Goals and Fitness

I had a discussion with a Personal Trainer about goals, and how to go about setting realistic goals for clients. We discussed, for example, a client who wants to lose 20 pounds in a 4 week period – the goal is well-defined, but it is not, however, sustainable.

The interesting thing to note here is that creating a fitness agenda for a client lends itself to defining a SMART goal. Every aspect of setting such an objective highlights one or more proper goal setting processes.

For example, a common request to a Personal Trainer is to “get into shape” which is not measurable, making this goal impossible to be achieved. By clearly defining what the goal is, for example, to lose 20 pounds, or to be able to run a marathon, a measurable goal is created.

Taking the example from the opening paragraph, this goal is not sustainable. While there are ways to lose that weight in the specified amount of time, evidence shows that without changes to lifestyle, the weight will not stay off.

Removing a target date, though, may make the goal realistic, since it would eventually be possible to achieve that goal. However, since there is no date attached to the goal, it is no longer timely, and therefore is not a real goal.

Realism is also evident in setting fitness goals, with some people setting goals which are not physically possible to accomplish. One needs to look at their own reality to determine what might be a realistic goal for themselves. This is unlikely to be the same as the realistic goals for the next person.

Last, some goals are not actionable, in that they rely on an event outside the control of the person setting the goal to occur – for example, being selected to be part of a particular team. While the level of fitness to be selected might be actionable, the selection itself is not part of a SMART goal since someone else will be making that decision.

In business, goals are exactly the same. They need to be realistic, not idealistic. A classic example of this is with sales projections – many small businesses project to take over an entire market, but this is idealistic, not realistic. A realistic goal might be to become a major provider of a service within a specific geographic region.

Likewise, the goal should be measurable. Carrying on with the previous example of sales projections, the goals should include a way to measure the success of the business in reaching those goals. They should also include a time frame for reaching those goals – 6 months, a year, some fixed period.

The goals should be based on actions that are under the control of the business. Setting a sales goal is only SMART if a means of reaching those goals (for example, increasing the conversion rate on the business website) is part of the goal.

Last, make the goals sustainable. It doesn’t help you in the long run if you misrepresent yourself in the short-term, don’t forget that you can also supplement your diet with different products to see faster results.

Exercise and Testosterone Levels

Doctors аnd fіtnеѕѕ рrоfеѕѕіоnаlѕ ѕtіll have a lоt tо lеаrn about exercise аnd іtѕ еffесtѕ on tеѕtоѕtеrоnе. Sеvеrаl factors besides уоur wоrkоut are іnvоlvеd.

But one thіng is сlеаr: Yоu need tо mаkе еxеrсіѕе a hаbіt іn order tо gеt thе bеnеfіtѕ.

After exercise, tеѕtоѕtеrоnе lеvеlѕ rіѕе — but nоt fоr long, you can discover complete details here.

“Sоmеtіmеѕ it’s 15 minutes аftеr еxеrсіѕе that testosterone іѕ еlеvаtеd. Sometimes it саn bе uр tо аn hour,” says Tоdd Schroeder, PhD, whо studies еxеrсіѕе аnd hоrmоnеѕ in older mеn аt thе Unіvеrѕіtу оf Sоuthеrn Cаlіfоrnіа.

It’s nоt уеt clear what hеаlth effects, іf any, thеѕе temporary bооѕtѕ may hаvе. Of соurѕе, еxеrсіѕе hаѕ mаnу оthеr wеll-knоwn hеаlth реrkѕ.

Fоr mеn whо hаvе low tеѕtоѕtеrоnе, еxеrсіѕе аlоnе рrоbаblу wоn’t rаіѕе their lеvеlѕ enough to mаkе a dіffеrеnсе іn how thеу feel, ѕауѕ еndосrіnоlоgіѕt Sсоtt Isaacs, MD, of Emory Unіvеrѕіtу. But hе says fоr men whose tеѕtоѕtеrоnе lеvеl is оn thе borderline bеtwееn nоrmаl and low, “I think іt’ѕ gоіng tо have a muсh mоrе potent еffесt.”

Question: What Plans Have You Made for 2011?

This week’s question is about goals and plans – namely, what plans have you made for 2011 in respect to your business? Have you written them down? Are your goals SMART – Sustainable, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely?

Getting Work Done

Last week, I asked a question about where your favorite place is to go when you need to get some work done. I copied the question to LinkedIn, and was pleasantly surprised to get many answers. While some answers reflected idealism, for example, Hollywood and Disney, most reflected the nature of the question – in your reality, where would you go to get work done.

