Success in business or anything else is a matter of getting things done. That’s why our magazine’s motto is Good Ideas + Action = Massive Profits. Your business success is measured by how much of your strategic plan you implement. Goal setting is a tool that pushes you toward success by helping you reach your objectives systematically. A goal is different from a wish or a hope. Wishing and hoping are passive, dreamy states of mind without much power. A goal, on the other hand, is conscious and active.
Goal setting produces positive results in a number of ways. First, having a goal focuses your attention. It causes you to think about your goal both consciously and unconsciously. Writing down your goal prompts you to spend a lot more time figuring how to accomplish what you set out to do. You will find that you will get some of your best ideas in some of the strangest places. I get many of my ideas while I am in the shower, others while I’m driving, and some when I’m sitting down working on another project. A second major advantage of writing your goals down is that you will subconsciously begin keeping an eye out for opportunities related to your goals.
Goal setting is the key. Study after study shows that the number one difference between successful people in business and those that don’t reach their full potential is that successful people have proper goals. Many small business owners feel they don’t have time to set goals. That’s another reason why so many small businesses fail. Successful business owners make time to plan because they know how crucial it is to their success. Good goals are powerful, and powerful goals are SMART. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
A specific goal means that you’re actually taking the time to write down your goals in detail. Avoid vague objectives such as, “I’d love to have more sales in the next year” or “I want to lose some weight this year.” It’s better to say, “I’d like to have a 10 percent increase over 2012 sales in 2013” or “I want to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year.” Those are very specific goals that make it easier for you to plan how to best reach your goal. It could even be broken down even further to focus on some specific aspect. For example, in my business, I might want to say I want to have a 25 percent increase in consulting sales, or I want to have a 10 percent increase in sales from a particular customer base.
A smart goal is measurable. Again, notice how I set the goal; it’s measurable. A non-specific goal is more like a wish. Just listen to the language of a normal, non-specific goal: “Hey, I’d love to have more sales” or “I wish I lost some weight.” A specific goal allows you to measure your progress along the way. Every month, week, or day you can measure your actual increase in sales or how much weight you have lost.
Attainable is the third part of a SMART goal. You must have an attainable goal in order to ensure that you and your staff don’t get discouraged and give up. Setting ridiculous, unobtainable goals sets you up for failure. For example, if I set a goal that says I want to have a 200 percent increase in sales when I don’t have the advertising budget or a trained sales staff to support that increase, I am all but guaranteed to fail.
One major caveat: Don’t limit your goals. When I worked at the local Coca-Cola Company, our sales department presented me with an annual budget with a 15 percent increase in sales. The president of the company wanted me to drop it to our normal 5 percent increase in sales, arguing that this was more reasonable. Well, since the budget had come straight from the employees of the sales department, I prepared an “official budget” based on the 5 percent the president wanted, but we gave the sales department a budget with the 15 percent increase. Lo and behold, by the end of the year, they actually had a 17 percent increase! Warning here: Be careful. Don’t limit your success. Yes, set goals that are attainable, but don’t be afraid to aim a little higher than what you normally would. You just might surprise yourself.
A smart goal is relevant to your long-term strategic plan. What does relevant mean when discussing goals? It needs to be something that helps you move towards your long-term strategy. Yeah, I might want to be the world’s best writer, but I’m a CPA, so I’m not likely to be the world’s best writer. It’s technically not relevant to being a good CPA. Now that we’re publishing a magazine and writing books, now it is relevant to the job. So we set up procedures and hired editors to improve the quality of the writing. Make sure your goals are not just wants, but really needs, when it comes to helping you reach your strategic long-term objectives.
Last, a smart goal is timely. To be of any use, a goal has to fit into the time frame you have set for yourself. If my strategic plan states that I want to be the number one small business consulting company in my city within the next five years, then the steps that we put in place need to help me accomplish that within that five-year range. Anything that doesn’t directly move me toward that objective should be put aside because it isn’t relevant.
If you concentrate on making the next goals you set SMART goals, you will greatly increase the chances of reaching your objective.