The only way Output Goals can be achieved is by setting and fulfilling Input Goals first. I keep learning that it’s true, but one of my earliest experiences with this lesson makes me smile every time I remember it.
Stepping Out Into The Wide Blue Yonder
Alec and I started out in business together as vacuum cleaner sales people. We then turned our work into a Godfrey’s franchise, which we changed again a few years later to open an appliance repair center. Soon after that, we took our work online, first selling vacuum spares on eBay, then opening our own website in 2004. We proudly called our online business ‘Nelson Vacuums’. This was a massive step into the unknown for us. We made it a little more manageable by buying a standardised “off the shelf” e-commerce store rather than building a website from scratch. It worked through a subscription which gave us empty website templates to populate with our logo, business blurb, images and product descriptions, and account details for payment. It was a fun toy that Alec loved playing with.
The Midas Touch
Alec always described himself as being like Uncle Scrooge. You know the Donald Duck character who used to love rolling around in monstrous stacks of gold coins? Alec had a Midas touch when it came to sales, and he loved the idea of rolling around in piles of money. He was the master of positivity and optimism, and honestly expected that everything he touched would turn to gold.
On the day he listed our first product on our brand new Nelson Vacuums website, he was like a kid in a candy store. Pure glee poured out of him. We’d not sold anything yet, but the POTENTIAL was there. That was all he needed to expect those golden outcomes he was so used to.
When the listing was up, he waited in excited anticipation for our first sale. He got up, made a cuppa and came back to refresh the screen. Then he checked his emails for the notification that he was sure would come through any minute now. Then he refreshed again … and he waited some more. Then he did a test transaction to make sure it was all working properly, then he refreshed to check again. He switched back to his emails to check there again too … nothing yet, but there would be soon, without doubt!
This routine went on in 5 minute intervals for a couple of hours. Literally! Alec was absolutely convinced that with the website up and that one single product available for purchase, he would see our first sale come through fast. Super quick. Really, he expected that it would happen instantaneously. With every passing minute it became clear that this was not going to happen.
And The Heavens Opened
Well … this story ends that after that first little window, Alec got busy listing more products, and amazingly he did see our first sale come through by the end of the day. It was miraculous in so many ways. I think it shows just how young online retail was back then, and how little competition we had in our niche. The sales trickled in over the next few days, one at a time. Over the following weeks and months we continued to populate the website with more product listings which kept sales ticking along. More importantly we learned about how to succeed in online retail, and the more we learned the more we realised how naive we were in those early days.
The Penny Drops
The more we learned the more we realised that Alec’s early expectations had been absurd. We worked hard to optimise our website, create back links with blogs, guest posts, and you tube videos, and we embarked on our first ever Google Adwords campaign. We were dedicated to the mission of making this website successful, and we had set a goal that it would generate a small income by the year’s end.
Goal setting has to be about what we put in, before we measure what we take out. Alec’s outlook at the start was comparable to the person who weighs themselves, then runs around the block, then wonders why the scales haven’t changed on their return. Goal setting doesn’t work like this. You know it, and I know it, and yet still we continue to pursue aims that focus on output rather than input.
This is important in all areas of our lives, but understanding how this works in our business can make the defining difference to our progress. When we are setting any of our goals for growth we must do this in such a way that prioritises the actions we need to perform to achieve the goal, rather than simply ‘putting it out there’ and hoping that we make it somehow. Our driving goals must be for consistent daily action.
Output goals for increased revenue need input goals for more sales or a sustainable price rise. Output goals for more profits need input goals for better supplier deals, lower overheads, or greater sales. Output goals for more sales need input goals for more sales calls, better staff training, and possibly better products or services. The same approach goes for the productivity of our staff, expansion into new offerings, promoting events and special offers, and reducing our expenditure. All of our business goals must be anchored into what must be done to achieve them.
- Simply “putting your goals out there” is an ineffective success strategy
- Goals which measure output cannot drive progress as much as goals which measure input.
- Goals must be clearly defined and pursued with a specific daily action plan.