When I first started training for longer distances, I put no extra planning into it. I was used to running five miles. I figured I’d just run a little farther down the road to get the extra miles in. How wrong I was!
On my first long run, I smiled as I passed my usual turnaround point. But then, just after the first curve, the shoulder on the side of the road narrowed. Suddenly, I was running with cars and trucks speeding dangerously close to me. My run turned into a speed workout as I turned around and ran back to safety.
On my next attempt, I ran a different route, only to be hit with monster hills toward the end that my tired legs couldn’t handle. I hate not finishing anything, especially a run. But this time, I just couldn’t go any farther. I threw in the towel and called my wife to pick me up.
Clearly, just winging my longer runs wasn’t going to work. I unfolded my map on the kitchen table. I designed routes on paper; I then drove them with one eye on the road and one on the mileage counter. I kept track of hills, potholes and the size of the shoulders. I still know the exact distance of practically anywhere in my neighborhood to my house. Taking the time to map it out not only gave me the proper distance, but also the confidence to get through the longer run.
THE BUSINESS MAP
A business plan is like a map. Earlier this year, my team and I looked at our business and felt our customer base was too commercial-heavy. Our goal was to make a big push to increase our residential customers.
We knew where we wanted to go, but what steps did we need to make to get there?
Rather than blindly running down the road, we looked at everything in our company and mapped out the steps. We realized that our commercial customer base spoiled us: For years, we did basically no advertising. We were very fortunate to work with several groups that were rapidly growing, and as they expanded, they brought us along with them.
To attract residential customers, we needed to create a completely new image:
- New website. Our first step was to completely redo our website, to make it more attractive to homes and families.
- New vehicle wraps. Our vehicles were a chaotic mix of styles and signage that had no uniformity. We needed to come up with a vehicle wrap that matched our new image, and stood out in the communities in which we work.
- New partner. Marketing and advertising was an entirely new challenge, like those hills at the end of a long run. We realized that without the proper guidance, we would waste a lot of time and money trying to figure out SEO and online advertising. With that in mind, we partnered with a great marketing team to guide us through the unknown roads.
Bit by bit, the map emerged.
Where would you like to see your business in five years? Maybe you’re ready to move into a new territory, offer additional services, or expand your customer base. But how is that going to happen? Simply saying you want to increase sales is not enough direction to get there. There are so many routes you can go.
So, take the time to let your vision unfold. Find the benchmarks that motivate you, but be prepared for detours along the way. Map out your destination, and you will reach the finish line.
Have a great run!