It’s that time of the year again. The time we set goals, make resolutions and then enjoy a spot of self-flagellation when those goals inevitably fall to pieces.

    In my experience, there’s a fine art to setting achievable goals. It’s about finding the sweet spot between something possible to achieve and really impressive.

    This relates to something called the ‘flow state’. It is described by author Steven Kotler as an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel our best and perform our best. He talks about the flow state existing on the midline between boredom and anxiety. As a result, I believe our goals should not be too dull or too hard. We need to set what might be described as 'Goldilocks goals'.

    I’m a goal-oriented individual. My previous goal setting has gone spectacularly well in some cases, but it’s also been rather mediocre more times than I like to remember.

    One of my big goals last year was to read 52 non-fiction books, expanding my horizons in the process. I crossed that finish line with a day of the year to go, and have since decided to up the ante for 2018, with the aim of getting through 100 books in 12 months.

    Another previous goal success story was my ambition to become a marathon and then ultra-marathon runner. When you start out towards these goals, they are horrible, painful and hard work. Such hard work. But they get easier in time; and if not easier then at least slightly less difficult.

    When it comes to establishing business goals, we’ve got a simple methodology we have used for years which always gets the desired results. It’s a series of calculations which inform what we need to do within the business during the next year.

    These calculations start with what we’re planning to spend, including salaries and dividends. We add a safety or ‘ambition’ margin to this total spend. From this figure we deduct our recurring income, and consider what work we need to complete to protect and enhance this income.

    This calculation results in a target for new fee revenue – a revenue goal we carry as a team, rather than assigning targets to specific individuals. In a modern financial planning practice, the lines can be blurred between fee-earners and other members of the team when it comes to revenue generation.

    Because we know our typical conversion rate from new enquiry to new client, as well as the average fee level for a new client, we’re able to calculate how many enquiries we need to generate in order to secure a certain number of new clients and reach that target for new fee revenue.

    It’s not a complicated calculation but it does allow us to distil our business goals for the year into a series of simple numbers; new enquiries, newly engaged clients, and recurring and new fee revenue.

    Once these goals are set, we’re able to design a programme of marketing activity to support them. In 2018 that involves work with existing clients, potential local clients, professionals, journalists and the local community. We’ve got a clear programme of content marketing in place, along with our main messages designed to address specific concerns at the front of our clients' minds. We’ve also got a packed events calendar, including the sponsorship of various local events.

    We track our progress towards these goals on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Doing this allows us to adjust along the way, preventing us from going too far off course and allowing for corrective action when needed.

    None of this is rocket science (if it were, I would be the last person doing it!). But it is ultimately satisfying to set ambitious goals and consistently achieve them. Now if only my marathon running goals this year go as smoothly...

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