We often think of the goal setting process as something done when we first start a business or a new job. However, the reality is that we need to be regularly setting new business goals as well as monitoring the progress of past goals.
I personally think it’s best to assess and establish business goals during the first quarter of the new year in order to stay motivated and commit to your goals. This allows for both you and your employees to have a clear understanding of what the expectations are over the coming year.
When deciding on what goals you will have for the year, don’t get bogged down in the minutia of figuring out every last detail of how you plan to get there. This is big picture stuff, your vision for what the organization should look like in a year.
This long-term goal setting will serve as an overall framework for your short-term planning. That short-term planning is where you will lay out the individual steps necessary for achieving the goals.
That’s a long winded way of saying that you first need to figure out where you want to go before you plan the trip.
While no one list could apply to all businesses or all situations, these 10 business goals have been a part of every successful business that I’ve been involved in.
1. Maintain a Healthy Budget
This trips up a lot of entrepreneurs, and I’ve seen many people start businesses without a financial plan.
Academics have coined a new technical term for this type of financial plan: they are calling it a “budget.” And if you don’t have one, then that’s your number one goal for the year.
Having a budget not only helps with tracking where your money is being spent, but it also allows you to analyze things, like what type of advertising is working best for you.
How do your payroll expenses compare to the industry average? Are you spending too much or too little in commissions and bonuses? Are you lacking funding?
Going anywhere for funding (Bank, Investors, VC firms) without a professional budget will get you booted out of the office without a second look.
2. Hire a Certain Number of Employees
If you don’t have any employees, now is the time to consider hiring some as part of your business goals. Trying to do everything yourself is the curse of the entrepreneur. We all try being the Jack-of-all-trades, but we forget the rest of that saying: “but master of none.”
You can start by hiring someone to do all of the little tasks that have to get done but don’t contribute to the bottom line. These tasks take your attention away from growing the business, so delegate them out to others to save yourself time and energy.
3. Reduce Expenses
Running a lean business should be the goal of every entrepreneur. After all, every dollar saved in business expenses is an extra dollar in your pocket. The problems arise when you begin to cut into areas that affect the bottom line.
For example, it’s always tempting to look at payroll first because it’s such a big expense in most businesses. But will cutting sales staff hurt sales? What about the shipping department or customer care? You might not feel the effects of those cuts right away, but if you’re not giving the customer the experience they expect, you will feel it down the road.
Try looking for other ways to reduce expenses. Try new software, change the implementation of your processes, and most of all, reduce debt!
4. Refocus on Your Customer
You should always be re-evaluating your relationship with your customer when setting business goals. You need to know what areas are working right and what areas need improvement.
Look at the entire customer service experience. Are your customers happy with the product or service? Is your refund / exchange process easy to understand and use? If they have questions or need help, is it easily accessible? Are you delivering your products in a timely manner?
No matter how good you currently are, vow to make the customer experience even better with short-term goals and a detailed business plan.
5. Get More Traffic to Your Website
Even if you’re not generating sales from a website, increasing traffic is great for brand awareness.
If you haven’t updated your website recently, take some time to give it some attention. Make sure it’s pleasing to the eye, easy to navigate, and constantly updated with all the latest information and helpful hints.
6. Evaluate and Refine Your Social Media Marketing
This dove-tails nicely with the previous suggestion. Social media marketing, when done right, will generate traffic, leads, and sales for your company.
I see a lot of companies (especially smaller ones) using a shotgun approach to their business goals related to social media marketing. They end up throwing a bunch of stuff up on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and hope that something works.
You need to have a strategy for social media. Your posts need to be consistent and on-message. It can be a lot to handle all at once, and if you’re not sure what you are doing, there are companies and individuals that will set up and manage your social media marketing for you.
7. Conduct a Marketing Audit
Marketing, along with payroll and rent, are the biggest expenses most businesses have. You want to make sure you are getting the most bang for your marketing buck.
Analyze and evaluate every aspect of your marketing budget. Eliminate the worst performing (in terms of ROI) 20% of your marketing efforts, and use that money to expand the top 10% of your best performing assets.
8. Develop or Improve Your Employee Incentive Program
Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. Employees are the ones implementing the company’s policies and procedures. They are (usually) the ones interacting directly with the customer.
