact on your domestic life. Rather, you may have been more concerned with value propositions, marketing plans, cashflow projections, production challenges and the myriad other considerations that accompany a successful launch.

By the time your business was trading profitably, however, you may have begun reflecting on your personal circumstances – considering how and if your business is supporting, or impeding, your lifestyle goals.

If so, you’re not alone.

According to the ONS (August 2014), self-employed people have experienced a 22% fall in real pay since 2008. And they work more hours too; with 13% of self-employed people working 60 hours or more each week (compared with 4% of employees).

In the early stages of a business, of course, it’s inevitable that you’ll be compelled to work harder, and longer, for less. If the situation endures once the company is established, however – so impacting your family life – it may be that your business and personal goals are ‘out of whack’.

The solution is to take time out to set down those personal goals – and ‘realign’ your business strategy to focus on achieving them.

Begin by asking yourself: where do you hope to be in, say, five-ten years’ time? Do you intend still to be working? If so, in what capacity?

By what date do you aim to be mortgage free?

To take a sabbatical?

Or indeed to retire?

Do you intend to sell your business at that point? If so, what sort of valuation will you need to achieve – to ensure the lifestyle you desire in retirement? And if not, do you have a succession plan in place?

For some, even considering an exit strategy at this stage may feel ‘premature’. But it’s not.

To risk a cliché: If you don’t know where you’re going, no road will take you there.

Translating your personal goals into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) business goals provides a solid foundation for your overarching commercial strategy.

And businesses with defined strategies are more focused; able to make smarter, more targeted decisions to support their sales, profits and growth needs – diversifying into new markets, for example, or launching new products and services, adapting pricing structures and margins, opening up new distribution channels or revisiting marketing and communications programmes.

Goal setting doesn’t happen in a vacuum, of course. So, as you set to work on your plan, take into account current and future trends. How, for instance, your market, and your customers’ expectations, are evolving, any potentially ‘disruptive’ technologies that are on the horizon, or new competitors that may be encroaching on your territory. And so on.

Look to your available resources too – in particular, your finances and your staff. Ask yourself: Do you have sufficient cash at hand to implement each stage of your plan?

Are your key people in the still youthful, or heading towards retirement – and, if so, who, if anyone, is being supported to come ‘up through the ranks’ to fill the breech?

If at all possible you should involve your spouse, family members and relevant associates in the planning process. Be prepared to share your vision and be willing to listen to, and act upon, their advice.

Work with them to map out an implementation plan, detailing who will do what, when – and how results will be measured. And, as you put your plan into effect, be sure to keep them fully informed and engaged at every stage.

As you’ll discover, aligning your personal ambitions with clearly defined commercial actions will quickly put you back in the driving seat – equipping you to better prioritise the time spent on your business.

And to accelerate your progress towards achieving your ambitions outside of the workplace.