What Nobody Asks When They Set Goals or Write a Business Plan

02/23/2015 04:33 pm ET | Updated Apr 24, 2015

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners know the power of setting goals, and the necessity of doing strategic planning each year to make sure their businesses stay on track. They probably know to make their goals S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely). But 99 percent of them fail to take into account the most important resource they have, one that would help them reach those goals faster and make attaining their strategic outcomes much, much easier. That resource is their network.

When you set a goal, do you ever ask questions like, "Who can help me get this? Do I know someone who's done this before that could give me advice? Is there a way that I can ask the people I know to support my efforts?" Probably not. And yet your network can give you access to resources you would never be able to reach otherwise. Your connections can make attaining your goals faster, easier, and a lot more enjoyable, because other people are supporting your efforts.

Even though we're well into Q1 of this year, it's not too late to utilize the power of your connections to accelerate your goals. Look at your goal or business plan and ask yourself the following questions.

1. Who do I know that might help me with this goal?
See where you might need advice, guidance, or additional resources, and then look at your network of the people you know either personally or professionally. Would any of them, or people they know, be able to help? If you need better tax planning, how many business owners do you know that might have a great accountant? If you wish to upgrade your website or do more marketing through social media, which of your colleagues or friends already are active online and can give you advice on the best platforms or services to use?

You might have gotten these kinds of recommendations over a business lunch or a meeting where you happened to mention you needed an accountant or web designer, and someone suggested a possible solution. By asking, "Who do I know that might be able to help?" simply makes it more likely you'll find the resources you need faster.

2. Who do I need to know that I don't know yet?
Whenever they are doing their strategic planning, smart businesspeople make lists of any resources they might lack. Try doing the same with your network: make a list of the areas where you might need support but you currently have few if any contacts.

In my book, How to Be a Power Connector, I talk about the need to have a network that includes members of key ecosystems, such as your industry, government, finance, media, and local community. In looking at your goals or strategic plan, are there people in these ecosystems that you need to meet? Bankers? Local city or county officials? Reporters in print, on TV, or online? Thought leaders in your particular field? Are there particular individuals you already know about, haven't met, but would like to?

Once you have this list, ask the next question...

3. Who in my network might already know the people I would like to meet?
One of the best things about social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn is that you can see the friends of your friends, or in LinkedIn's case, the first, second, and third degree connections of the people in your network. So when you are looking to meet particular individuals, you can easily check to see if anyone you know knows them. If so, you can ask your friend for an introduction -- or, at the very least, ask if your friend will allow you to use his/her name when you approach the person you want to meet.

However, there is a fourth question that smart businesspeople always ask before approaching others for help.

4. How can I help this person achieve his or her goals before I ask for help with mine?
This is also known as "adding value," and it is the way power connectors build and maintain such strong networks. You must proactively seek to add value to others long before you make any request for their assistance. In looking at the members of your current network, are you contributing to their lives and businesses with suggestions, resources, referrals, or other assistance? Do you make time to ask them what they need and then offer whatever help you can? When you are seen as someone who is generous with their time, energy, and support, the people you know will be inclined to be generous in return.

If you are approaching someone whom you want to meet, first get to know as much as you can about him or her. What are their goals or areas of interest, and what can you do to help? Who do you have in your network that they might like to meet? (These kinds of introductions can be extremely valuable even to the most prestigious business people or thought leaders.) Make sure that your first contact with someone new is focused on adding value to his or her life, and then continue to add value until the relationship is established. Once you've done that, you might find that they offer help without your having to ask.

Most businesspeople understand the value of OPM -- using Other People's Money for leverage in growing their business. But Power Connectors understand that to achieve any goal, you need "Other People," period. Other people have the answers, deals, money, access, power, and influence you need to get what you want. Make sure to tap in to the power of your connections with others, and you'll be able reach your goals faster and with less work.