"Where the heck are you going?" - HAPPY NEW YEAR! Okay - it's a bit late for that, but now I have your attention. Eight weeks ago we celebrated the start of a new year and many of us chose to make "New Years Resolutions." It's likely that close to 80% of us have given up on those goals already. In fact, we do the same thing each year. We take that opportunity to start fresh and identify some things that we want to see changed in our lives.
More often than not, we are looking to make some immediate and drastic alteration to the way we live - give up drinking, lose a ton of weight or magically fix a relationship. Because we set our goals too high, we are often faced with insurmountable defeat in short order. If done correctly however, goals can be the difference that saves your business.
I recently spent time working with a close friend who is a small business owner in the early stages of her business development. She makes signs on reclaimed wood. Her artwork is top notch and she has the capability to produce custom work with quick turnaround. She has her work in several stores and is making steady, but slow, growth. What she had not done yet was set goals for this calendar year. We talked about where she wanted to be at the end of the year and adjusted that number to make the target more reachable. Then we worked on a strategy that would give her intermediate goals on the way to her year-end goal.
Goal setting can clarify the purpose of your business and provide the pathway to make your business the organization you want it to be. According to the Inc. Online article "How to Set Business Goals" by Peter Vanden Bos, goal setting is comprised of a series of steps.
1 - Determine Your Long-Term Aims - These aims often fall into 4 common categories and should look to the next 3-5 years. The categories are Service Goals, related to improving customer service satisfaction or customer retention. Social Goals that focus on giving back to the community. Profit Goals set to increase profits by a certain percentage. Growth Goals related to the expansion of the company.
2 - Create Short-Term Objectives - Maria Marshall, a professor at Purdue University recommends an easy way to think about your short-term objectives for accomplishing your long-term goals. Make them S.M.A.R.T.
Specific. In order to work, objectives need to be concrete (not as abstract as your long-term aims) and highly detailed.
Measurable. Put a figure or value, such as a dollar amount or percentage, to the objective.
Action-oriented. Lay out which actions need to be taken by which people, and when.
Realistic. Make goals challenging, but consider your resources so that you can actually achieve them reasonably.
Time specific. Set a deadline to keep things on track.
3 - Solicit Employee Input - This is key to ensuring that your employees have a sense of buy in to the long-term vision of the firm. If employees are involved in identifying the goals, they are much more likely to be motivated to work towards them. This also prevents you from setting goals that don't correlate with what your employees are seeing in their daily interactions with customers.
4 - Stay Organized and Focused - Be sure to revisit your goals on a monthly or quarterly basis and track your progress. Don't get frustrated and abandon them. Remember that you spent considerable time identifying where you wanted your company to be at the end of this period.
5 - Be Consistent - In larger companies, ensure that the goals of one department don't contradict the goals of another. If finance is looking to cut costs but technology has the goal of upgrading all machines, someone is bound to miss their target. Ensure that goals are shared, discussed and prioritized.
6 - Build a Culture of Appreciation - This final thought is key. Make sure that you identify and recognize those in your organization that embrace the target goals and are striving to meet them. This doesn't always have to be a financial reward, but a thank you and some company wide recognition can go a long way.
So take a second, now that most of us have given up on our personal "resolutions," to look at your business goals for this year. Where to you want to be next year? In 5 years? How are you going to get there? If we can help, please don't hesitate to give us a call.