Aligning Career Goals with Everyday Tasks
Louie Sharp has a question for you: How do you eat an entire watermelon?
The answer? One bite at a time.
The same approach can be used to accomplish one’s goals, says Sharp, owner of Sharp Auto Body in Island Lake, Ill.
A goal can’t be achieved all at once, he says. Instead, a shop owner should approach the goal in “chunks” at a time.
Sharp runs a $1.2 million body shop in a town of only 8,000 people. And he has accomplished plenty of goals in his life, from finishing service in the U.S. Marines, to becoming more community-driven with his business.
Sharp officially opened his own body shop in 1981. He’s grown and moved from a one-car garage to a two-car garage, to a 5,000-square-foot facility. His one-man location has grown to a team of 12.
“One of my career goals was to be more involved in the community, one was to break the $1 million mark, and oddly enough, the last one was to officially lock my toolbox,” he says.
So far, Sharp has achieved every goal he’s set. Below, the shop operator shares his top tips for shop owners to work toward aligning their career goals with their everyday actions.
As told to Melissa Steinken
Tip No. 1: Write it down.
My first piece of advice would be to write down specifically what your goal is. Stop being vague about the goal. Outline how much and by when. A lot of people, for example, will make a New Year’s resolution and say that they’ll lose weight. Well, how much weight do you want to lose? When do you want to lose it by? If the goal is too vague, there’s no way for you to keep track of whether you’re accomplishing it.
For the weight loss example, be specific. Say you’d like to lose 15 pounds by June 1. When that day comes around, you can jump on a scale and know exactly how much you’ve progressed toward your goal.
Tip No. 2: Divide the tasks to get to the goal.
Once you write the goal down, you need to separate out some attainable tasks. These tasks should be “bite-size pieces.”
Otherwise, you’re trying to achieve what I call a quantum leap. For example, wanting to increase your annual revenue by $1 million is a quantum leap. For me, in a small town with a population that doesn’t reach 10,000, if I wanted to increase my annual revenue by that much, it would be a drastic change.
Instead, I need to create a set of smaller goals leading up to the larger picture. In order to keep smaller goals, you need to keep a score of how you’re doing. If I wanted to increase my revenue, I would make it a goal to check my KPIs and profit and loss statements every week. Then you see precisely what’s working and what isn’t and can make adjustments as you go along.
If I wait until the end of a month, however, I’m likely to have forgotten why an action I took didn’t work.
Tip No. 3: Follow the rule of five.
In order to stay on track with my goal and ensure that I don’t forget to work toward it every day, I follow what I call “the rule of five.” Every day, I make sure to do five things that help me move forward with my goal.
When my goal was to reach $1 million in annual revenue, I focused my rule of five on sales. Every day, I’d go into the body shop and make sure to finish five tasks related to sales.
The tasks might include calling past clients, or, one day it might be writing five thank-you cards. Or, it might be as simple as calling five insurance agents to establish new relationships. The rule of five is not time-consuming and can help you stay on your goal every day.
I like to remind people that if you keep walking up to a giant redwood tree and swing an axe at it every single day, eventually, it will fall. It might take time but every day you’re chipping away at the problem.
Tip No. 4: Plan a reward.
I have always found that if I have a reward in mind for when I accomplish my goal, I am more likely to achieve the goal. A reward provides an end in sight.
Rewards can be given as often as you’d like. You don’t have to create one big reward for reaching the final goal. You can create rewards for every time you hit a milestone.
When I hit the $750,000 mark for annual revenue, I made sure to go out to dinner with my wife and I celebrated. A reward can be as simple as getting ice cream or visiting the mall.