In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, Treasure Island, a map was discovered by young Jim Hawkins, who, along with a very motley crew, plans an expedition to set sail to seek his fortune.  In creating a business plan for 2010, what if you could rekindle a spirit of passion and adventure in this year’s process?  Too many times we have looked at business plans and, well….yawned!  Instead, this year, why not go on a voyage of exploration, to discover a plan of navigation for your ship (your business!) to discover your own Treasure Island!

It may not be a treasure chest of gold or massive riches you are searching for, but you probably are looking for success, significance and satisfaction with the business and life you are building.  Your “Treasure Island” may be that you are looking for a way to provide a better lifestyle for your family, a college fund for your children, a retirement income for yourself.  A business plan can transform your business and help you reach those dreams!

It was a business plan that changed my life.  When Hurricane Rita hit our corner of the world in September of 2005, my family suffered a significant loss of income when one of my husband’s businesses was destroyed.  He asked me “Can your business make money until mine is rebuilt?”  At that point, my business was drowning in mediocrity and I was ready to just “jump ship”!  But through a series of events of discovering my purpose, and my “why”, I began to get a clear vision of the possibility of where I could go with my business, and a renewed passion began to burn inside of me.

Tom Bass says “Inspiration without instruction leads to frustration”.  I was filled with purpose and passion and inspiration, but in December of 2005, three months after the hurricane, I was still struggling to launch my own ship on the Sea of Possibility!  I placed a “bet” and headed to Las Vegas for Tim Braheem’s Business Plan 2006, the flight and fee for the conference purchased with money I could not afford to spend.  I had passion… I had purpose…but I needed a plan.  As a result of the implementation of that business plan, my production went from 74 units in 2005 to 269 units in 2006!  I had discovered my Treasure Island!

Much like young Jim Hawkins, it is essential that you have a Treasure Map or the vision of where you want to take your business, written goals and strategies of how you are going to get there, and the timetable for arrival.  I have used the acronym C.O.U.R.S.E (meaning “…the act of moving from one point to another) to outline a simple strategy you can use for mapping out the plan for your success.

I suggest you purchase a journal (I love leather!), consider it your “Captain’s Logbook” and use it daily to record your “Big Dreams”, visions, goals, convictions, beliefs, ideas, strategies and the specific actions you plan to take .  Let your thoughts flow through your fingertips and onto paper.  Write it down!

C:  COMPASS. Before the adventure begins, determine where you are right now.  To assess your current position is critical so you know what direction to go next.   If you have been in the business one year, your plan will probably be different than for someone who has been in the business 5 years.  Do you need to increase your essential knowledge of products and programs?  Or is this the year you plan to hire an assistant?   Will marketing and sales be your focus for 2011?  Or maybe is it leadership and legacy goals that you are drawn to this year?

Also, a compass determines your “True North”.  What are your core values and mission?  Why do you do what you do?  What drives me personally is my love of God and my family. That is the compass that directs not only what I do, but “why” I do it at all.  Always remember that the definition of “treasure” is “those things you value”.

O:  OWNERSHIP.  You must own your ship!  There comes a time you must to take ownership for the direction of your business, and assume full responsibility for its success or failure.   It’s easy to blame the economy, the market, your location, or play any other number of “blame games”.  You are not only the owner,  you are also the Captain of this ship, and it is the choices you make that will determine your destiny.  All of us make choices, and then our choices make us.  Take the helm of your business and your life with both hands and take responsibility for charting the course for 2008.

Have you blamed something or someone else in the past for your lack of success?  If you have, stop!  Even if you don’t own the company or you don’t own your branch, take out your Captain’s Logbook and make a declaration today that you are taking complete ownership of your ship!

U:  UNDERSTAND. Before you  set forth on this adventure, it is crucial that you understand yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses.  A quote I love is “He who knows others is learned.  He who knows himself is wise.”  Make it your mission this year to develop your strengths and outsource or delegate your weaknesses.  When you work on your weaknesses, you just have very strong weaknesses!

As you write your “Big Dream” and your list of goals and action items necessary to complete the goals, make it a priority, if at all possible, to delegate those tasks that will drain you of energy.  Your focus should be on the tasks that will fill you with passion.

Details and paperwork literally suck the life out of me.   I have worked on hiring a team of people who are gifted and talented in my areas of weaknesses, and they handle those tasks for me.  In the meantime, this frees me to focus my energies on what I love:  meeting with clients and relationship partners, and encouraging and inspiring others through speaking, teaching and writing.

R:  REFOCUS. Stuff  happens.  To refocus means that you take the time to bring clarity to what you really want by writing out a clear, concise and compelling picture or vision of what you want your practice to look like in one year, five years, ten years.  It is only then that you will have absolute clarity about your destination, Treasure Island.

