When we do strategic planning for corporations, we begin with the premise that
the whole purpose of the exercise is to reorganize and reallocate people and re-
sources to increase the rate of return on equity, or capital invested in the busi-
ness. Invariably, this is done by emphasizing some areas and de-emphasizing
others, by allocating more resources to areas with higher potential return and by
taking resources away from those areas that represent lower potential returns.
By developing or promoting newer and better products and services and by dis-
continuing those products and services that are less profitable, the company and
all the people in it can channel their resources to maximize their returns.
In doing personal strategic planning, the first thing you want to think about is
increasing your personal “return on energy,” rather than return on equity. You
need to realize that the most essential and valuable thing that you have to bring
to your life and to your work is your ability to think, to act, and to get
results. Your earning ability—which is a function of your education, knowledge,
experi-ence and talents—is your human capital, or your equity. And the way
you use it will largely determine the quality and quantity of your rewards, both
material and psychological, both tangible and intangible.
For example, a young man in one of my seminars came up to me and told me
that he was working as a plumber for a large plumbing-contracting firm. He made
good wages, but he was very envious of the salespeople in his company who
made more money, drove nicer cars, wore nicer clothes and had much better
life-styles. He had completed all his training and had his journeyman’s certificate,
and he was at the top of his wage scale. The only way he could earn more money
was by working longer hours. He realized, however, that that was not the answer.
Instead, he wanted to get into sales, where his income could be higher and would
not be fixed on an hourly basis.
I remember advising him that if he wanted to get into sales, it was up to him to
learn how to sell and then to do everything possible to get his management to
give him a chance at selling plumbing services. His future was up to him, but he
first had to learn how to do the new and higher-paying job.
A little more than a year later, he attended another seminar that I was giving in
that same city, and he told me his story. He had told his management that he
wanted to get into sales. The managers had discouraged him, telling him that
plumbers had very little aptitude for the hard, interpersonal work involved in sell-
ing a complex service. He then asked them what he would have to do to prove
to them that he could sell well. To make a long story short, they helped him to
learn how to sell their company’s services by having him study manuals and take
extra courses on his own time. He bought books and listened to tapes and began
spending time talking to the salespeople in the organization.
Now a year had passed. He had been a full-fledged salesman for about five
months. He was already earning more than twice as much as the most he had
ever earned as a plumber. But most of all, he was happier. He was more excited
and more enthusiastic about himself and his work than he had ever been. He
loved the field of selling, and he considered his career change to be one of the
best decisions he had ever made.
This story is typical of countless stories that have been related to me over the
years. In each case, the individual had discovered and developed his or her
strengths and, subsequently, improved the quality of his or her life. And you can
do the same. In fact, this may be one of the most important things you ever do.