Interestingly, just before I wrote this article, I got another answer I had not been expecting – 3 AM in bed, because that’s when the best ideas seem to come to mind.

What I was hearing from people is that the best place to get work done is wherever you feel inspired – and it varies between people and between types of work. As expected, those in graphic or creative roles tended to provide answers which had some level of distraction – but distractions that could be controlled (for example, a place with music). Those doing rote work preferred quiet spaces, with few distractions.

Perhaps this is, above all, what causes the designers of offices so much grief. Each person in the office is doing something a little different, and finds different distractions tolerable, desirable, and irritable. Trying to design an office that will be inspiring to everyone working there to be productive can be an exercise in frustration.

While Jason Fried in his presentation wanted to put the onus on managers and meetings, this is really only part of the problem. The elimination of meetings and manager interruptions might increase some productivity, it ignores the fact that each person needs a unique environment to be productive. There are good managers who don’t impede the productivity of their staff, and they too would have difficulty with getting their staff to choose the office as an ideal place to work.

I think Jason makes a valid point that many companies have large numbers of people attending all meetings, where the meeting itself is unnecessary, or could be handled with a much smaller number of people. Yet his approach of banning all meetings one afternoon a week avoids the real issue – that people need to learn how to run better meetings, so that everyone at a given meeting is really necessary, the length of the meeting is appropriate to the decision being made.

In terms of a preferred place to work, though, despite the best efforts of the owners of the business, unless you happen to have a bunch of people working who all enjoy the same workspace, designing the office is an attempt to please everybody, and is more likely to end with pleasing no one.

Tips to Getting Paid Promptly

One of the worst issues some small business face, often in the early days when the business is just starting out revolves around cash flow. Even if projects can be found which are profitable, the expenditures occur prior to the customer paying resulting in negative cash flow most of the time, with large boosts of cash at the end of each milestone. Additionally, with some customers being slow to pay, the cash influx that would have assisted during the next project does not arrive, thereby exacerbating any existing cash flow issues.

There are, in fact, two issues here. The first is how to operate without cash, a function of being paid only after the work is complete. In a service-based business, this is often the nature of the work. While margins should be adjusted to allow for this, with the deposit and each installment covering the costs associated with the next stage of development, and the final payment being completely profit, this rarely happens in the real world. However, that is not the focus of this article.

Instead, I will focus on how to get your customers to pay you in a timely manner, something which I have been able to do with almost every one of my clients. While there have been exceptions, in most cases, my clients have paid me within 10 business days of receiving the invoice, and often at the same time as the invoice is sent over.

First, you need to ask your clients to pay promptly.

It amazes me that some business owners don’t realize this. If you don’t tell your clients when you would like to get paid, they will assume that they can wait until the very last day to pay the bill. Should you want the money earlier, then you need to ask your clients to pay the bill earlier if they are able.

However, this will only work if your clients themselves have the cash flow to be able to pay your invoice on demand. The larger the invoice, the less likely a mere request is to get them to cough up sooner rather than later.

Offer a benefit for prompt payments.

If the client is truly strapped for cash, then offering a small discount (one or two percent) on the amount of the invoice can encourage them to pay sooner. While the savings might not be large, if they are having a cash flow issue, then this can assist them in a small way. Since it’s a discount on the invoice, and not a penalty for late payment, you don’t have to deal with interest calculations and associated headaches.

Arrange payment plans.

Something I offer every client who asks is whether they would like to set up a payment plan. On my part, this involves minimal effort, since my accounting software can calculate for me the outstanding balance, as I apply each partial payment. It involves a little more work for the client, since they have to remember to pay me more often, but often making this offer will ensure that I’ll get the full amount in a predictable time frame.

A client who has a $10,000 bill might split it into 10 equal payments, one each month until it’s paid. I don’t get any extra money, but I also know each month that a $1,000 is going to arrive from that client, and I can plan around it.

Refusal to look at this option can often be the difference between getting paid a bill in its entirety and not getting paid at all. Without offering this, some clients may believe that they have to pay the entire bill at once, and will hold off on paying installments until they can pay the entire bill, which may never happen. By being able to pay an installment, it minimizes your exposure with each installment, and increases the likelihood that the installments will, in fact, arrive.

Stop providing service.

If a customer is continually late with payments, then inform them that they need to pay in advance to get further service. Stop allowing them to run a balance if they cause problems to your cash flow by not abiding by the terms of the agreement. Excuses from the client about why the money hasn’t arrived should be taken with a grain of salt – their problems are not your problems, a lesson I learned the hard way earlier this year.

