It's been said that a successful business is not determined by fate nor good fortune, but by a succession of successful days. Success is about today -- not tomorrow or next week. It's all about today. If you want to have a successful business, have a successful today. Put together a succession of five successful days, and you've had a successful week. Fifty-plus successful weeks get you a successful year.
My last article, entitled "Without Vision, the Flooring Stores Perish," described the power of vision -- the clearest possible mental picture of your desired result. Well, without a today, without real progress today, a vision remains but an empty dream.
Today is the only moment in which you can do something about your vision. You can't do it yesterday. You can't do it tomorrow. (When tomorrow comes, it'll be today.) The real power of vision is that it compels doing. It compels action, the doing of something today.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, "In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."
Doing is not enough. Doing the wrong thing may be just as bad. If you find that the forces pushing for and against a particular decision are nearly equal, I urge you choose one course and act, rather than stall. Given those odds, you'll likely reap some benefits, even if the other option turns out in hindsight to be better. Meanwhile, you've succeeded in part.
Of course, you want to do the right things and do them correctly. What are the right things? They are those specific actions that transform some detail of your vision into reality. They are the actions that produce results. If you're getting the results you desire in your life and your business, then you are doing the right things. Take an hour today to look at what you have and where you are in your business. If you are not moving toward the results you want, you're doing the wrong things.
Remember, if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. That's Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: "Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results."
I'm not suggesting that you work harder, or longer or even more efficiently. In fact, there is nothing so wasteful as doing with great efficiency that which doesn't have to be done at all. I remember being so efficient at selling that I didn't have time to bill customers!
I am suggesting that you focus on results. That means focusing on doing the right job before focusing on doing the job right. As Stephen R. Covey, the best selling author of "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," says, "First things first, second things hardly at all." The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
If the leading cause of business failure for floor covering retailers is lack of vision, then the No. 2 cause is the lack of focus on the right things. German poet and dramatist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe aptly said, "The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least."
In my consulting practice, I find that many retailers lose their focus on the important things by letting the day-to-day business operations run them. How would your spouse and employees answer this question: "Do you run your business or does it run you?" Retailers without focus manage their businesses by addressing just the current crisis. They ask, "Did the installers show up? Do we have enough money for this week's payroll? If Joe's out measuring, who's going to cover the showroom floor?" That's called crisis management.
"One of the measures of a manager is the ability to distinguish the important from the urgent," says time-management expert R. Alec McKenzie, "and then to refuse to be tyrannized by the urgent, to refuse to manage by crises."
If success is counted in todays, then failure occurs by losing control of today -- losing sight of our vision, losing our focus on what's important. When we lose sight of what's important, our aim is to stay busy, and we accomplish nothing. How many times have you spent your today being "busy" but then, at the end, realize you hadn't accomplished much that you'd call important? You'd just put in your time.
A recent study of more than 500 corporations, weighing the influence of 73 different factors in successful selling, produced some startling new insights. What would you expect the No. 1 cause of low achievement in sales to be? Low motivation? Personality problems? Inferior products or service? Poor training? Wrong.
This survey pinpointed the No. 1 cause of low achievement in sales as this: poor time management due to lack of planning. Planning is the key to your todays. Planning is the key to controlling the only moment of time you can control -- this moment. And today is but a collection of moments.
If you understand the Pareto principle, also called the 80/20 rule, you will find key areas in your business where you need apply only minimal efforts to produce dramatic results. The Pareto principle asserts that a minority of causes or effort usually leads to a majority of the results. Applied to business, this principle has one theme: to produce the most results with the least expenditure of time, effort and assets. The key to optimal results is doing the things that produce those results. The way to assure you do them today is through planning.
Rarely are those who produce dramatic results merely lucky. They produce results because they prepare and plan to do the things that cause those results. Luck comes when preparation meets opportunity. Planning is not hard, but it does require some measure of effort.
Ten minutes of planning will save hours in execution. So what do you do?
Every evening before retiring, or every morning before you begin your day, you should remind yourself of what it is you want in your business. Ask yourself, "What is my vision? Where do I want to go?" Then ask yourself, "What can I do today that will produce the results I want?"
The secret is to make a list of tasks, and prioritize them. The most important items on that list are those that produce the most results. Then, you just do it.
What would I do? If I were in sales, I would maximize my time in front of the customer. There's a saying that applies here: "You're unemployed until you make your first call in the morning or unless you're in front of a customer."
If I were managing a store again, I'd focus on increasing the productivity of my salespeople. I'd do everything I could to help them increase their closing rate, their average ticket and their credit sales. I would train them better. I would make them feel cared about but, at the same time, I would impose quotas and hold them accountable for results.
I would spend more time in business development -- working on my systems, eliminating steps and mistakes -- so that their execution would run smoother. I would spend more time thinking about my vision and how I might bring my dreams to fruition.
For 10 years, I ran my store without a daily plan. In reality, the store ran me. Renowned basketball coach John Wooden said, "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." I'm trying to learn every day. Fifteen years ago, I went to my first time-management class. It changed my life, and it can change yours, too. If you want to be successful, expect to count your success by your number of successful todays.
You have to live on this 24 hours of daily time, which we call "today." "Out of it you have to spin wealth, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul," English author Arnold Bennett said. "Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency...all depends on that." The good news is that you have as much time as the richest person in the world. You can spin whatever you desire out of today.