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5 Tips for Setting SMART Goals in Your Business Plan

Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks
Editor
business.com Staff
Updated Aug 12, 2022

Put your goals on the fast track to success.


Goals and dreams have important differences. Dreams are wishes and fantasies; for example, many of us long to be rich, famous, more successful, happier and healthier. Goals put your dreams on a deadline and require actionable steps toward achievement. 

As with personal goals, you have a greater chance of achieving business goals when you work within a structure that sets you up for success. We’ll explore the SMART goals system and how you can apply this goal-achievement method to your business. 

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. The SMART goals framework is a way to stay on target and achieve your goals more systematically. The process includes the following components:

  • Making your goal specific
  • Quantifying your goal 
  • Ensuring your goal is attainable, reasonable and realistic
  • Hitching your goal to a deadline

Why use SMART goals?

SMART goals allow you to chart a course and stay organized when reaching personal or professional goals. You’re more likely to succeed because you’re less likely to get overwhelmed and abandon your goal entirely. 

In a business setting particularly, SMART goals provide teams with clarity, structure and guidelines. Business goals can involve cost-cutting measures, marketing initiatives, sales increases and much more. 

With SMART goals, you and your team know what success in each endeavor means and how to measure it within a project’s framework. Everyone knows the steps they must take to reach the goals. With ambiguity gone and a direction mapped, SMART goals set up your team for success.  

TipTip: Goal-setting and tracking tools and apps can help your team get on the same page and accomplish company objectives.

How to incorporate SMART goals into your business plan

We’ll take a closer look at each SMART goal element and offer implementation examples you can apply to your business. 

1. Make goals specific.

A specific goal clearly states what is to be achieved, by whom, where and when it is to be achieved (and sometimes why).

For example, let’s say you’re a wedding planner. Here’s how a non-SMART goal compares with a SMART goal in specificity: 

  • Example of a non-SMART goal: Market my business in Toronto.
  • Example of a SMART goal: Start a monthly networking group for women on event planning in Toronto. Set a monthly attendance goal of 20 women, with two attendees per month signing up for my “How to plan your wedding without stress” workshop.

2. Make goals measurable.

Measuring your goal means evaluating the end results and the milestones you’ll need to hit on the way. When you measure, you assess if you’re on the right track toward achieving your goal by asking these questions:

  • How much?
  • How often?
  • How many?

For example, let’s say your goal is to reach sales of $96,000 per year. To measure your goal, you could take the following actions:

  • You set a milestone target of $8,000 in sales each month. 
  • You create a process that focuses on achieving $8,000 per month (adding up to $96,000 for the year). 
  • You reason that it’s easier to attain an $8,000-per-month goal because there are many ways to get to this goal and it’s less stressful to think in smaller amounts.

Measuring draws your focus, helping you boost your odds of achieving your goal. One good way to measure is to have a dashboard arranged by month. For example, you could use a chart like this:

MonthJanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneSix-month total
Sales$6,500$7,500$9,000$8,500$8,500$8,000$48,000
Quotes over $1,000555555 
Quotes to sales45%50%55%55%55%55% 

3. Make goals attainable.

When you set goals, ensure they’re achievable. If you believe you can reach the goal, it’s more likely you’ll get there. It’s a mistake to set unreachable goals, because you’re setting yourself up for failure from the beginning. Additionally, don’t let others set your goals.

Setting attainable goals is also essential for team goal setting and can boost employee engagement. If you set unrealistic goals for your team, your team members won’t fully engage in the project. They need to be fully on board for the project to succeed. Everyone on the team should share in the goal setting so they own the goal and know it’s attainable. 

TipTip: Consider setting performance goals tied to an incentive so that your team operates with a sense of urgency on a crucial project.

4. Make goals relevant.

Goals tend to fall into two categories: short-term and long-term. It’s essential to understand how both goal types fit your organizational or personal vision, mission and purpose.

It’s tempting to set a goal because it’s easy or sounds great, only to find out later that it has no long-term importance in what you want to achieve as an individual or an organization.

5. Make goals time-based.

Setting a deadline attaches a time frame to your goals. A deadline can be an excellent motivator. For example, let’s say you want to run a marathon in a year. A time-based goal would look something like this:

  • Set up a system to get yourself marathon-ready in a year.
    1. Run twice a week for three months, gradually increasing your distance.
    2. Run three times a week for three months, gradually increasing your distance.
    3. Be ready for a half-marathon by the six-month mark. 
    4. Increase your frequency and distance over the next six months. 
    5. Be ready for the marathon in 12 months. 

Time-based goals help you avoid procrastination because your process offers incentives as you meet smaller achievements along the way. 

TipTip: If you’re interested in tracking employee performance, check out employee performance measuring tools such as Basecamp, DeskTime and Trello.

How to identify and reach your goals

It’s crucial to set a goal that matches your personal or professional vision. After you set the goal, focus on a process that makes your goal achievable. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Identify your goal.

If you are unable to set a SMART goal, it’s usually because you need to clarify exactly what you want to accomplish within a set time period. It’s inadvisable to skip the process of SMART goal setting and just “go for it.” You have a greater chance of success when you analyze your goals and match them to your vision.

To save time, prevent disappointment and avoid costly mistakes, perform the following exercise when implementing SMART goals.

Exercise 

What are your goals? Writing down your goals helps to clarify your thinking. Can you stretch yourself both personally and in your business by setting three goals in each area?

  • Personal goals:
    • Goal 1
    • Goal 2
    • Goal 3
  • Business and career goals:
    • Goal 1
    • Goal 2
    • Goal 3

2. Focus on the system.

Once you’ve set a goal, find a way to develop a system to achieve that goal. For example, if you want to write a book in one year and you’re not an author, you may feel overwhelmed. 

Instead, try writing 250 words per day. Don’t agonize over what you are writing – just write. At that rate, if you write five days per week (260 days per year), you will have 65,000 words in a year, or approximately a 250-page paperback.

Business goals work the same way. Set the goal, and then find a system to help you reach that goal. For example, when setting a sales goal, you may want to focus on consistently achieving 10 quotes per month with a 50% success rate. 

Leah Zitter contributed to the writing and research in this article. 

Image Credit:

Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks
business.com Staff
Chad Brooks is a writer and editor with more than 20 years of media of experience. He has been with Business News Daily and business.com for the past decade, having written and edited content focused specifically on small businesses and entrepreneurship. Chad spearheads coverage of small business communication services, including business phone systems, video conferencing services and conference call solutions. His work has appeared on The Huffington Post, CNBC.com, FoxBusiness.com, Live Science, IT Tech News Daily, Tech News Daily, Security News Daily and Laptop Mag. Chad's first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014.