King Solomon said, “Without a vision, people perish….”.  Without refocusing on what you really want, it is easy to lose heart or become discouraged, and allow your dreams and hopes to “perish”. In fact, you could just sit in the harbor, never casting out on the Sea of Possibility and totally miss the life and business success for which you were destined.  You must visualize exactly what your “Treasure Island” looks like, smells like, feels like, as if you were already there and write it down!

S:  STRATEGY. Once you have clarity about WHAT you want and WHY you want it (the Big Dream or your Treasure Island), you must form a strategy of  HOW you will achieve it and WHEN.   Your strategy is your plan for reaching your goals.  Goals can be defined as the ongoing pursuit of a dream or  “dreams with a deadline”!  Most of you have probably heard of the S.M.A.R.T. method of establishing goals, i.e., they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  One thing I would add here is that your goals should be YOURS and should be linked to your mission and purpose, your “why” you do what you do.  Your strategy will be the actual plan of action you implement to accomplish these goals on a day to day basis that will take your business to the level of succession you have envisioned.

On one page of your journal, make a list of all the goals you want to achieve.   Then take each goal and give it a separate page.  Then below that goal, write out the following:  (1)  Why is reaching this goal important to me?  (2)  What are the benefits of reaching this goal?  (3) What are the skills or knowledge required to reach this goal?  (4) What specific plan of action will it take to reach this goal (5) What is the deadline or date of completion?

These action items should be as detailed as possible and then plugged into your daily routine.  I make it a priority to accomplish at least one action item per day that moves me toward my Treasure, my Big Dream.  Make it discipline that at the beginning of each week to review your Big Dream, track your progress from the week before, and then to create a list of projects and action items to accomplish in the coming week.  This discipline keep you focused on what you are wanting to accomplish, and will assist you in managing your priorities for the week.  Then take seven minutes at the end of each day to write down your plan of navigation for the next day. It will be this constant monitoring of your navigation system that will take you from where you are today to the place you want to be one year from now.

One of my goals for 2006 was to become one of the top lenders in the local marketplace for military homebuyers.  This was a B.H.A.G.!  (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal!)  I wrote in my journal seven  benefits to myself and others if I achieved this goal.  One benefit was increased income for my family and the financial stability that income would provide during those stormy months.   The measurement I used for achievement of that goal was to capture “15% of the marketplace”.  Each month as the local legal news provided information on the closed mortgages, I would gauge my progress accordingly.

I believed with all my heart that this goal was both attainable and realistic, and the deadline for this goal was December 31, 2006.  Believing in your heart that you can achieve your goals is one of the most powerful principles you can apply to your business and your life.  Whether you think you CAN, or think you CAN’T, you’re right!

Then I broke that goal down into several strategies, and for each of the strategies, I created the daily action items and daily disciplines I would plug into my routine.   An example of one of my strategies was to create a brand for myself.  Three of the action items I implemented for this strategy were: (1) hiring a graphic designer to help with the creation of marketing materials, (2) having a professional photograph taken, (3) and the design of business cards with a patriot theme.  These action items (in addition to 200 more for the year 2006!) were plugged into my week; I resolved they would be completed – no matter what.

Your business plan is a living, breathing, navigational instrument.  Navigation of a ship is defined as the process of planning, recording, and controlling the movement of the ship from one place to another.  Navigation of your business plan should be monitored not only on a yearly basis, but also a quarterly, monthly, weekly, and then daily basis.   Remember, it will be daily disciplines, those small, incremental changes you make in your everyday activities that will alter the course of your business and your life, and move you closer to your Treasure Island!

E:            EMBRACE THE CHANGE! There is the pain of change and the pain of regret.  The pain of change weighs ounces and the pain of regret weighs tons.  When you “embrace” the change, it means you wrap not only your arms, but your heart around it, and no longer run FROM change – you run TO change.  What if you do exactly the same things in 2011 that you did in 2010?  What will be your regrets if you do not embrace the change?

Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Greatness is not where we stand but in what direction we are moving.  We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but sail we must and not drift nor lie at anchor.”

Warning!  Do not put your plan in a drawer!  Just as you would keep a map out and in view and refer to it often if you were setting sail to a new destination, so you should keep your business plan visible and refer to it continually as you progress through the days and weeks and months of 2011.  You should always know, not only your current position, but how fast or slow are you traveling, and are you on track to timely reach your destination.

I will also say, embrace your plan!  Let it become more than what you do, let it become a part of who you are.   This journey you are on is also called your life.   The last few years have  been  stormy years indeed in this industry.  As you create your Treasure Map to navigate through 2011, you must take into consideration there may be stormy seas, typhoons, hurricanes, and sandbars.  But there will also be days of smooth sailing, beautiful sunsets and calm waters.  Just remember to always keep your eyes on your Treasure Island – the place of your heart!

Louise Thaxton

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Louise G. Thaxton Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. Ph. 866-960-9115 Email.

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