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How to Set Business Goals–and Realize Them

Posted December 27, 2013  |  written by  |  The Executive Corner
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In order for your business to have a wildly successful new year, you have to prepare for one. The list is long of businesses that forge ahead blindly, with no plan or process, only to be disappointed at year’s end by their lack of success. And that’s precisely what makes goal-setting the single most critical strategic activity you can perform each and every January.

The 4th Annual Staples National Small Business Survey reveals:

  • 80 percent of small business owners fail to keep track of their business goals; and,
  • 77 percent admit that they have not yet realized their vision for company success
Think Ink! Success Tip: Strategic planning is a living part of the business that is never complete. Objectives should be consistently measured, monitored and evaluated for effectiveness throughout the year.

Setting Long-Term Business Goals

The wide lens comes first. These are the 3- and 5-year goals that pilot short-term goals and day-to-day operations. Long-term goals are a direct reflection of your company mission. Ask yourself, ‘Why is my company here in the first place?’ Answers to that question construct the framework for your long-term goals.

  • Service goals foster retention. Because it costs much less to keep a customer than acquire one, focus on improving customer satisfaction by listening and reacting
  • Profit goals grow the bottom line. These should be percentages based on history and expectation–the trick is to be both optimistic and realistic
  • Growth goals are multi-faceted. Steady expansion is a motivator, and can be related to number of employees, number of physical locations, or new markets
  • Social goals encourage community. Focus on ‘paying it forward’ via philanthropy, volunteerism, donation matching, and other civic-minded activities

Once your long-term strategies are in place, narrow the focus to a list of short-term goals that, when placed into action, lead your company in that direction.

Think Ink! Success Tip: Using different language in your strategic planning can encourage a fresh perspective. For example, renaming a ‘goal’ with the term ‘initiative’ gives it added importance and encourages attention.

Setting Short-Term Business Goals

Next comes the tight lens. Short-term goals are your long-term goals translated into daily activities. They operate on a narrower timeline and give ownership of specific activities to specific people on your team. The most powerful, achievable short-term business goals are S.M.A.R.T.

  • Specific. Create concrete, specific objectives that have explicit detail
  • Measurable. Base everything on percentages, dollars, or units to make them real-worldly
  • Action-oriented. Outline specific steps in each process and give them to specific team members
  • Realistic. Goals must be challenging, yet realistic, so that accomplishment is a triumph, yet expected
  • Time-specific. Create a timeline that keeps processes orderly and workflow intuitive

Connecting short-term business goals to long-term business goals–a flow chart works perfectly for this–not only ensures value in the process, it encourages the inspiration and accountability necessary to help all stakeholders remain involved in the outcome.

Think Ink! Success Tip: Getting employees involved in the goal-setting process works on several fronts–the process of co-creation encourages a ‘bottom-up’ affect that solicits enthusiasm, ownership, and a buy-in to the mission.

The bottom line is to consider your goal-setting project as a cultural event–a duty of all employees that requires their contributions of knowledge and passion. Add in healthy doses of organization, focus, and consistency to create a culture of appreciation inherent to the most successful businesses.

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