The 6 Step Guide to Small Business Goal Setting
Updated: Jan 24
Setting the right business goals for your company is paramount. We have spoken about how your goals are vital when leading in uncertain times and when creating a social media strategy, but none of this matters if your business goals aren’t up to scratch to start with. There’s a quote I like from Bill Copeland, a famous American writer, and poet who said “The trouble with not having a goal is that you spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” I know how hard it can be to develop and reach your goals so I’ve put together a five-step guide.
1. Start with your dream
It is so easy to lose sight of the reason you started when you’re caught up in the day to day operations. It is extremely valuable to consider what success looks like to you.
Let's start by grabbing a piece of paper and doing what I like to call a “brain dump”, write everything down that you think of. Think about what your goals and ambitions are, don’t worry about things being unrealistic or too ambitious, that is the point.
When I asked Luke Campbell, CEO of Vxt, what his dream is he answered with “I want to go to space, for as long as I can remember that’s what it’s been and I’ll do everything in my power to make it.”. Josh Fuhr, founder of Auditrax says wanting to help his father was his number one goal for getting into the business world. Fuhr says that “My father’s business partners never carried their weight for the 10 years they worked together,” he explains, “At the age of 16, I had already decided to learn skills to complement him and have long-term success as his partner.” Your goals do not have to be huge and ambitious to be valid, Dave Nevogt, founder of Hubstaff, said he was motivated to start his online business purely because he just hated every second of his long commute and tiny cubicle.
“I want to go to space, for as long as I can remember that’s what it’s been and I’ll do everything in my power to make it one day.”
2. Break them down
Looking at these big overarching goals in isolation can make them seem almost impossible. When they seem unattainable it is easy to lose motivation. During this step, you will break these big dreams down into business-specific goals that seem more achievable. For example, a goal for a small business in their early stages could be to break even. This goal in isolation could seem intimidating. However, if broken down into a monthly goal i.e increasing sales by 8% each month, it would still result in breaking even, but this goal now seems more attainable. Furthermore, by doing so you can measure your progress over short periods which means if you are smashing your targets or not meeting them you can make immediate changes.
3. Actionable goals
The next step of the process involves planning what actions you need to complete to achieve your goals. To continue with our previous example, this step would require establishing what actions need to be taken to reach a monthly increase in sales of 8%. Here are some examples of actionable goals that could help achieve this:
Create a Facebook page for my business to reach more customers
Post on my social media pages five times a week
Create a website to sell online
Offer a 10% discount to first time customers
Hire a sales rep
You would conduct this type of breakdown for each of your broken down goals you identified in the previous step.
4. Ensure your goals are SMART
SMART is a framework designed to help you create successful goals. Each letter stands for a criterion your goal must meet.
Specific, this means that your goal cannot be vague and must define a specific action you want to accomplish.
Measurable, this means you must identify targets and milestones that help you establish if your goals are being met.
Attainable, your goals must be realistic. It is important to note here that this is what YOU view as attainable. Attainability is subjective. The most successful people became that way by achieving what others would have never thought possible.
Relevant, your goal must align with your overall purpose. It is particularly important that your action goals contribute towards reaching your larger business-specific goals. Relevance is not as important when referring to your big dreams and aspirations.
Time-based there must be a time period in which you want to achieve your goal.
To demonstrate how the SMART model works let's use the goal of “posting on social media five times a week.”. This goal is specific as it directly refers to posts on social media if it was “increase social media activity” that would not be specific enough. The goal is measurable because it’s easy to measure the number of posts you’ve made on social media in a given week. The goal is attainable, assuming it’s within the relevant persons workload. This goal is also relevant as it can result in brand exposure and awareness which in turn can help grow your user base and revenue. Lastly, there is a time frame of one week.
Check-in regularly to see how close or far away you are from meeting your goals and adjust them if necessary. You might have been a little too ambitious or not ambitious enough when you first set them. On the other hand, maybe your goals aren’t as relevant now as they were. It’s okay to review your goals and change them when you feel like it.
6. Celebrate your success
When we set goals, it’s easy to miss the small things. In my personal businesses, there have been so many successes that we haven’t celebrated because we have been too focussed on the next step. It is vital to celebrate your successes as it will help you realise you’re gaining momentum and motivate you to keep working toward your dreams!