If you run a small business, your success and the success of your company depends to great extent on you and your skills, particularly your ability to set and achieve goals.
So what exactly are your goals for your business? Do you know where you want to go? Do you know how you intend to get there?
Setting clear business goals—and knowing what needs to be done to achieve them—is a skill that we all need to master, whether we are landlords, small business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs. If you can set goals and complete them, you can catapult your business to the next level.
Fortunately, successful goal-setting can be accomplished in just three steps.
STEP 1: Set Specific, Actionable Goals and Write Them Down
What do you want to accomplish? The answer to that question is the start of all goals. You simply need to build on it to make it more precise. We've broken that development process into three smaller steps.
Make your goals specific and set a deadline for yourself.
Goals need to be objective and measurable. They cannot be ambiguous. For illustrative purposes, let's say you answered the "What do you want to accomplish" question by saying, "I want to get more clients." To build on that and make it a true and quantifiable goal, you'd ask yourself what specifically you mean, what it is you really want to do—and by when. So your goal might then become "I will get three more clients in the next three months."
Three months later, you will be able to easily determine if you met your goal or you didn't. Do you have at least three new clients? If you do, great! You met your goal.
Determine the actions you'll take to accomplish your goals.
Every goal needs an action plan and most goals need to be broken into smaller parts. In our example of finding more clients, you might list several activities to help you achieve your main goal.
- Your first step could be that, by the end of September, you'll join a networking group that meets once a week.
- Your second step could be that you will take one current client to lunch every week until December and you'll ask each one for referrals.
- And, finally, step three could be that you offer a prize of $500 to any employee who refers someone who becomes a client during those three months.
Without knowing the specific actions that need to take place, a goal is not very useful. You might hope that it comes true, but unless you are taking specific steps toward its fulfillment, it will remain just that, a hope.
Write down the goal, assign tasks and create a budget.
The last step in building out your goal is to write it down. When you are committing any goal to paper, include its four basic parts, two of which we've already covered:
- The goal itself. Remember to be specific and set a time limit.
- The specific steps to achieve goal. This is your action plan. Again, be specific and set deadlines for accomplishing each activity.
- The assignments. Assign someone the responsibility for completing each step. If you are your only employee, clearly you will be answerable for everything. If others work for you, though, you may be able to delegate some of the steps.
- The budget for each activity. Many actions will not need a financial plan. Taking clients to lunch and sending out a mailing, though, would require some cash. Keep track of every cost associated with every goal and each of its steps.
STEP 2: Communicate Your Goals and Do Goal Check-ups on a Regular Basis
Whether your business employs 20 people or two, make sure to communicate your goals to everyone in the company. Employees can work more efficiently if they know what the goals they are working toward are.
Check progress on your goals on a weekly or monthly basis. Think of it as a goal check-up. Check your activities, the deadlines for each action and who is responsible for each piece. Are activities being completed ahead or behind schedule?
You need to keep abreast of every step so that you can be sure that your company will achieve the goals. You can have company-wide meetings to chart out for everyone your progress towards the goals.
When Circumstances Change
Things change. Customers may suddenly want a new product or service. The economy could make a sudden change for the better. A new technology might be available sooner than expected. Many things can happen that could mean you need to adjust your objectives. In most cases, you won't need to scrap the goals; you'll just need to re-work them to account for the changes.
STEP 3: Make Goals a Part of Your Daily Work Life
When you own a small business, you are the principal motivator for reaching goals. The goals are yours in the first place, and you're the one who will communicate them to your troops, even if you assign various tasks to others.
Because you're the prime goal-maker, you need to include your company's short-term and long-term goals into your daily work life. Otherwise, you won't be able to steer your company in the right direction.
Every day, you need to take four steps toward meeting your goals:
- Review your own progress and the company's advancement towards your goals.
- Create a daily agenda. What do you need to accomplish today? Who do you need to call? Who do you need to e-mail? Who do you need to meet with?
- Organize your work by priority. What are the two or three things that MUST be accomplished today?
- Include a few moments to enjoy something that inspires you. This can be a quotation from a famous or successful person or a few minutes of listening to music you like. Some people enjoy laughing at a funny business cartoon. Others use a religious passage or book. Taking this quiet time every day can help you achieve your goals just as much as prioritizing your workload.
Before you blink, the end of the year will be here. But now, armed with Socrates' goal-setting know-how, you'll be prepared to move your small business ahead at full speed.
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