As a small business owner, you likely spend a majority of your time looking forward as you try to predict future market and trends, attempting to forecast a majority of your expenses and revenue. And certainly, these things are good as they give you the direction in which you want to go. However, if you’re always working forward as opposed to backwards, you could be missing out. What do I mean?
Goals Can Feel Overwhelming
Setting business goals is much like setting personal goals in that the process can feel overwhelming. For instance, if you want to lose 50 pounds in the next year, the idea may seem like too much. You start going over everything you have to do in your mind, such as cutting out sweets, giving up soda, working out even when you don’t feel like it, and on and on.
Most of the time, you will talk yourself out of it before you even start. Kavetha, author of Why Working Backwards is the Best Way to Reach your Goals compares it to “making a weekly schedule while slowly sinking into quicksand.”
And if you decide to forage ahead anyway, you do so hating the process because it feels like it is suffocating you. Fortunately, that is where working your way backwards can help.
Benefits of Working Backwards
Because we are logical, linear thinkers, typically calculating things from A to Z, sometimes it helps to move the other direction, working our way from Z to A instead. This can offer us a fresh new perspective, essentially forcing our mind to look beyond our emotions and simply find a way to make things happen.
It’s kind of like if you were to go outside right now and walk a mile down your road or street. Do it by going forward, like you always do, and you’re going to see the same old things, barely paying them any attention because you’ve literally “been down this road before.”
However, if you were to switch things up and walk backward instead, you will likely see a whole different world. Things you’ve never noticed before will seemingly appear before you. This will be your first time experiencing it this way, which makes it completely fresh and new.
How to Do It
To try this with your small business in an effort to fully reach your goals with a clear perspective, think about where you want to be one year from now and write it down. This can be in terms of income, sales, growth in various areas—pretty much anything you decide it to be. Just visualize where you want to see your small business 365 days from now, committing this image or goal to paper.
Now, instead of working your way from now until then, you’re going to work your way backwards. So, let’s say that your goal one year from now is to take your public speaking business national, whereas right now you are just speaking locally in your own community.
Working backward from that final goal, your previous step to speaking nationally would likely be speaking statewide. This means that you would have to get speaking engagements at various destinations around your state. How are you going to do that?
Maybe you will go county by county and find organizations and associations looking for speakers. Or, perhaps you will ask local agencies that you’ve spoken to for across state connections. Come up with a few ideas as to how to reach that specific goal.
Working your way backwards yet again, the step prior to going statewide is getting speaking gigs in adjoining counties to get your name out there more without branching out too much. Once you figure out how you are going to do that, this takes you back to the step where you are right now, speaking solely in your own community.
Paula Derrow, author of Move Your Dream Forward. By Thinking Backward brings up an important point when taking this approach, which is to being “open to revision.” So, if you start calculating your one year plan and discover that it will likely take you longer to reach your goals, that is okay. Just modify your deadline until you come up with a plan that works for you!