Goal setting is an important exercise for everyone, including small business owners; without goals, we would just drift along. Goal setting allows us to be proactive, instead of just being reactive. We've all had days where we just seem to leap from one crisis to another, but we know that it's not a preferred mode of operation.
Are You Doing It Wrong?
However, goal setting isn't enough. It's just the first step to achievement.
Imagine, for instance, that your goal is to lose weight. Knowing that goals need to be specific if you're going to have any chance of success, you decide that you will lose 15 pounds by a date set four months from now.
Time passes. Four months later, you get on the scale. Are you surprised to discover that you haven't lost any weight?
Goals Need Action
You shouldn't be. While you started out well, by setting a specific goal to achieve, you didn't perform any action to help you achieve the goal. What's missing from this scenario is a goal setting strategy to help you accomplish the goal you have set. Without a goal-setting strategy or series of actions that you are going to use to work towards the goal, whether or not you achieve the goal you have set is just a matter of blind chance. And blind chance is no way to run a successful business. To be successful, you need to make things happen, not just let things happen.
The Winning Strategy
So when you're setting business goals (or any other goals), use a goal setting formula that incorporates a strategy or strategies for accomplishing the goal.
For example, suppose that you want to increase sales. When you're setting this goal, don't just write, "I will increase sales." This goal is too general.
First, specify the goal. "I will increase sales this month by 25 percent". Setting a specific goal builds in the criteria you will use to evaluate your success; in this case, at the end of the month, you'll either have increased sales by 25 percent compared to the previous month, or you won't.
Then, specify the strategy that you will use to work towards accomplishing the goal. "I will increase sales this month by 25 percent by offering a 10 percent off sale on all inventory and advertising this sale in local media."
Every goal you set needs to follow this basic goal setting formula: "I will (specific goal) by (specific actions I will follow to accomplish the goal)." As in the example above, you may have several specific actions you will take to achieve your goal, rather than just one.
Many business goals are like this: put baldly, they're so general as to be meaningless. Many small business owners, for instance, when asked what their goals are, say something such as "to grow my business." But without any actions attached to it, it's just a string of words that even they don't know the meaning of. When they hit the end of the year and look back, how will they tell whether they grew their business or not when they never defined what that would look like?
Are they going to do that :
- by getting x more clients?
- by starting to export their products?
- by opening a second location?
- by attending x number of trade shows?
- by increasing revenue x percent?
The "by" matters - it gives you both a plan to achieve your goal and a way to measure its accomplishment (or lack of it) afterward.
Goal + Action = Success
What happens when you go beyond the basic step of goal setting? Evaluating your success or failure is easy because your goal is specific rather than general. And suddenly, instead of just having a goal that you may or may not achieve, depending on chance, you have a specific battle plan to follow to achieve the goal you've set. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, you've set yourself up for success.