Dollars & Sense

Overdrive Staff

Dollars & Sense: Do you know your destination?

| March 25, 2009

What if you pick up a load and, as you are scanning the bill of lading, you realize that it tells you exactly what’s in the trailer but there is no destination. Would you start driving and hope to reach the destination? Of course not.

Yet so many people try to run their business and their life exactly that way. They work and work and work, and hope they get to a destination they’ve never identified. Then they wonder why they never get there.

During my first year in the industry, I was excited about being an owner-operator, and I set a goal to buy my second truck within 12 months. I was told 100 times I was crazy, I needed more experience, it was a bad time to own trucks, etc.

But I wrote down my goal, created a plan for it and followed up every week. I bought my second truck within nine months and I’ve never looked back. I even had that goal put on a small sign and mounted it on my dashboard. A little extreme? Maybe, but it reminded me of what goal-setting can accomplish.

A goal gives you a destination to shoot for. When you miss, you’ll know why, and you’ll know how to adjust.

Don’t make goal-setting too complicated – just get started. Try setting goals that are SMART, an acronym that stands for:

SPECIFIC. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal, answer these questions: Who is involved? What do I want to accomplish? When will I accomplish it? Why should I accomplish this goal? For example, a general goal would be: “Improve fuel mileage.” But a specific goal would say: “Increase my fuel mileage from 6.8 to 7.5 in the next 90 days.”

MEASURABLE. Establish a way to measure progress toward achieving each goal, asking questions such as how much, how many, or what are the mile markers along the way to accomplishment. That way you’ll stay on track, reach your target dates and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to reach your goal.

ATTAINABLE. Your goals should be attainable, but they also should make you stretch.
Goals that are really important to you will prompt you to develop the attitudes, abilities and skills to reach them.

REALISTIC. A goal must be something you’re willing and able to work for. It has to be big enough to motivate you or you won’t stick with it, even if you have the skills to complete it. Once you start to set goals and achieve them, you’ll be encouraged to set bigger and bigger goals and achieve them.

TIMELY. Your goals need a deadline. That motivates you to start working now and gives you a way to measure your progress. Your mission becomes much more clear when, for example, you know you have to improve your fuel mileage in 90 days. You need to try certain practices, measure their effectiveness and see what combination of steps will get you to the 90-day target.

People with goals achieve more than people without goals. The trick is to just get started; don’t put this off. In fact, set this magazine down right now, and write down your first goal. Follow the SMART guidelines and make that goal something you can achieve in 30 days and something that is important to you. It will change your life for the better.

That first goal could be creating your first profit and loss statement or cost per mile report. It may be improving your fuel mileage by a half-mile per gallon. It could be something as simple as listening to your first audio book on business or success. It could be health-related – reducing cigarette use from a pack a day to half a pack, or taking a 15-minute daily walk. Whatever it is, just get started.

It’s like learning how to drive a truck. I can tell you all the steps, but you won’t be a good driver until you practice. Get started and your life will never be the same.

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