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Welcome again to the Coders’ Startup, where smart programmers learn how to be smart marketers, too.
Carter and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope the holiday season finds you well. We also celebrate the one-year anniversary of this podcast, though we accidentally missed the date by a few weeks.
Looking back through the episode archive, I can confirm our very first episode was released on December 3, 2014. It’s been a great first year, so let’s keep the ball rolling.
December is a popular time for reflecting on the past year as well as planning for the coming year. With this in mind, Carter had the excellent idea to discuss goal setting–why you should do it and how you can succeed in meeting your goals.
We hope we can give you some useful tips for achieving your business and personal goals in the new year.
My Journey Toward Goal Setting
I was never a proponent of goal setting in the past. I thought it sounded like a trendy marketing tool–something people could talk about to fill the airwaves–and I didn’t want to jump on the popular bandwagon.
That was my pessimistic side getting the better of me.
As time went on, I began to hear a lot of my entrepreneur friends talking about goal setting as if it were something that simply needed to be done. Eventually I decided that maybe there was something to it after all.
So, I finally set business and personal goals for myself at the beginning of this year. Most of them involved revenue figures for my business; for example, I wanted to be able to say I owned a six-figure business by the end of 2015.
If you listened to my November income report, then you know I exceeded that goal. The best part is that was actually my stretch goal!
My initial goal was to be able to pay my bills with the income from my business, which would require me to earn around $60-75k. My stretch goal was to triple my business from the previous year, which would bring me to $100k for the year and more or less replace the income I used to make as a professional programmer.
At the beginning of this year, my stretch goal was just a pipe dream. I began writing down my goals and tracking them daily, or maybe every two or three days at most. Each time, I saw the trend line I would need to match in order to make my stretch goal, and often I was not matching it.
I managed to hit my stretch goal in the end, and I don’t think it would have happened if I hadn’t explicitly set it and tracked it regularly. Now I realize that goal setting is such an amazing and impactful business strategy.
I am really glad I set goals for my business this year, and I’m pumped to do it again next year. If anyone reading this thinks goal setting is just trendy marketing talk or a bunch of BS like I used to, I challenge you to give it an honest try. No joke, it changed my life.
Why My Goal Setting Worked
Carter, benefiting from an outsider’s perspective, is able to enumerate three reasons why I was successful with my goal setting:
- It was measurable. A goal you can measure seems more concrete and immediate, and you can track your progress toward the goal. For example, consider the goal, “I want to lose weight,” versus the goal, “I want to lose five pounds.”
- It was timely/had a deadline. Placing a deadline on your goal forces you to actually work toward it instead of putting it off indefinitely. For example, “I want to lose five pounds” versus “I want to lose five pounds in three weeks.”
- Most importantly, I placed the goal front and center where I could see it every day. Too often, we set goals for ourselves but do not examine our progress on a consistent basis, so eventually we forget about the goals. By regularly tracking my progress, I kept my goal relevant and front of mind.
The Goals I Didn’t Meet
I achieved my primary business goal because I put it front and center, but it’s worth mentioning that I did not achieve some of my secondary, personal goals because I wasn’t measuring them and didn’t have them displayed in front of me.
One of these goals was to visit my friends on a regular basis. I live about one and one-half hours by car from many of my close friends, and I made a personal goal to see them at least every other week.
I failed miserably with this goal. I started out well and had a lot of fun, but then life got in the way, and since I wasn’t tracking my progress and focusing on keeping the goal front of mind, it stopped happening.
So what can you do if you find yourself in a similar situation and are struggling to meet your goals? You could always try the “don’t break the chain” approach we mentioned in our episode on motivation.
Make a mark on your calendar every day you complete your goal. If you should happen to break the chain, looking at those blank spaces on your calendar would make you feel guilty, so your motivation is to avoid breaking the chain.
Jerry Seinfeld once told an interviewer that he became such a great comedian by writing one joke every day. Once he began that routine, his whole job became not breaking the chain.
If you do break the chain, don’t let yourself get discouraged and give up. Get back on the horse and try again!
Ultimately, you have to fall more in love with the process of meeting your goals each day than with the destination the process will take you to. If you can do that, then you’ll be successful.
The Importance of Charting Your Progress
So far, the only goal setting I have done for 2016 is my primary revenue goal. I plan to track this graphically just like I did this year.
Throughout the year, I tracked my revenue on two white boards I have hanging on the wall in my office. I charted my monthly revenue on the first white board and my daily revenue on the second white board. I drew a projected revenue trend line on each chart, and I compared my actual revenue against these trend lines.
When you make the effort to plot your revenue, you force yourself to know where you are on any given day of the week, and more importantly, you force yourself to feel something about your numbers.
When you see that your actual revenue line is below your trend line, it has an impression on you. It can make you feel a little depressed, but it also forces you to start thinking about ways you can get back up to that trend line.