Keeping happy and motivated employees is the only way your business goals can thrive. Unfortunately, too many small businesses neglect this issue because of the perceived expense involved.
And while money is certainly a motivating factor for your employees, most people will respond to other types of incentives as well. Things like public recognition, lunch with the boss, or flexible time off can all be used as incentives. Check out this article for 17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees.
9. Evaluate Your Company’s Mission Statement
This should be done on a yearly basis. Depending on how long your company has been around, you may have not have even looked at your mission statement in years (if you even have one).
Take the time to get it out, dust it off, and make sure that it’s still relevant. I’ve consulted with companies that, when asked to do this, discover that the original mission statement described a completely different organization!
Over the course of years, as the business climate evolves and technology changes, there’s a good chance that your mission statement needs to be updated.
10. Strive to Create a Better “Work-Life Balance”
Being a successful entrepreneur means making sacrifices. You sacrifice the stability of a regular paycheck, time with your family, sleep, and more, and while the rewards can be great, just make sure the costs aren’t too high.
Things like stress and anxiety will take a toll on your physical and mental health. Time away from spouses and family can cause tension that only adds to the stress level. You need to take evasive action before it can cause irreparable damage. This is why including personal goals within your business goals is so important.
If you’re not eating right and exercising, start taking an hour out of your day.
Whether it’s one day a week, or an hour a night, your family needs to know that they are a priority. Have a scheduled “date night” with your spouse. Chances are you’re not the greatest company after working a 12-14 hour day, and making your spouse a priority is just part of the deal.
Making a conscious decision to prioritize your home life is like brushing your teeth. If you do it, they stay strong and healthy, if you ignore it, they go away.
Bonus Tip: Set S.M.A.R.T. Business Goals
When setting goals, we always recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. technique, as it’s a very efficient way to both communicate and monitor your organization’s progress in achieving the goals you set. S.M.A.R.T. goal setting stands for:
What exactly do you want to achieve? The more precise you can be, the better. When answering this, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the end goal?
- How will achieving that goal translate into higher profits, increased market share, a better customer experience?
- What resources will it take to achieve the goal?
- What is the specific number (or percent) that I want to increase sales, market share, profit, or productivity?
You should be able to break down your goals into individual steps or milestones that are easily qualified. There should be a way to concretely measure the success or failure of the goal.
- Goal – Increase sales in Q-2 by 10%
- Goal – Decrease year end expenses by 5%
- Goal – All employees will have completed training in “X” by June 30th
Having unrealistic or unattainable business goals is just setting yourself and your employees up for failure. Now, if you are a one person operation, then by all means go ahead and set a goal to double last year’s sales. If you only increase sales 1.5 times, that’s still pretty good.
But putting unrealistic expectations on employees will only do one of two things. Either it will crush morale when goals can’t be met, or if you do this too often, your employees won’t take you seriously.
So, think twice about setting a goal to double sales every month for a year.
Is the goal something that you really want? Will attaining the goal actually help your business? Is it really a good idea to double your business if you’re already struggling to service the clients you have, or would you actually hurt the business?
Related to your personal life, will attaining a goal mean more time away from family? Are your relationships already strained?
Deadlines are important to motivation. I know from experience that if I’m not under a deadline to get something done, then I’m just going put it off as long as I can.
Setting deadlines solidifies business goals; after all, a goal without a deadline is just a wish.
Setting deadlines is really the only way to measure the success or failure of a goal. With that being said, deadlines must be reasonable, otherwise you’ll run into the same problems we see when goals are not attainable.
Without deadlines, you’re also prone to procrastination. If you find that this has become an issue, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.
The Bottom Line
Setting, evaluating and reassessing goals is a constant theme in business. Knowing the right places to allocate the right resources will keep your business thriving in an ever-changing world.
Lou Holtz, the famous football player and coach said,
“In this world, you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow.”
That statement is certainly true in today’s business climate. You need to be constantly on your toes looking for new and better ways of doing things.
Technology is moving a light speed, bringing new, better and faster ways to deliver products and services to the consumer. If you’re not innovating with specific business goals, you can be sure your competition is.