Has business gotten harder? Absolutely. In my opinion, it’s harder to start a business now than it was 30 years ago.
If you want a shot at business success, you need to know what you're working toward. And for that, you need to set reachable business goals.
I make goals every single day. And I know I'm not alone. We set personal financial, career, health and knowledge-related goals. We put our goals in writing and give them a tentative date. According to one study, people who wrote down their goals were 33% more successful in achieving them. Apply that same goal-setting strategy to our businesses.
When I set personal goals, I make sure that I dream big while also staying grounded. Sometimes I reach my goals. Sometimes I don’t. Business is the same way. I can't set random, impossible goals and expect them to benefit my accounting software and payroll software company, Patriot Software.
In my 30-plus years of entrepreneurship experience, I’ve managed to narrow down my goal-setting process.
1. Brush up on popular business goals.
Copying is rarely a good idea in business. Your originality is the thing that’s going to get customers to come to your business and stick with you.
But, it doesn’t hurt to know some common business goals other companies strive for. You can use them as a baseline when creating your own.
Off the top of my head – and after crafting business goals for more than 30 years of my life – here are some interesting ones:
- Hiring your first employee
- Hiring your 50th employee
- Raising your gross profit by X%
- Cutting your business expenses by $X
- Growing your social media followers by X
- Getting X more customers per month
- Decreasing your absenteeism rate by X%
There are truly countless business goals you can set and tweak. But if you want to set reachable goals that will actually catapult your business to success, you need to first know your venture.
2. Get to know your venture.
If you don't know yourself, the goals you set won't matter. First off, they'll probably fall flat. How can you achieve something if you don't know your limits? And, second, the goal won't be tailored to your well-being, so achieving it is pointless.
The same is true for your business. The first step of setting reachable and relevant goals is getting to know your business.
But isn't your business just an extension of you? Didn't you create it? How much do you really need to get to know about it? Plenty.
If you want to get to know your business and set relevant goals, think about doing a market analysis.
For goal-setting, conduct a market analysis to help you identify and analyze:
- Your industry
- Your target market
- Your competitors
- The economy
You should also do a SWOT analysis to get to know your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis requires you to get honest with your business's limits.
3. Come up with a mission and a vision.
Goals fit into something bigger. The point of setting goals is to reach an ultimate objective. You want to lose 10 pounds to be healthier. You want to make an extra $2,000 to pay off your student loan debt.
If you want your goals to advance your business agenda, you need to set that agenda. You can do that through mission and vision statements.
Your company’s mission statement is its ultimate goal. It's what all your goals are working to achieve. A small business mission statement explains your company's goals and values. What is the purpose of your small business? What do you hope to accomplish?
On the other hand, a vision statement tells you what you want your business to look like in the future. The vision you have for your company makes it possible to set goals to help you achieve that vision. What does your business’s future look like? How will you set goals that help you get there?
Put your business's mission and vision in writing. Of course, jot down the goals that will help you achieve your mission and vision, too.
4. Keep it simple, stupid.
Some business owners might tell you to create these elaborate, multistep business goals. They might advise you to set a bunch of goals that have nothing to do with your overall vision. I say that's malarkey.
If you want to have any chance of reaching your business goals, you need to keep it simple. I personally am a fan of the KISS motto: Keep it simple, stupid.
Sure, your goals should be challenging. But they shouldn't be next-to-impossible to reach. When you brainstorm goals, keep it simple. There's no reason to make complex goals that take you a second to figure out what they even mean.
Your goals should be as specific as specific can get. For example, one of my personal goals was to make sure I stayed healthy in the workplace. To keep it simple and specific, I reined it in a little more. My goal became staying healthy by biking to the office when it's nice out and lifting weights every so often when I work.
5. Be SMART.
Here's another acronym to keep in mind when setting your business goals: SMART. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. When you set your business goals, ask yourself questions like:
- Specific: What do I want to achieve, how will I achieve it, and when will I achieve it?
- Measurable: How will I track my achievements, measure my progress, and analyze my results?
- Attainable: Is this something that I can even achieve?
- Relevant: How will reaching this goal help my business?
- Timely: OK, what are my deadlines for reaching the goal?
You don't have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to create SMART goals. As someone with about average intelligence, I’m living proof of that. But as long as your goals are SMART, your business is on the right path.
Using one of my examples from above, let's look at how we can change "Get X more customers per month" into a SMART and simple goal. You could do something like, "Get 40 unique customers by May 31 through the loyalty program and new-customer special initiatives."
6. Don't hog all the goals or the glory.
Do you have employees? If you do, you can't be hogging all of the goals. You need to encourage employees to set daily goals for themselves that fit into your larger vision.
Make sure your employees are familiar with your business's mission, vision, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Include employees in the goal-setting process. Create committees that let employees decide specific goals for their teams. Host meetings where you and your employees can set goals and determine how to reach them.
When it comes to working with your team to set goals, communication is key. Everyone should know what they’re trying to accomplish, how to do it and why. They should also know the timeline for meeting goals.
Another bit of advice: When your business reaches a goal, don't pat yourself on the back. It's not just about you. Make sure to give credit where credit is due. Recognize the team or person who made it possible.
And then you can pat yourself on the back for hiring that person and effectively casting your vision.