Goal Setting Practice for Business Success

The best goals happen because there is a plan

Two men discussing business goals at a white board
••• Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

Goal setting is the process of deciding what you want to accomplish and devising a plan to achieve those desired results. For entrepreneurs, goal setting is an important part of business planning.

For effective goal setting, you need to do more than just decide what you want to do; you also have to work at accomplishing whatever goal you have set. For many people, it's the second part of the goal-setting definition that's problematic. They know what they want to do and they're perfectly willing to work on it, but they have trouble creating a plan to get there.

Setting Personal and Business Goals

The same goal-setting formula and strategies that work for business goals will also work for personal goals. The bonus is that applying the strategies used to set business goals will give you greater success in achieving personal goals.

Business goals are typically set on an annual basis and should be aligned with your long-term goals. These goals should be worked into your business plan and, when appropriate, specific areas like sales forecasts.

Throughout the year, you might have weekly, monthly, or quarterly sessions where you review your progress towards the annual goal. Examining results is essential for staying on track when you're working toward achieving a goal.

Daily Planning

At the end of each day, you should review what you have accomplished for the day and think about what you would like to achieve on the following day. Preparing a to-do list for the next day each night is an excellent practice that will help keep you on track.

Whether you prefer to do it at night or in the morning, daily planning is a highly recommended way to increase your business success. Regularly reviewing your goals and your progress toward achieving them keeps you focused and motivated.

Goals You Can Track

One easy way to ensure you accomplish your goals is to follow the SMART acronym, which stands for:

  • Specific: Rather than, "I want to increase my revenue this year," try, "I want to increase my business revenue by 30% this year."
  • Measurable: "Increasing sales" or "reducing debt" are measurable goals; "working harder" or "increasing my personal satisfaction" are vague and difficult to measure. Putting measurable goals in writing helps to keep you focused and see how much progress you've made at the end of the defined time period.
  • Attainable: A goal should be challenging but achievable. If your business is a lumber yard, overtaking Home Depot in sales is not a reasonable goal. Perhaps a 5% increase in market share is just enough of a stretch.
  • Relevant: Goals should be aligned with your long-term plans. If your ​long-term plan is for your business to attain $200,000 a year in sales, your short-term goals should directly relate to achieving this.
  • Time-bound: Without a specific time frame for your goals, they can't be properly measured. A goal should contain a time limit (e.g., "by the end of the year I want to increase sales by 20%").

Effective goal setting begins with a clear understanding of what SMART goals are and an awareness of the process needed to achieve them. How will this new knowledge impact your business planning over the next year?