Carter reminisces how he had a huge personal transformation when he first began tracking his personal finances years ago. Though he doesn’t graph his cash flow, he developed the habit of examining his finances every month to determine his situation.
When you don’t actually see and engage with your numbers, it can be easy to assume everything is alright and downplay the severity of your situation when it is dire. But you can’t lie to yourself when the numbers are right in front of you, and then you can start thinking about how to improve your situation.
Naturally, the most important factor for any business is revenue. Charting your revenue or finances makes you think about what is best for the business in terms of revenue, and it forces you to find a way to create the revenue you need.
Take my word for it: charting your revenue, finances or progress toward a goal is very powerful. It just works, and it keeps you motivated. If you don’t already graph your revenue, give it a try. You won’t regret it.
My Goals for 2016
My primary goal for this year is to replace my wife’s income as well as my own. Now that we are married, I know children are probably not far off. I would like to bring in enough revenue from my business so that she no longer has to work once we have children.
Achieving this goal would mean doubling my business and hitting the $200k mark. I am already ahead of the curve because I know exactly how much money I need to earn to afford that lifestyle.
Sometimes we may think our goals and dreams will be incredibly difficult to obtain, but when you break them down and determine the money you need to achieve these goals, they become demystified and seem less scary.
Considering all the knowledge I have gained over my years as an entrepreneur, and knowing I have managed to triple my business every single year, doubling my business yet again does not seem outside the realm of possibility. Honestly, it feels attainable.
So if doubling my business is my base goal for 2016, then my stretch goal is to triple my business ($300k per year). Thinking about earning $300k in one year doesn’t scare me so much, but thinking about the necessary monthly breakdowns does scare me.
To make $100k in a year, I had to bring in about $9k each month. To make $300k in a year, I’ll need to make $25k each month. I have never even earned $20k in one month! My record was $19k.
My main strategies for achieving my stretch goal will be investing more money into my business and knowing my ROI (e.g. spend $1 and earn back $2), and getting other people to sell my products through affiliate marketing.
I’m going to dedicate a few days early next year to setting all my goals and breaking down my numbers. I have seen the impact goal setting can have on my business, so you better believe I’m going to take it seriously from now on.
Carter’s Goals for 2016
Carter points out that December is a natural time for setting business goals: since the vast majority of businesses operate with December as the end of the fiscal year, you can look back at all of your data from the previous year, determine where you succeeded and where you fell short, and decide where you want to go in the future.
Additionally, Carter recently read the book The Millionaire Master Plan by Roger James Hamilton, and it taught him a lot about the link between personality and goal setting.
He heard about the author through Yanik Silver of the Entrepreneur Group Maverick1000. Silver recommended four personality tests, one of which was a test from Roger Hamilton called the Dynamic Wealth Test. This book focuses around another test conceived by Hamilton called the Genius Test.
The Genius Test profiles your personality type and tells you where you are in terms of your personal wealth level. Carter was blown away by how well Hamilton nailed his character with his personality profile: where Carter currently is as a business owner, what he is good at, what he struggles with, and so on.
Carter discovered he has not done a good job in the past of keeping his personality and natural tendencies in mind when setting goals for his business. He is going to try to be better about this going forward.
For example, Carter has a hard time making short-term goals. Planning five years ahead is easy and fun for him, but he really struggles with three-month and six-month goals.
Hamilton’s book has given him some insight about himself that explains why he has difficulty with short-term goals, and he is going to use what he learned to get better at short-term goal setting. He plans to make all his goals measurable and keep them front and center so he doesn’t stray from them.
If you’re interested to know your entrepreneur type, you can take the Genius Test for free at GeniusU.com. All you need to do is create a free account.
Book and Tool of the Week
Book: The Millionaire Master Plan, as discussed above.
Tool: Your own two hands! Though we usually feature an app designed to make it easier to run your business, this week we thought it was important to spotlight good old-fashioned pen and paper (or maybe a dry erase board).
There is something unquantifiable about the tactile approach to charting your goals, monetary or otherwise. It takes five minutes to figure out your numbers and plot your points, but it forces you to really engage with your data.
It’s so different than just typing your numbers into a spreadsheet. There is some sort of bond forged between you and the physical board. It has almost become like a ritual for me. Try it out for yourself!
And so concludes our episode on goal setting. In future episodes, expect to hear us discuss branding, affiliate sales, or something else entirely we come up with on the day of recording.
Don’t forget to check out United Business Leaders on Instagram. At the time of this article’s posting, they have over 100 posts and 3,700 followers–all organic! They post a lot of great content such as book reviews, and they will soon begin posting film reviews and entrepreneur profiles. Go see for yourself.
Finally, I want to give another shout-out to Mark Wilhelm, the person who complies these show notes. If you are looking for the services of someone who can turn audio into a summarized article that reads beautifully, or if you know someone with those needs, reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and we’ll see you in 2016!
The Millionaire Master Plan by Roger James Hamilton