Creating Goals for Your Business
The beginning of the New Year is the most popular time for individuals to set goals. We usually refer to these as New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, most people are not too good at keeping their personal resolutions. This is mainly because they are usually too vague, there is no clear plan to follow to achieve the goal, and there is very little motivation/commitment to follow through.
In business, goals are very important. Without goals, the business is like a ship without a rudder. You may think you know where you want your business to go, but until you have a written plan, you will not have the clarity you need for your business to reach maximum potential.
Here is just one way not having goals can hurt you. Businesses are inundated with sales calls, emails, and face-to-face visits on a weekly if not daily basis. Without clear goals, it is far too easy to get distracted and say, “yes” to a good sales pitch because you think you might be able to use their product or service, only to find out later that it was a waste of time and money; or worse, it was detrimental to your progress. If you’d had clear goals from the outset, you would have known what to say “no” to, which saves you lots of time and money and makes your business run much more smoothly.
Goal setting also helps your employees understand the big picture and how they fit into it. Having goals for the business allows them to create individual goals to maximize their productivity and their level of contribution to the team. Goals help clarify values, ease the decision-making process, pinpoint where you are today, identify where you want to be in the future, and instill confidence within the business.
How to Set Business Goals
For a goal to be effective, it should be:
Specific: As mentioned earlier, goals should never be too vague. For a business owner, a specific and well-defined goal is one that moves the business forward in the right direction. Examples may include:
- Hiring your first employee;
- Creating a new product or launching a new service;
- Opening a new location;
- Implementing a new online marketing and social media strategy;
- Boosting sales by 10%;
- Reducing expenses by 5%.
Realistic/Achievable: Realistic and achievable are relative terms, and there is some debate about how outrageous of a goal you should set. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was known for setting “unrealistic” goals, but many of these were achieved, resulting in major technological breakthroughs that we are all benefiting from. Ultimately, you as the owner need to decide what is realistic and achievable given the timeframe in which the goal is set.
Measurable: You need to set goals that can be tracked and measured, so you know if they are being achieved or not. For example, if your goal is to “grow your clientele”, that is too vague and cannot be measured. You should set a more specific number, such as “add five new clients each month.” Adding a specific number of clients each month is a goal that can be tracked and measured, and you should be able to see pretty easily whether or not you are on target.
Action Plan for its Achievement: While having a specific, measurable, and realistic end goal is great, this alone is not enough. You need a detailed plan on how you will accomplish this. For example, if your goal is to add five new clients each month, your plan of action could be, “I will make 50 cold calls and talk to five decision-makers per day”, or whatever number of prospects you calculate that you need to speak with to end up reaching your monthly client acquisition goal.
A couple other things to keep in mind as you set your business goals:
- The Process is Ongoing: Goal-setting is not something you do only once a year. In business especially, goals are being set all the time. When you achieve one, it’s time to set another one to keep moving forward. Along these same lines, goals are not like ironclad contracts that are etched in stone and cannot be altered. They can (and should) be adjusted based on current conditions, new and relevant information that comes to light, or other factors. Stay flexible in your approach.
- Continual Review is Vital: Setting a goal and never looking at it again is not going to help you very much. It is better than never having set it at all, but if you create a goal and don’t look at it again for a month or two or three or longer, you are far less likely to get anywhere close to achieving it. If possible, review your goals on a daily basis and set your daily “to do” list based on which tasks will move you toward your goals. At the very least, review your goals weekly.
If Your Goal is to Get into Business this Year: Maybe you have decided that this is the year you are finally going to go from employee to business owner. This is a great goal to have, and there are a lot of steps you need to take to make this a reality. First, you need to decide if you will start from scratch or purchase an existing business that is already profitable.
If you decide to skip the months of 18-hour days and countless headaches involved with a startup and buy a business that is already established, it is best to work with a reputable business intermediary. A business broker can work closely with you to match you with the available businesses that meet your criteria. This saves you countless hours of searching and helps ensure you end up purchasing the business that is right for you.