As we look ahead toward success and prosperity, a quote from National Hockey League player Wayne Gretzky comes to mind. Upon being asked the secret of his incredible success, Gretzky said, "I skate where the puck is going; others wait for the puck to come to them."

In terms of vision and foresight, taking initiative and then taking appropriate action, this simple statement says it all in terms of how we can be successful in our businesses, as well as any other area of life.

Skate where the puck is going - Vision and Foresight

1. Look ahead to where your market will be (and where you want to be) in 3 months, or 6 months - or a year. While we can't predict every move our market will make, we do know there are cycles in every industry and market. What are yours? Is the holiday season slow... or incredibly busy (maybe busy with the wrong things, that distract you from business and cause you to end the current year AND begin the new year badly)? Business cycles are predictable. What do you do to prepare for busy times? Do you do enough during slow times to make busy times more productive and profitable - or do you lose business due to inefficiency, disorganization and "burn-out"? Do you continue to do the right things, even during busy times (keep up with leads, fill the pipeline and deliver world-class customer service) to minimize the slow times and even out your income?

Look at your monthly income: where are the peaks and valleys? Do you set aside adequate savings during peak times to help carry you through the slow times and alleviate the stress that comes with uneven income cycles? Do you have a rainy day fund, or a tax payment fund? If not, start one!

2. If you don't know where you should be at that time, make your best guess and strive for that goal. Don't just forget about setting goals, simply because you're not exactly sure what you want to achieve. Set interim goals that will help you progress forward, rather than standing still. Once you begin the actions necessary to achieve the interim goal, the end goal and its related actions will become clearer.

3. Look back at recent performance to determine if you are on track to reach the "puck". Only by monitoring your performance can you see if you're headed in the right direction, if you're skating fast enough, or if you're going to miss the net. If you're new in business, monitor your activities and progress weekly. Back it up later to once a month or once a quarter (no less than that, no matter how experienced you are, to avoid being blind-sided by quick changes).

Don't wait for the puck to come to you - Taking Initiative

1. If you see an opportunity, seize it! Don't wait until everyone else has jumped on board, or it may be too late. Diversify, expand your horizons. Case in point: I know several REALTORS who took the initiative (years ago) to become designated as listing agents for area foreclosures. While the recent rise in foreclosures is unfortunate, and no one wants to profit from others' misery, there are jobs to be done when these ocurrences happen. How can you position yourself to help others (and get paid for a job that needs to be done) when changes happen in your market?

Also, as a REALTOR in Rhode Island, I had to take the initiative to contact the VA and FHA to get special forms and keys in order to be able to show properties registered with them.

In addition, when a neighborhood at one price point was down, a neighborhood at a different one was usually up. I began establishing myself at many price points in order to minimize the adverse effects of changing markets. Are you diversified enough - and positioned well enough - to prosper in any market?

2. Position yourself well for changes in any given situation. Don't give up just because an opportunity doesn't exist right now. As a REALTOR, I used one mortgage representative for most transactions. Others wanted my business, but I was loyal to one, so she got most of it. However, at one point, her company changed for the worse: her support personnel and customer service changed, causing 5 real estate transactions IN A ROW to fail! I told her I'd have to switch if things didn't improve; they didn't, so I found myself looking for a new mortgage partner. I selected one who had stuck around, offering service wherever he could (he had done a few loans for me that my regular person couldn't do). Whereas most mortgage reps had given up and abandoned me, he'd stayed around... positioning himself perfectly to join my team when the situation changed. You never know when things will change. How do you position yourself for success when they do?

3. Learn the nuances of your market. What are the nuances of your market? In my speaking career, I've had to learn how to access different corporate budgets in order to enable companies to hire me. If there wasn't enough in their "Speaker Fee" budget, sometimes a combination of the Speaker Fee and the Educational Materials budgets helped them bring me in. How can you help your customers hire you? What small nuances can you learn that will not only help them do so, but differentiate you from the rest of the market? Also, as a REALTOR, when I could demonstrate intimate knowledge of various nuances of an area, I became much more appealing to sellers there, because I demonstrated expertise in their particular area - not just real estate in general. Those who take the initiative to become experts - in a field, area, market or demographic - are the ones who will thrive.

Take Appropriate Action

1. Once you know where the puck is going, start skating! Even if you know exactly where the puck will be, at which precise moment it will arrive, and where you want it to end up, this knowledge does nothing for you if you don't take action to capitalize on it.

Take action, study your industry and market, be different and try new things, implement your plans - don't just make plans to do something, some day... do them now. At least begin them! If you don't, your competition will skate right past you, leaving you wondering why and how they succeeded.

Instead, skate where the puck is going... and make your competition wonder just how you knew it would be there at the precise moment when you arrived...

Author's Bio: 

National speaker and author of the book, It’s My Dream And Who Am I To Stop Me?, Sandy Geroux is helps others achieve breakthrough performance through programs on effective risk-taking, goal-setting and achievement, and customer service. For more articles and tips, visit her on the web at www.sandygeroux.com or e-mail her at sandyg@sandygeroux.com