- Make goals achievable yet challenging
It doesn't do any good to set targets that are truly unrealistic. If your goal is to have $1 million in sales this year and you only had sales of $25,000 last year, there is not much validity in your target. Be honest and thoughtful when creating the expectations. Feel free to use industry standards or comparisons for ideas but keep in mind the goals you set will be unique to your business and circumstances.
Also, consider realistic time frames for making things happen. As a small business, take into consideration your time, abilities, strengths and current project load when setting targets. For example, if you know the first quarter is usually busy, don't make all of your goals focus on things that need to happen in February. Common sense goes a long way in creating achievable business goals!
- Use specific benchmarks
A vague goal of "increase sales" or "grow the business" isn't much of an aspiration without specifics. A simple $1 increase in sales is an increase. But is that really what you meant? And for business growth, does that mean by number of employees, a larger physical location, or any other number of achievements that would fit the circumstance?
To develop goals worth striving for, make measurable, calculated determinations of what you want to accomplish. For example, if your goal is, "Increase sales to $250,000," it is now measurable and tangible. Partner that with realistic due dates or time lines and you have a goal that can motivate as well as hold you accountable.
- Plan and act
For every goal you develop that is a realistic challenge and has some specifics behind it, you need a list of actions to make it happen. Goals don't just magically fulfill themselves. For example, I can't decide to run a marathon in 6 months, register and get to the starting line with the expectation of finishing if I did not train. Finishing a 26.2 mile race requires a training plan as well as the resolution to follow through with the plan.
In business, that 'training' looks like a list of tasks for each goal that will bring about the desired objective. Using the example goal of increasing sales to $250,000, we may decide the following things need to happen : 1) hire one salesperson by March 31; 2) outsource accounting functions by February 15; 3) update website content by July 31. That's a simple outline of tasks to make follow through clear and measurable.
And remember, your plans and actions may vary from others in your industry because your unique business situation is different. What one small business needs to do to increase sales could be completely different than what another needs. So while the overall goals may be similar, the benchmarks and actions will be individually yours.
Knowing where you want to go is half the battle of business success. Now get moving by creating effective goals and follow through...it's as simple as that!