How to get headed in the right direction

Two months ago, I started sailing. This may not sound like the most fun hobby in the rain soaked Pacific Northwest, but it’s something I’ve long wanted to do, and the unusually long string of sunny days (until this weekend) made for perfect sailing whether.

One of the things that all beginning sailors have to learn is how to actually get the boat moving. This may sound obvious, but it can actually be more difficult than you think. It takes a basic understanding of the points of sail, and requires knowing how to read where the wind is currently coming from, and where it will be coming from later on.

When a sailboat is headed straight into the wind, it simply can’t sail. Many people are also surprised to learn that sailing straight with the wind is not the fastest point of sail.

Your existing tax practice may be stuck in a rut, and you may be unsure about how to get moving in the right direction. Just as in sailing, you must first determine where you want to go. Running a real business is a lot like real sailing: Where you go should be up to you, not just dependent upon where the wind is blowing you.

Goal setting, and a daily review of those goals, should be the first thing you consider as you look to grow your tax practice. What is it that you are truly trying to achieve? If you want to have a seven figure personal income, then that’s achievable. If you want to sip margaritas on a beach in Australia while doing tax resolution work on your laptop, that’s possible, too (really, it is…I’ve done it). It’s completely up to you to define what you want your reality to be.

Once you know where you want to go, you have to look at your existing resources to see how you’re going to get there. Every boat has different sailing characteristics, and every minute of every day has slightly different wind and water characteristics. In sailing, you use those various combinations of available wind, water, sail, and keel to get you where you want to go. In your tax practice, you have certain skills, staff members, finances, and other resources that you must use in some combination in order to make your goals a reality.

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Just as in sailing, going from, “I want to go THERE” to actually getting on the right course requires planning. Taking the time to analyze what you have available, and how best to use that to your advantage, is crucial to getting where you want to be. This applies to all areas of life, from business to relationships.

One thing to be cautious about, especially in the information age in which we live, is “analysis paralysis”. When waves are crashing over the side of the boat, and a massive wind gust comes up, it can be overwhelming. The same thing happens with information overload. We all have so much information flowing into our brains that we can’t possibly process all of it, let alone take action on all of it. There really needs to be a filter applied to what you have coming in. On top of that, you need to take a few of the good ideas that you come across, and actually implement them, while at the same time simply shutting off the flow of new ideas as you implement the ones that you want.

I personally subscribe to over a dozen different daily email newsletters, all covering different aspects of marketing, sales, business, accounting, etc. I used to read each one of these every day, but right now I simply can’t afford the distraction. I’m in the process of taking the best ideas I know of, and implementing them. I have filters in my email that send all those new messages every day to a specific folder, and once or twice a week I’ll take a look and read a few of them, but they are piling up rapidly and I will simply never get to all of them, and I’m OK with that.

You should do the same thing in your tax practice. Figure out where you want to go, get some ideas about how you’re going to get there with the resources you have, then get started. And keep in mind that there isn’t necessarily one way to get somewhere — there are always multiple options.

For example, perhaps my emphasis on direct mail, Internet marketing, and local low-budget guerilla marketing tactics doesn’t resonate with you. Perhaps your existing resources are built entirely on a telemarketing approach. That’s fine if my approach and advice doesn’t immediately apply to you — find the information relevant to your resources and preferences and implement that in order to get where you want to go (although I would heavily advise you to diversify your marketing across multiple media, not just the telephone). The key is to use your existing resources to implement new ideas to get you going where you want to go.

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Tax season is rapidly approaching. The time for goal setting is already here, as is the time for implementation. You should already be marketing for tax season if you do tax prep work. Figure out how you’re going to do that marketing, but do it quickly and get started. Remember, the lead generation that you don’t do today is the revenue shortage you have next week.