Strategy solves problems

There are three types of problems for wine sales rep: short term, mid-term, and long term.

Short term is tomorrow, the day after that, and the next selling week. It’s the immediacy of having to react. Having to run a will call. Having to correct an error on an invoice. Having to scramble for appointments with a visiting winery rep.

The midterm problems are in the next month, the month after that, and the month after that. It’s between now and the end of the year. The proposal for the fall wine sale. The goals you are trying to hit on particular brands. The percentage growth your boss wants you to hit. All of it will soon be a short term problem, but it’s far enough away to not need a reaction right now.

Midterm problems build in weight the closer they get to being short term problems. And midterm problems are kicked down the road whenever there is a short term problem. You need to put away that fall wine sale proposal because you need to run that emergency will call, right? (Sound familiar?)

Long term problems are next year, the year after that, and five years down the road. Where will your savings account be at? Will you pay off that credit card? How much can you grow an account in 60 months? Will you be able to contemplate retirement at a certain point?

Long term problems and goals are the hardest to work on because midterm problems get in the way. And midterm problems are hard to work on because the firehose of short term problems is constantly being shot at you.

How can you solve this downward cycle?

Here’s the strategy, and it’s annoyingly simple.

First, you need to carve out one hour a week to strategize. Monday early morning is an ideal time. Put it in your calendar. No phone, no computer, no kids, no meetings. Just you and the strategy notebook.

(Sidenote: I’m serious about no phone and no digital inputs. A big part of making this work is developing the discipline to take your planning time seriously and to prioritize yourself. If you have a phone on, and you react to a text that comes in, even just looking at it, you have devalued yourself and put other’s ability to interrupt you into the priority position. You’ve given up all of your control, importance, and self-worth. Turn the damn phone off for an hour, please.)

(Another hint: use the impact of a specific place on building this strategy. Personally, there is a local coffee shop that I use only for this exercise. I never go there for any other reason other than to do mid and long term planning without digital inputs to distract me. When I walk through those doors on Monday morning I turn off my phone and my mind goes instantly into strategy and planning. Then 45-60 minutes later when I leave, I return to the rest of world. Works like a charm.)

Sit down and open the same notebook, every week. Date the page and start with “long term,” for in that hour you’ll work on your long term, mid-term, and short term problems in that order. If it takes less than an hour, which is likely, then congratulations! You have extra time on your hands!

Start with the long view. What do you need five years from now? What do you need two years from now? What are your true priorities in life? What type of longer term planning do you know you need? What accounts do you want to build between now and then? What accounts don’t fit the plan? How will you know when you hit these goals?

Then move to midterm planning. How is the rest of the year shaping up, or is it time to start planning the start of next year? What is going well, what is not? Jot down some ideas, some feelings, some planning.

Then close the notebook.

Ignore the short term problems. Why? Because short term problems are in your head, on to-do lists, and are a natural part of every day and every week. Yes, our goal is to minimalize them. But the reality is that you just need to do them. They will never go away.

A to-do list is not a strategy, it’s a reaction.

Strategy is what solves problems. And being strategic is ironically achieved by being strategic about it. Block out that hour and buy a fresh notebook. This is important stuff.

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