Merrimack College Taught Me A Lot About Strategic PlanningWhen I was in eighth grade I KNEW I would be a professional basketball player. I watched every game that the Boston Celtics played. I had perfected the Larry Bird jump shot. I was well on my way to being the next baller in green.

My parents were great in supporting this effort by encouraging me to practice and sending me off to summer camp at Merrimack State College. There I learned a LOT about basketball and oddly enough (although I didn’t know it at the time) I learned a lot about strategic planning.

I went to the camp for three years in a row. The first year I got my bearings, the second year I made some friends and the third year I was determined to make an impact at the camp. Each year they awarded what they called the Eagle Award. This wasn’t given out to the best player, but the player that worked the hardest to embody the spirit of the camp. In my third year, I was determined to win it.

Before I left for camp that year I decided I would be the first one in the gym in the morning and the last one to leave. I would run from drill to drill while others were walking. I would be a good teammate and the hardest working player on the court. It paid off, I won the Eagle Award. It was a proud moment and one I will never forget.

I never did don the green and white or set foot on the storied parquet floor at the Boston Garden, but those hot summer days spent pounding the pavement at summer camp have stuck with me to this day and have taught me a thing or two about strategic planning and how to apply the techniques I used to win the Eagle Award to my business life.

Start with a goal

If you don’t understand what your goal is it is nearly impossible to build a plan to get there. My goal was to win the Eagle Award. Yours might be to generate five new leads to your real estate website each month. Maybe you want to build a social media plan for your law firm to generate 300 new likes. Before you begin the process of working towards something, you need to know what that something is.

You’ll want to have a SMART goal. What is a SMART goal?

A SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results focused, time bound. You don’t want a generic goal like being the #1 REALTORĀ® in your community. You need to work towards a goal that has a defined finish line and one that you can measure your success with.

Determine the steps it will take to get to your goal

There are always very specific things you need to do to reach your goals. If you do this part right you are much more likely to reach your defined goal then if you just say, I want to have more clients and then don’t follow through on the steps you need to take to get more clients. More clients won’t just magically appear, you need to go after them with a series of pre-defined steps.

When I was targeting the Eagle Award at basketball camp, I knew precisely the things I needed to do to get to that goal. One of the factors was hard work. In order to win the award you had to be perceived by the coaches and staff at the camp as the hardest worker. Arrive early, stay late and work as hard as you can when the drills and games were being played.

I followed these steps and reached my goal. If you know the steps to take and you follow them, you are far more likely to reach your goal.

Track your progress

Analyzing your progress is a key step in strategic planning. It’s all well and good to have goals and know the steps it’s going to take to get to those goals, but if you don’t know how you’re doing along the way you’ll inevitably fall flat.

This doesn’t have to be anything too fancy. Just create a document and write down your goal and the steps you are taking to achieve your goal. Every day that you do something to push toward your goal, make note of it. Review this document once a week or once a month and see how you’re progressing. If your goal is to get three new clients by the end of the summer, check at the end of July, see how it’s going.

Tracking your progress is a critical piece to the success of your plan.

What lessons did you learn from summer camp that you can apply today? Leave them in the comments below or tweet them to us @deyoungmedia with #lessonsfromsummercamp.

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