It's that time of year, friends. The new year brings resolutions and planning activities for many. But, for many others, it doesn't; it only brings excuses for NOT planning.

The primary reason many don’t plan is that they claim not to have the time. They say, "I'd love to put together a plan for the year, but I just don't have time. But, if I can find the time or make the time, planning will be at the top of my list." 🙄

You can't make time, and you'll never find time. Time is finite; you can only prioritize how you spend that time.

You do have time, and you must make planning how you'll spend that time a priority. Time spent planning what you’ll do is way more productive than time spent reflecting on what you should have done.

It won’t go as planned

Here's the thing: planning can't be a once-a-year event; planning must be ongoing. As the great philosopher and pretty decent boxer Mike Tyson observed, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

However, don’t interpret his sage observation as a reason to abandon a plan. Quite the opposite, creating a plan documenting your goals and a path to achieve them is critical. You need this to return to it for grounding and filtering when those inevitable punches land square on the jaw.

Especially if you are an owner or producer, you have great opportunities because of this industry. You have the opportunity for a nice income, and you generally (other than fourth quarter) enjoy an enviable work/life balance. You have a chance to significantly impact the businesses and lives of your clients.

However, with great opportunity comes great responsibility. When you perform your role(s) at the level you need to, the agency grows. When growth becomes predictable, finding the confidence necessary to invest in new resources and hire new team members is easy. When you perform your role to your potential, growth opportunities are created for the entire team.

The responsibility gets bigger

The responsibility to plan and grow doesn't end with your team; it extends to your prospects and clients. Planning your growth is the only way you can reach your potential as the most impactful advisor they have.

That's right, THE most impactful advisor they have. Heavy, isn't it? Do you realize you can make more of an impact than their banker, CPA, or attorney? But that's the reality.

See, when you do your job the way it needs to be done, the way your clients need you to, you impact them strategically, financially, operationally, and, because of your connection to their employees, you impact the very emotion of their organization. That can only happen with your commitment to planned growth.

The “A” word

Yeah, that is a heavy responsibility, but it is doable with a plan that includes setting goals and developing the habits that allow you to reach your potential. It isn’t enough to plan for activities that will enable you to "get by.” You must prepare to push boundaries if you want to reach your potential. Once those goals are set, share them and ask others to hold you accountable.

Scary, I know. Because most only think of accountability in a negative light, they don't bring enough of it to their team.

Accountability is necessary and indicates how important each role and team member is to your overall success. Every role on your team is critically important. If you don't hold the individuals filling those roles accountable for making the necessary contributions, the message is that they aren't that important.

That aside, accountability isn't only about calling people out when they fall short. It should mostly be about celebrating people when they have successes, even small ones.

In an organization that is even slightly above average, accountability results in more celebration than it does criticism.

Sweat the small stuff

If you haven't read the book Atomic Habits, change that. Among many other takeaways, the book provides a great perspective on making improved results and new habits attainable.

In the book, the author, James Clear, shared a story of the British cycling team and how their story changed in 2003. At that time, the team had endured 100 years of mediocrity. They had won a single Olympic gold medal, and no British cyclist had won the Tour de France. The British team was so bad that top European bike manufacturers refused to sell bikes to the team for fear of hurting sales to other pros.

Then, the team brought in a new coach, Dave Brailsford, who introduced a strategy he called the "aggregation of marginal gains.” This was a fancy way of saying he would obsess over the details.

For the team, this meant analyzing and finding a 1% improvement in everything that goes into racing a bike. The coach believed that when they did, the aggregate improvement would be significant.

Here are a few examples of where they looked for these “micro” improvements:

  • Redesigned the seats for more comfort
  • Rubbed alcohol on tires for better grip
  • Riders wore heated shorts to maintain ideal muscle temperature
  • Experimented with racing suits of different materials to find the lightest, most aerodynamic suit
  • They tested different massage gels to find the road to the fastest recovery
  • Searched for the best pillow and mattress to ensure the best night’s sleep.
  • They even hired a surgeon to teach the team how to wash their hands to avoid colds

Five years later, at the Olympic Games in Beijing, the British team won 60 % of the gold medals. And four years later, they set nine Olympic and seven world records.

You think details don’t matter?

Your opportunity to “aggregate marginal gains”

Here's one example of using the "aggregation of marginal gains” to your advantage. You don't have to break your success drivers down to the smallest details; just be aware of the drivers in general and set small, attainable goals.

The primary drivers of sales success are the number of opportunities, the size of those opportunities, conversion rates, and close ratios.

Be honest with yourself.

  • Could you handle 10% more opportunities in your pipeline on average? Most would say “yes.”
  • Could you increase the average size of the opportunities in your pipeline by 10%? Most would say, "hell yes!"
  • Could you improve both your conversion and close ratios by 10%? I’m guessing you all could with a little effort.

A doable 10% improvement in each area results in a 60% increase in new revenue. You gotta love the power of compounding efforts.

Start so small you can't fail

As Clear so powerfully observes, you can’t expand or improve on a habit that doesn’t yet exist.

The goal is to build a sustainable habit, but our goal-setting often sets us up for inevitable failure. As the book advises, set goals so small that failure is inexcusable.

For example, you may need to lose 20 pounds and have decided to get back to the gym. Committing to working out five days a week for an hour each time will likely result in new workout clothes, a 12-month non-refundable membership, and some binge eating to feed a bruised ego.

But, if you started by committing to drive to the gym, pulling into the parking lot, and then pulling back out and leaving, you could find the motivation to do THAT. Once you do this several times, you have established the habit of going to the gym regularly.

Of course, you won’t lose any weight this way, but it’s a start. Next time you go, park the car and go inside for five minutes, do some pushups, walk on the treadmill, or stare in the mirror to remind yourself why you’re building this new habit. 😏

No, this won't prepare you for your high school reunion, but you are on your way. Now, you have established a habit of working out regularly. You have a habit that can be expanded and improved. Working out is now part of your DNA.

Your future is up to YOU

If you don’t work to create the future you want, you must endure the future you get.

Ask yourself, “Am I on a path to create the future I want, one that pushes me to reach my potential?" Not to be morbid, but could anything be worse than getting to "the end of the line" and having regretted "what could have been?"

The best day to start down the path to your full potential was the first day on the job. The next best day is today.


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