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Strategic Planning for Wanderers

 “All who wander are not lost” ~ Unknown

I love, love this quote. I have it posted all over the place, so I can constantly be reminded that wandering is often a very good thing to do.  I wander all the time. I’m sure you do too.

We all wander online. We follow our curiosity from link to link. This can lead us to strange and wondrous places. Some of these places will teach us something. Some of them will burn images into our heads that will never go away.  Nevertheless, we wander.  We don’t just wander online though, we also wander out in the wild too.

You come across a road and think “I wonder where this goes” and you turn down it to find out. You pass a door and think “I wonder what’s behind there” and you check to see if its unlocked. You see a red button and think “What does this button do” and you’re so, so tempted to push it. You use the bathroom at a friend’s house and peek behind the shower curtain, maybe even in the medicine cabinet.

When we allow ourselves to follow our curiosity where ever it takes us, we’re wandering.  As a life schooling family, this is exactly the kind of freedom I strive to foster in my kids. I want them to be wanderers.

Except when I don’t.

There’s $20,000 cash for you in Austin, TX

I think better with stories.  This is the story I told my daughter about how to choose the time to wander and the time to plan…and how important it is to be able to do both of those things well.

Let’s imagine someone you know and trust just told you that there is a stack of $20,000 cash waiting for you in Austin, TX and you have four days to pick it up or it will disappear.  Well, first of all, remember we are in Alaska, so four days doesn’t give us a ton of time to get there. Still…

Are you going to mosey your way down to Texas, following your curiosity along the way? Oooo, Mt. Rushmore! Wow, the Mall of America! Hey, look, the Grand Canyon! Wait, if we turn right we’ll find the beach in a few hours.  Um…no.  You’re going directly to Austin, without passing Go. You don’t even have to remind yourself to stop wandering.

Why you’re compelled to stop wandering

You have a strategic plan and you didn’t even know it! This is the kicker. This is the thing that will help you grow your business…or reach any goal you want…like getting to that $20k before Friday.

A strategic plan has four parts and if you have all of those parts, then you can easily focus on getting there when you need to get there.

1.  Goal. You need a specific measurable goal or end result. You may have a goal to quit your day job or bring home $5000 a month. In this scenario, that goal is “get the $20,000.”

2. Objectives. These are basically baby steps to your goal.  Once you’re reached your objectives you’re goal is a given.  Let’s say If I have a small jewelry store, and my goal is to take home $5000 a month.  I’ve watched and I know that 1 out of 5 people who walk in my door actually buys something. And I know my average profit on each sale is $50. So, if my research is right, I need to get 500 people in my store and get 100 sales. Once I’ve done that, I’ll have reached my goal.   For  the $20k, my objectives are 1) get to Austin and 2) within 4 days.

3. Strategies. This is how you plan to reach your objectives.  For our $20k, my strategies might include flying, driving, taking a cab. For $5000 in a month, I might hold an open house or a customer appreciation event or I might do a drawing or have a sale. Anything to draw those 500 people into the store.

Everything else is counterproductive to my goal. That bears repeating.  Every thing else is counter productive to my goal. I want that $20k, so I’m not going to take a detour in Vegas.  You want that $5000 this month, so you’re not going to spend time and energy on painting the bathroom or rearranging inventory. Those things might make perfect sense in another context, but right now I need to get to Austin and you need to get 500 bodies in your store.  Urgency. Focus.

4. Tactics. These are the actual tasks involved in implementing your strategies. Write them down. Seriously. I don’t care how mundane they are. Lists keep us from wandering off the path we know we want to be on.  For my flight to Austin, I need to pack, check my bank account, book the flight, find a car, find the address of where the cash is, make arrangements to pick it up etc.  For your open house, you probably want to set a date, notify your best customers via email, put up a banner (after you get it printed), put it on your Facebook page, order snacks, clean the shop a bit, hire a dj, order balloons, etc.

Don’t just list them out.  Put a “by when” date on each and an estimate of how much each task will cost (if anything).  Now its real. Now you can follow your to do list and know that you’re on exactly the path you need to be on to get where you need to go.

The wonder and beauty of wandering will be there for us when we return…with $20k or $5k more in our pockets.

What next?

Do you wander when you should be strategic? Or are you planning when you could benefit from some wandering? Let us know in the comments.

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Image: Niels Rameckers

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