At the end of the day, it comes down to asking to be paid when you need the money, and working with your customers to ensure that both your needs are being met. Yes, there are cases where this won’t get you any closer, but for the times that it gets you paid faster, isn’t it worth asking?

What Will You Succeed At?

I was recently given a copy of Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! by Scott Adams, the cartoonist who behind Dilbert. In his introduction, Scott discusses why he chose to write a book which has nothing to do with business, at least not in general. He had no experience in the field, and yet he wrote the book anyhow.

As it turns out, when he started drawing Dilbert, he had no experience with cartoons either. Before he landed his first paid speaking gig (which paid him $5,000 for an hour of his time), he had no experience with public speaking beyond a couple generic courses. He recounts many of his successes, and makes the statement:

To put all of this in context, I remind you again that I fail miserably about ten times for every one success. (That’s an accurate estimate. I’ve literally kept score.) The failures always involved activities for which I was completely qualified. Ironically, I couldn’t even “keep my day job.” On the other hand, my successes have all been in areas in which I had no obviously relevant background or experience whatsoever.

This statement is incredibly interesting for a variety of reasons.

First, however, this cannot be taken to mean that if you were to try something for which you have no qualifications that it means you will succeed. In that, Scott is an exception, though I do believe his recipe for success can be duplicated. While Scott did apply himself to a variety of endeavors with no qualifications, he also did not attempt the impossible, merely the improbable.

What Scott is saying here is that success and qualification in a particular area have little to do with one another. While those two factors may not be mutually exclusive, they are also commonly not found to coincide with one another. Simply because one is qualified does not mean that success is probable, and the inverse of that is also true.

The pattern in what Scott has done is that in each case he has set himself against probability, but had a motivation to succeed despite the odds. Winning contests with some element of skill involved is not impossible, even if there are millions of other contestants. It’s unlikely, not probable, but still possible. One can succeed and win.

While I’m sure Scott has not included every endeavor of his in his introduction to his book, he has described a sufficient number to indicate that while he was not particularly qualified to excel at any one of his successes, he was not unqualified either. That is, he may not have been considered an expert in the field, but he would not have been described as incompetent in that area.

Success is not a function of what you’ve been trained to do. You can succeed at something for which you have no background, provided, that is, that you are prepared to apply yourself. The path may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Some things you may find yourself struggling with, but in other areas, where the “professionals” would have stopped, you may persevere and succeed.

Perhaps that’s actually a limitation in an ability to succeed. The more documented a background you have in an area, the less likely you may be to push the boundaries of what can be done. By not being qualified (and recognizing that fact), you prepare yourself for the long, hard road. If you’ve found a way to motivate yourself, to convince yourself that you can succeed, then you may well endure along that path until you do reach your eventual success.

Customer and Market Research

A recent question posted on a site I frequent asked about the use of vaporware as a means of measuring customer interest in a product prior to actually building the product. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of vaporware, the definition from Wikipedia reads:

Vaporware describes products not released on the date announced by their developer, or announced months or years before their release… Vaporware first implied intentional fraud when it was applied to the Ovation office suite in 1983; the suite’s demonstration was well-received by the press, but was later revealed to have never existed.

The current usage, though, is more along the lines of creating a website promoting a product, and seeing how many customers attempt to purchase it. This tactic can be used to determine how much interest there is in the product, and whether or not the price is suitable.

The risk, of course, is that once a tactic like this is used, any trust between the company and the potential customer is lost. The customer has been led to believe that they were purchasing a product, only to find out that the product does not exist. While this is not fraud, since the customers are not actually paying for anything, it isn’t honest.

However, the problem remains as to how to go about measuring consumer interest in a product that has not yet been created.

One approach, perhaps a bit naive, is to go out and find some customers who are willing to pay for your product. Ask them for prices they would be willing to pay, and use that as the basis for your business model and income projections. The problem, however, is that until a customer is asked to put out money for a product, any statement they make regarding pricing has to be taken with a grain of salt. This is, in fact, the basis for the statement “Put your money where your mouth is”.

Customer surveys in which information about the potential product is provided, and general statements regarding pricing have similar problems. While this can help narrow down the range, it does not validate that a particular price will work, for the same reason as asking customers to name a price won’t work unless they are prepared to back that statement with cold hard cash.

