They say that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. In the day-to-day running of your business, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, putting out fires as they come up rather than focusing on long-term strategies. By laying out clearly defined business goals, coupled with a detailed plan to achieve them, you can ensure you keep your eyes on the prize – the continued growth of your company.
We take a look at how to set (and reach) the right goals for your company, as well as some common examples.
Setting SMART goals
You’ve probably heard about SMART goals – the process of setting objectives which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. Many people use them in a personal capacity, but they’re just as useful in the business world. Let’s break it down a little:
Specific – Goals which are too vague are difficult to action. A good business example might be ‘increase sales.’ Are you talking about sales through your website? Sales from cold calling? Sales from existing clients? Each of these avenues will require a different approach, so should be treated as separate, specific goals.
Measurable – If you can’t measure your progress, how will you know you’re making any? Using the example above of increasing sales, gathering your records and putting together benchmark figures (so you know what targets you’re trying to beat) would be the perfect place to start.
Attainable/Achievable – If you’re a startup, aiming for global market domination after the first two years is probably setting the bar a little high! You have to take your limitations into consideration.
Realistic – Aiming to increase your sales by 300% in three months is likely not realistic. If you set smaller goals to begin with, and then manage to reach those goals, you’re a lot more likely to stay motivated.
Time-bound – Goals should always have a deadline; otherwise you’re likely to get distracted and lose focus. Just like your goals themselves, these deadlines should also be realistic and measurable. Breaking them down into attainable milestones, each to be achieved by a specific date, is a good way to do this.
Remember also that these goals can – and should – be revised and revisited regularly. You might learn quite quickly that you’ve aimed too high or too low, or that you haven’t taken all the relevant factors into account. The key is to revise your objectives, rather than abandon them at the first hurdle!
Examples of common business goals and action plans to achieve them:
This all sounds great in theory, but how do you actually implement SMART goals in your own business?
Let’s start with the big one, one every company out there shares:
What’s wrong with this goal? Firstly, of course, it’s not specific enough. You have to investigate lots of different avenues towards reaching this overarching objective. So let’s break it down.
All of the following could be steps in the right direction:
- Get more leads from your website
- Increase employee engagement
- Cut costs
- Boost brand reputation
Now, figure out how to set SMART goals around each of those ideas. For example:
Get more leads for your website
- How many are you currently getting – i.e. what’s the benchmark?
- How will you tackle the goal? (For example, bringing an SEO agency on board, running an online campaign, focusing on content marketing, or all the above?)
- What would be a realistic percentage increase to aim for?
- What’s your deadline for that increase, (10% a month, 20% each three months?) and how will you measure your success?
Let’s take a look at another common business dream:
Owning your own premises
It’s a big goal, and therefore needs to be broken down into milestones:
- Explore the local commercial real estate market – this will tell you how much capital you’ll need to put away
- Find out what the most appropriate savings vehicles are
- Set a realistic monthly figure to put into that vehicle, and a deadline to achieve your first milestone by
- Set other SMART goals to grow your profits and bring that deadline forward
Another common business goal might be:
Improve your brand reputation by going green
This could be broken into milestones such as:
- Reduce energy consumption by 15% by x date
- Implement a recycling program by x date
- Phase out single use plastics in the office by x date
- Each time you successfully reach ‘x date’ brag about it a little on social media!
Knowing which business goals to set:
If you’re unsure which goals to start with, a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) can be very helpful. It makes sense to set goals around your biggest threats and weaknesses first, as addressing these will make your business more resilient.
Lastly, don’t be discouraged by setbacks that mean you fall short of your goals. Treat each of these as an opportunity to learn, refine and improve. With practice and persistence, setting and achieving your company goals will become an invaluable skill in growing your business.