Deadline Adrenaline

In which we are urged to ask our clients "strategic questions" before year end. "I don't understand why we (this should be read "you, you moron") left this until the last minute.  We ... have known for 18 years that our son would be applying to college this month.  Why are we....  starting this at 7:00 pm, four days before the deadline?"

This was my wife’s parting question to me as I began the on-line financial aid application due November 1.  She makes a good point.  In our house … we… sometimes have a bit of a planning blind spot somewhere between four months ahead of deadline and four days ahead of deadline.  We….  slipped into the middle zone, and, whoops….  here we are.

However…….  Once engaged, I discovered that the financial aid application (which is written in a way that suggests high school seniors are expected to fill it out, using copies of their parents’ tax returns – what were they thinking?) helps with this blind spot because the form requires us to forecast our 2007 income tax return several months ahead of time, then forecast our 2008 income tax return, 15 or more months ahead of time.  No chance for deadline adrenaline and….  this is the important point… answering these forward looking questions requires that we think for a few minutes about family circumstances, likely scenarios and choices, and the numbers that go with them.

Remember Mae West’s line, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted?”

When sales managers ask us for business plans, territory plans, and account plans, we’re inclined to brush  them off, yes? What do they have to do with selling? Selling is belly to belly with someone, or on the phone, talking to them, not planning and forecasting.  “Got to chill, man, easy does it,” yes?

Nothing like a four-days-to-a-November 1 deadline to focus one’s attention and raise the questions that may not be answerable or fixable at the last minute.  Like, valuation of an off-beat real estate asset that may four weeks, not four days, to complete.  Or, what to do about the 529 plan we created which, it turns out, may have been a big mistake because it reduces financial aid eligibility.  Can’t fix that now.  I was just so focused on selling and taking care of clients that I missed it.  And now we’ve lost some opportunity.

From the “I’m not crazy about paperwork but I don’t like leg bites” department: There are two months left in the year.  For the last ten months, we’ve known that 2008 will arrive on January 1.  Time to pull our heads up to think strategy, budgets, and time for next year, while we’ve still got time to do something about them.  Like:

  • What are your most important business, family, and personal goals for next year?
  • How much do you want to earn? What will your tax return look like at the end of 2008?
  • How many sales calls will you make next year to generate that income? How will you allocate them among existing accounts, known prospects, unknown prospects, and referral sources?
  • What will your pipeline need to look like by when in order to get there? How many major deals will you need? How many smaller deals? Where will they come from? What will that mean for your time?
  • What will your 2008 expenses look like (business and or family)?
  • What do you need to be setting up, right now, in order to position yourself for opportunities in January, or June or September?

Most of us would rather eat dust than address those questions now.  What’s the sport in that? Yet, starting tomorrow, I have three days left and I’m thinking that dust could have tasted pretty good three months ago.

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