January might as well be called the Month of Goal Setting (but stick with us — we’re not talking about hitting the gym).
Now’s the time to set goals for your small business. The hope of a new year and the promise of a fresh start makes it easier to clearly see what you want to achieve over the next 12 months. But goal setting must be thought-out, planned for, and stuck to, in order to be effective. (You know how the saying goes: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail!”) Harness this excitement in a practical way by utilizing the SMARTER goal-setting strategy. What’s that, you ask? An easy acronym for remembering the characteristics of an attainable goal — and the best way to set yourself (and your business) up for success in 2020.
So let’s get to it.
The first thing to remember when sitting down to brainstorm your goals is that the more specific they are, the better. Vague statements or ideas are hard to quantify and easier to slack on. For example, saying: “I want to increase sales” means that even if you bring in $1 more than last year, you’ve achieved your goal. Push yourself to achieve a higher standard of success by being specific about your goals. Change “I want to increase sales,” to “I want to increase each quarter’s sales by 15%.” That’s a goal that you’ll be able to calculate, and it’s one that pushes you to achieve more.
Utilizing numbers, percentages, or dollars whenever possible in your goals is important. This is what makes them measurable. However, you can still ensure more subjective goals are measurable.
For example, instead of saying “I want to increase customer satisfaction.” Say “I want to double the number of positive online reviews by the end of the year.” or “By June 30, I want to decrease the number of customer complaints by 50% compared to 2019.” While both of these goals fit within the greater goal of increased customer satisfaction, these are measurable indicators of satisfaction. These will be concrete ways to prove that your tactics are, in fact, helping you improve customer experience.
We support big dreams, but we’re also practical people. One of the hardest things to do when setting goals is finding the sweet spot between the outer edges of your comfort zone and the limits of reality.
Opening four new locations in one year? Doubling the size of your current team? Win the pinnacle award in your industry? They’re all great goals, but depending on where your business is, they may not be possible — at least this year.
As you set your goals, check-in with a trusted colleague or mentor who will give you honest feedback (but, of course, not hold you back). Maybe reaching “achievability” means tweaking your goal to create a five-year plan to double your team. Maybe it means focusing on winning an industry award in just one category. The purpose of goals is to help you plan for a bright future. But if you don’t achieve them, it can be a hit to your pride and could discourage you from setting lofty goals in the future. So be sure your dreams are big, but always achievable.
Check-in with your list of goals; are these points relevant to your business’ mission? Are you stretching yourself too thin by focusing on areas that won’t ultimately advance your business this year? While it’s okay to diversify your goals, don’t stress yourself out with extraneous goals. Set three to four goals that are critically important to your future success and put all your efforts toward them. Face it: we’re only human. If you have 12 goals, you’ll probably underachieve on at least a few of them. Go for quality over quantity.
Every goal should include a clear timeline (e.g., “by the end of Q3” or “by December 31”). These time limits keep you engaged with the goal and give you a finish line so you can pace yourself accordingly.
Once you have a clear finish line, don’t forget to give yourself check-points along the way. Scheduling time to sit down and evaluate your progress toward a goal is necessary. As day-to-day tasks pop up, your goal will slip from your mind from time to time. It’s normal; don’t worry about it. Just hold yourself accountable to regular evaluation so that you don’t lose sight long-term. Depending on the goal, these check-points could be once a month or even once a week.
Finally, remember that goals are just that: goals. Re-adjust them as needed at your regular check-points. Did something pop up that you had to devote extra time and resources to? Will this affect whether or not you can still reach your goal within the initial time frame? Don’t give up, simply re-adjust. Giving yourself an additional three months to achieve something, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a big deal. Always keep the big picture of your business’ success in perspective and remember: all forward progress is good — no matter the speed.
Use this SMARTER outline to help you as you set goals this month. And when you need help putting these goals into action, contact Pine & Co. As a team of financial experts, we do so much more than payroll or tax planning; we can help you accomplish your financial goals, save money to put toward your business’ growth, and ensure your operations are running smoothly so you can focus on the future. Call us today and make 2020 your best year yet!