Name one professional sports team who doesn’t review the other team’s lineup, recent performance and statistics before their season grand final or any game in fact. Such a team does not exist. Why then, do entrepreneurs and business people so often wing it?
They go into board meetings, business deals and even conferences without spending any time at all, except maybe in the taxi on the way there, to prepare. Not only will you potentially look like a dithering idiot, it also shows a lack respect to your own valuable time as well as the other party’s.
I have been guilty of this in the past – it never ends well. One of the greatest leaps forward for not only myself but my business partner Dr Sam Prince, was being prepared: preparing everything possible for the deal we are doing – what we wear, the seating position for negotiations, the environment and, hopefully, the outcome.
Being familiar with the stage, the sound equipment and the dreaded AV is something that everyone is taught with public speaking and this should be the case for every meeting that you have that is important to you. Control your surroundings.
Here are some of the practical ways that I implement preparation into my everyday business life:
1. Look back.
Every day I put aside an hour for reviewing the day’s meetings – ensuring that the thank you emails and cards are sent out, their details filed and the action items delivered and noted. In this time I also ask myself the following questions:
a) What did I do well today?
b) What could I have improved on?
c) What will I do tomorrow better than I did today?
d) Did I do what I said I was going to do today? If not, why not and when will I do it by?
This self-reflection helps you to identify your areas of improvement and to be honest with yourself. You get really sick of writing the same thing three days in a row so you cut it out and get on with being a better you!
2. Look forward.
Every Sunday I look ahead at the week (usually done with a glass of Chivas with a few ice cubes thrown in – not entirely yet a full-blown alcoholic scotch drinker) and sit down and look at and examine every meeting that I have planned for the week, look at my annual planner, the project plans for the business and ensure that everything that is booked in is taking me directly towards my yearly business goals. These goals are broken down into bite-sized monthly tasks. I then know exactly what I need to talk with my team about, the upcoming priorities of the week, and know which areas are on track within the business and which areas require more attention and resources.
3. Before meetings.
In my wallet I have a small card that I printed and laminated, and to my fiancé’s horror, takes up that little clear window where her photo should be, with the following written:
a) Who am I meeting with?
b) What does success look like for me and for them?
c) What image do I want to convey to them?
This is a quick reminder to think about the task at hand. To focus on what success looks like for both parties is important, to not only ensure your victory, but to also understand the other party’s potential threats and situation. In my first ever big corporate negotiation – Coke – I thought to myself, “Why does Coke want to give me a discount? They are massive and we only have three stores.” The reality was that I wasn’t negotiating with Coke, I was negotiating with a young sales rep with a company car and a monthly quota to fill – if he can bag a growing chain in one sales call then he is that little bit closer to hitting targets, getting commission and being promoted.
These are some of the most practical preparation techniques I’ve come across to date, yet they only scrape the surface of the groundwork required as a key to winning.
How do you prepare for success? Share your tips in the comments!