Many years ago, I was a manufacturer’s rep in the gift industry, I remember how long the holiday season seemed to be. We started selling for the holidays in January, shipping in July, reordering in August and continuing the process. I remember one of my largest clients saying this to me, “Everyone thinks we just open our doors and poof the store is ready for the holidays. No one understands how we have to prepare by buying early, doing the inventory, setting up the displays, selling merchandise, taking down the displays and doing inventory. It’s all in the preparation.” So how does being prepared help us to be successful?
Being prepared can mean many different things … being prepared for the day, for an interview, for a meeting, for your team and for yourself. When you aren’t prepared you may seem unorganized or that it isn’t really a priority for you or perhaps you rely on others to be prepared so you don’t have to. Whatever the reason, being prepared is not a difficult thing to be; maybe not simple, but not difficult. All professionals are prepared. The more prepared you are, the better your chance for success. Being prepared can help you to meet challenges or inspire customers to think differently or in a new way. By being prepared, you can anticipate your team and customer’s questions and be better able to meet their expectations.
Being prepared does take time and commitment so rather than flying by the seat of your pants, take the time to be prepared. Here are some ideas:
1. Know what you want to accomplish. While this is simple, many times this is the most forgotten step of being prepared. What are your goals? What are the expectations of the meeting? Have you ever walked out of a meeting and thought it was really a meeting about having a meeting? You didn’t learn anything; you aren’t any further along in your pursuit and you will never get that hour back in your life. Setting an agenda that you share or even have as a reference can keep you on track and you won’t worry about another meeting to have a meeting.
2. Now that you know what you want to accomplish, how do you want the message to come across? Think about it as meeting someone for the first time. You are looking for your next career so that is what you want to accomplish. You want to be prepared so you sound organized, intelligent and will be an asset to their company rather than sounding desperate and carrying more baggage than the company needs to store.
3. Have you tried role-playing? Yes, this is one of the most dreaded exercises although one of the most effective. Before you have a meeting or presentation, try role-playing with a colleague or video yourself. You will hear and see what you like as well as what you don’t. With role-playing, you might have someone that can anticipate the objections and throw them out for you to respond to. Great practice. I know most of us don’t like to see ourselves on video but imagine watching yourself and thinking how prepared you are. That is what you want your client, perspective employer or boss to see as well.
4. A wise man once told me that if you are 10 minutes early to a meeting you are on time. If you are on time, you are late so get there 15-20 minutes early and get a head start. You won’t be rushed, or unorganized while trying to find your notes or note pad and pen or worse sweating from rushing. If you are giving a presentation, you want to have everything set up so you can grab the clicker and start going. If you are going on an interview, you want to be seen as an asset rather than a liability and if you are waiting for a meeting with your boss or important client, you want to be seen as professional and ready to take action. Your confidence will shine, and people will definitely take notice. And … success will be within reach.
How do you benefit from being prepared? It takes planning and it does take time. We constantly hear about so and so being an overnight sensation. I bet if they were totally honest, you would find out that their definition of overnight is really years and years of planning and preparing. Why does it matter? Here’s what planning and preparing can do for your business, your company and yourself.
It can help you identify your goals. I know it sounds silly that if you are an entrepreneur working solo, that it’s important to have goals … and written ones at that. If you don’t have goals, how do you know if you reached them or if you exceeded them or if you are so close you just need to push a little harder? If you work in the corporate arena, shouldn’t someone else have goals for you? Wherever your desk is, goals are important to have, so create some short-term goals that you can reach in a shorter amount of time and then celebrate reaching that milestone. Once you do, it’s time to move towards the long-term goals that are making you stretch enough but not so much that you quit before you even begin.
It can give you direction. This is your journey, and you need to have your map to reach your goals. Imagine you are following the map and you keep hitting a speed bump. Do you keep going or do you find a way to go around it? Having a map will give you some alternative directions so you are prepared with plenty of supplies and fuel to keep going.
It can create an air of professionalism. Professionals are always prepared and now so will you. You won’t be blind-sided by situations because you put the time and effort into the preparation and planning. Not everything will be perfect but for those times that it isn’t, you’ve got a plan ready that can help you stay as professional as possible.
It can give you perspective as to what really matters and what you want to accomplish. It keeps you focused on the journey you are taking and the results you want to accomplish. Combining the goal-setting, direction, problem-solving and professionalism is definitely a way to create success while keeping your perspective in focus.
Remember, don’t expect success. Prepare for it.