Missing The Trees for the Forest

Image of a hand holding a clock

I have been guilty of this.  I was guilty during my corporate career and for many years of my entrepreneurial journey.  I would miss the “trees” in my planning because it is much easier to see the “forest”.  I like the “forest” because who doesn’t get excited by the big picture.  I know I personally enjoy dreaming big and seeing the big picture in all it’s technicolor glory!  And Forest Strategic Planning works for most of us for a variety of reasons.  It allows us “fuel” our personal energy and motivation tanks.  We need that visual of our end result to drive us forward.  I can honestly say that I hit most of my personal and professional goals using this planning style.  However, I finally reached a point that required me to understand the power of the “trees” in strategic planning.

When I work with consulting and coaching clients, they can usually describe for me their “forests”.  They know what they want the next step of their “forest” development to look like.  Sometimes that “forest” is a one-year vision, a three-year vision or even a 10-year vision.  Some have more details than others, but all have a pretty clear vision of their “forests”.  Their issue isn’t their ability to clearly see or define the dream.  Their issue is to understand how to truly grow areas of their “forests”.

Let’s talk a little about cultivation.  Whether it is more traditional crops like corn or wheat or whether we are in the process of re-forestation, we must understand how different plants and animals/ insects work together and make certain crops/ forests stronger.  For instance, if a farmer needs bees to pollenate a field, he might also put into cultivation a secondary field that would attract bees.  You also can think a certain treat or plant is pretty, but it may be an invasive species and destroy the crop you intend to grow and harvest.  So, now that you have some word pictures to help, let’s talk about the “trees” that you might need to intentionally cultivate to fully develop your “forest”.

Let me share with you three specific “trees” I have focused on in my business to help me realize my “forest” dreams.

Appreciation Marketing

While it is very old school, appreciation marketing is still the most powerful way to make a positive and lasting impression with people that you are building a relationship with.  You know you need a fairly large network of people to begin to find the clients and referrals you need.  However, you are also in the process of servicing clients.  This limits your relationship building availability!  Appreciation marketing is what many would view as Christmas cards and hand-written notes.  They are but they aren’t limited to that.  It can be a simple bookmarker or sticker.  (We all loved them as kids…we still love them as adults) It can be a simple snack bag of goodies to enjoy at their desk when the 2pm munchies strike.  (The Dollar Store is great for this) It can be a party sized container of play-doh or silly putty.  Don’t think $50 gifts.  Think positive impressions.  Positive impressions are very cost efficient given the ROI.  When I really started to use Appreciation Marketing, I was able to stay top of mind with prospects in a way that was time efficient and relationship positive.

Apps & Technology

We need the tech support.  However, what I found in my own company was very interesting.  If we needed a program to do something specific in how our business worked or a project we were doing with a client, we would just purchase another app.  In many cases, we would be paying for a monthly subscription to programs that we needed once…or for one month of use.  In some cases, we were paying for apps that could have done what we needed but we had never taken the time to fully learn how to utilize the program.  In other cases, we had purchased an app to discover 3 months later that an app we had used for years did an upgrade and had the same features.  FRUSTRATION.  HUGE TIME SUCK.  BIG WASTE OF MONEY. 

To increase the efficiency of our “forest” building, that money, time and effort needed to be utilized elsewhere.  This “invasive species” could derail other projects.  We now have a quarterly App Analyzing process.  A member of our team (or myself) takes a hard look at all the apps used by every member of staff.  What is free?  What is paid?  What do we use?  What are we missing training on?  What is a better option to streamline?  What has upgraded their services and features?  SOMEONE must check these things because the rest of us are just working with our heads down!!  When was the last time you took a hard look at your phone or computer apps?  What is wasting your time and money?  What could be streamlined?  (Just because it is cool…. doesn’t mean you should be using it)

Accounting and Bookkeeping

We love simple.  We love simple because it is time efficient.  We love simple in accounting because…well, we haven’t fully learned how to “read” our numbers!  But simple in accounting and bookkeeping is costing you.  You probably spend a lot of time perfecting programs and services.  You spend a lot of time improving your marketing.  But you need to improve your accounting, tracking and forecasting.  There is nothing worse than spending YEARS of effort on a product or service, building out an amazing marketing plan but not realizing that NO ONE IS BUYING.  By having better forecasting and reporting, you could have seen that the program wasn’t working sooner.  That the market wasn’t biting!  But because you keep things general, you had no way of evaluating the real costs and the real results.  Every entrepreneur tries to do it all…marketing, product development, service delivery, legal, accounting.  But there are some areas you should invest in support to gain the try knowledge and oversight you need to make wise business decisions.  Are you able to forecast and make decisions based on real data about your business?  Or are you hoping and guessing?

If you are struggling to achieve your “forest” dreams, maybe it is time to start looking at the trees.