Follow Your Own 12-Step Guide To Success

handbookCompile your own handbook to describe the customised steps you should take to achieve the results you’ve been dreaming about – not only for your business, but also for yourself. It’s not only cheaper than doing an MBA, but also much quicker and customised for you!

The advice below by Christoff Oosthuysen to compile your own guide to success first appeared in BigNews for the Business Owner.

Compile your own handbook to describe the customised steps you should take to achieve the results you’ve been dreaming about – not only for your business, but also for yourself. It’s not only cheaper than doing an MBA, but also much quicker and customised for you!

Do this: get a folder (or a ring binder with twelve sections) and write on the cover your name and “My 12 Steps To Success”. File the goals you set yourself for each step in the folder and insert your assessments on each of the steps after the goals for that step so that you can keep track of your progress. In this way you can also celebrate your achievements when you reach these goals.

If you think that twelve steps are too many to consider right now, then try out the free self-assessment test at to help you in identifyingwhich of the twelve to prioritise.

However, there are only twelve steps to take, so it won’t need a lot for you to figure out what the best route is to take with your business. Here are the twelve steps:

  1. Write on a blank sheet of paper, in once sentence, what you really want out of life – that what you would say makes life worth living & list the activities you would enjoy in your “best day ever”. Then write on the back of the page the financial security you need from your business to sustain this lifestyle, breaking it down into your yearly income from your business until you stop full-time work and the annual increase in the total value of the assets you want to accumulate outside your business. Now you have a benchmark to asses your most private performance – that of living your chosen life style for the rest of your life. The immediate question to ask is: “Is my business providing the financial returns I require?”
  2. Observe yourself during each meaningful interaction you have with your associates, staff and other people you work or live with. After each interaction write down what you think you did that helped good understanding between you and the others. Also write down what you observed you could have done differently to improve your relationship. Do this for three days for every interaction, and then make a list of three things you should try do more of and three things you should try prevent from doing when interacting with others. File this in your folder. Try this for two days, and then give yourself a mark out of ten to see how good you are doing. As you repeat this, you’ll make improving your communication a habit.
  3. Make a list of three things you can do in the next week to make your physical work environment more conducive to your productivity. Do you have enough private work space? Do you have an effective filing system? Do you use the tools at your disposal adequately, such as your to-do-list and email inbox? Make a list of the three things you know you can change in the next week in your physical environment. Then diarise an assessment for yourself in a week’s time. When the week is up, record how you are doing. If need be, repeat this step until you are comfortable with a productive work-space.
  4. Think of your potential customers as fans, similar to the fans that a music star attracts. Ask yourself who those people could be that are naturally attracted to you and your business. Could they be your fans? Now, on a sheet of paper, describe your ideal clients and prospective clients in one paragraph. Who are they and what attracts them to you? Now, on the back of the sheet, write down three things you can do in the next month to talk to these prospective fans and what it is that would impress them about what you have to offer. Diarise to do an assessment in a month’s time of how you did with these and ask yourself if you became any more focused with your sales efforts so that you reach those who are most likely to do business with you – the customers you are meant to serve.
  5. Make a short list of the benefits your customers get from doing business with you and how this compares to other options they have. This is not a list of the features of your product or service, but rather the value customers gain. (Think for instance about buying a light bulb – what is sold is in fact not a bulb; it is light!) In making a list of the benefits of doing business with you, also think about the benefits your prospective customers see in doing business with an alternative business. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and look at your business from their perspective. Now describe the benefits they get from you in one sentence, and start use this sentence at least several times a day – when you speak to staff, to suppliers, to customers or at networking events (even with your bank manager!).
  6. Make a comprehensive list of all your suppliers. Include all products (such as material and consumables) and services (such as professional expertise and operational input). Now select the ten most important suppliers through whom you can gain a competitive advantage. Think about how your suppliers are adding real value to your business. If you battle to find where they are adding value, then identify new suppliers who offer something that helps you bring more value to your customers.
  7. Put yourself in the shoes of your staff and ask: “What happens in this business?” Focus on the activities and group these into broad “business processes”. Best is to draw the main business processes in flow diagrams. For each process you should identify the most important outcomes which are delivered to customers (in some instances the customers could be internal to the business). Write these down on the right hand-side of a sheet. Now work it back to what triggers started the process that lead to these outcomes; and link the triggers with the outcomes through the sequence of the most important activities or tasks. Such flow diagrams will help your staff to understand how they fit into the business; and when you organise the tasks in the workflow into “packets” you have the individual job descriptions for each position in your business. Each time you experience a problem in your business, try find the activity in the diagram where the problem originates from and solve it there.
  8. Draw a line down the middle of a page. On the left side write down all your staff members that you trust full and on the right side, write the names of those you do not fully trust. Identify three to five of those on the right side who you think could add much more value to the business than they currently do. Now, within one week, make it your secret goal to catch them as many times as possible while doing something great. When you do, praise them for a minute and move onto your usual schedule. Now identify the one staff member of those you tried catch out doing something great and set up a 10 minute meeting where you say you’ve seen that he/she is doing some good stuff and that if there is anything you can do to help him/her with in achieving what he/she wants to get out of working in the business.
  9. If your financial reports are completed weeks or months after the reporting date and filed for tax purposes only, you better make this step your most urgent one. Financial reports must measure the health of the business and, like a thermometer shows you when a patient needs medical care, your financials must show you when there are problems in your business. If you are unsure yourself, get your accountant to help in setting three to five financial ratios or targets to monitor the health of your business; and use these to show when there is something wrong in the health of your business.
  10. This step is easy, because you’ve already done the work you use here in steps 7, 8 and 9. At set intervals (such as monthly or weekly), set time aside to monitor the quality of each business process output by comparing the performance with the desired level indicated by key measures. Do the same with your financial ratios and the level of trust in your staff. Each time you do such an assessment, investigate the root causes of discrepancies and solve the problems without delay.
  11. For the next month, set aside just 30 minutes a day to read about trends or innovations in your industry. You might find a useful blog on the internet, or your industry might have some very good publications you could subscribe to. You might also find that a quick Google search delivers some gems. Gather the information that you think could be relevant for your business – perhaps not straight away, but definitely in the next year. File copies of this information and by the end of the month, ask yourself how you could use this information in your planning for the continuous development or refinement of your product or service. Record your thoughts in your folder and keep doing this month-by-month, so that you can trace your thoughts on what you should be developing your business into.
  12. When you reach this, the final step towards achieving success, you would have realised that this is not just a formula to make some quick money. It is a method of doing business based on the understanding that you can achieve your life purpose through what you do in your business. You can reach more people than just the clients whom you serve. Write a paragraph on a sheet of paper where you describe your life intention – in other words what you would like people to say when they put you in your grave. In writing your purpose, think about your business as a contributor to the greater good of the community and improving the environment it operates in. When you’ve written your purpose down, turn the page and compile a wish-list of things you would like to do in helping others if money was no objective. Let your mind fly! The identify from the wish-list at least one that is close to your heart and which you can start contributing towards immediately. Pick up the phone and make a commitment to contribute right away.

Use the folder that you have produced as a handy guide or map in travelling towards achieving your goals through you business. This is a road full of excitement where you can express yourself fully through your business.

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