The approach that does work, though, is to find some actual customers who will state that not only will they purchased your product at a specified price, but will actually lay out at least some of the money up-front. Such validation indicates that these users are prepared to believe in you and what you can build, and that they see a specific value in what you’re building.

The risk, of course, is that if the product does not get built, you have to return the money. Be careful using this approach to ensure that quantifiable milestones have been defined for the product development, and that it is clear how the product can be assessed objectively to determine whether or not it has met the goals defined during the research stage.

Who Gives This Type of Advice?

In a conversation with a client, we discussed a piece of advice he had received from a venture capitalist in regard to his business. He had been seeking an investment of a few million dollars, most of which would be spent on development and hardware infrastructure for the business. The business already had clients lined up to use the pair of products as soon as it became available, thereby crossing the first hurdle of getting the first paying customer.

With this validation under their belt, he hoped that the VC he was meeting with would see the promise. However, he left the meeting empty-handed, though the VC parted significant amounts of advice on how he might proceed. The reason he gave for declining the investment, though, was something along the lines of:

It’s not big enough for me to get involved. I think your business will do well, and will be profitable in the near future. However, you have a long road in front of you to reach the market, and the competition is quite strong. It’s not for me.

There are actually two types of investors who would make such a comment, and trying to differentiate between the two is complex at best, impossible at worst.

The first investor knows the industry, the competition, the existing products, and understands the business idea you’re proposing. He’s looked at how it compares to the current offerings, and has made an educated guess as to how the target market will respond. He’s factored in changes in the nature of the market itself – in this case, it’s age-specific, so understanding the generation that will be targeted to adopt the product is a key requirement to being able to project the business’ performance.

Once all this has been taken into consideration, this investor feels that the adoption rate will not be high, the product will not redefine the market as a whole, and there will be stiff competition. It’s unlikely that the business will do much beyond turn into “yet another” player in the specified market.

The second investor is likewise well-educated in the industry, but is also looking at it from the perspective of his own generation. That is, he sees how his generation would react to such a product, and projects that thought onto the current market. With limited adoption by that generation, a generalization of how it might be adopted by other markets is created, resulting in the same conclusion.

The difference between the two types of investors is that the first has made a properly balanced argument for why the business will not be the next shining star. The second, however, has merely projected an attitude against a new business, whose market he does not really understand. When the advice comes from the second investor, it should be taken dubiously, since he clearly does not get it.

The problem, however, is how to tell the difference between the two. For that, you need to know the people involved, past investments they’ve made, and then make a judgement call based on that.

Question: Favorite Place to Get Work Done

Today’s post is really short, because it’s actually a question, not an answer.

I was forwarded a talk by Jason Fried about Why Work Doesn’t Happen in the Office, in which he discusses where people like to go when they need to get some work done. Interestingly, the answers he got were pretty much anything but the office.

The question is the same as Jason’s question:

Where do you go when you need to get some work done?

It’s a Good Idea, Now What?

Often in my line of work, I have conversations with people who have thought of an idea for a product or service, and are looking to turn it into a business. The first barrier they need to cross, namely, having a GOOD idea, has been crossed via validation from potential customers of the product or service. The question they have, then, is what to do next.

The first thing that needs to be realized is that getting validation that the idea is a good one has ramifications for how to proceed. Some potential clients can help by working with you to refine the service or product. Other times, you have to go off on your own and figure it out.

One of the biggest mistakes someone new to the business world can do is to go out and try to raise capital. The reason is quite simple – you don’t know yet if you actually need any. Sure, it would be nice to have a budget of millions that you can spend on fancy offices and a huge staff, but do you NEED it?

The first approach, therefore, should be to determine how much of the product or service can be developed with what you have – namely, yourself (and any partners you may be working with). Commonly known as bootstrapping, you should be trying to build out with the minimum amount of resources possible.

If that’s not possible, see what you can get by reaching out to your network. People don’t expect to work for free, but you may be able to barter something of value (and note that shares in your business currently have little value at all) for work.

Don’t forget that you need to be thinking about multiple aspects to your business. You need more than just an idea, product or service – you need to be able to sell it. If there are legal ramifications to that, make sure you work them out up front. You may need a marketing plan, you might need to work out pricing schemes. If you know someone who’s been in business, talk to them – you should try to get a mentor if you can, if only to steer you clear of issues that you might not need to face.

However, start your approach with an eye toward frugality. That doesn’t mean trying to pay less than the value of a given item, but rather determining if you need the item in the first place. There’s a gray area between good enough and perfect, and usually, perfect isn’t worth the effort over good enough (though of course there are many exceptions to this).