There is so much that goes into running your business on a day-to-day basis. Sales, marketing, forecasts, customer satisfaction, staffing issues, inventory, budgeting, managing...the list goes on. As a small business owner, your days are full. So, when would you find the time to think about visioning and goal setting? Perhaps the bigger question is, how important is it to be clear about where you are going, and how do you ensure you're on the path to getting there? Organizations express their priorities through the goals that they set. Although goal setting may not necessarily be something you do every day, it is a necessary and integral part of running your business effectively.
Much confusion exists in the language of corporate visioning or strategic planning. Depending on who you ask, you will hear different definitions for words like goals, objectives, vision, mission, and values. For simplicity, we're going to define a goal as a statement of intent, that provides general direction to the company and its employees. Here are some ideas to help you set goals that will keep you on track.
Express Goals Positively
People are more likely to feel positive about being told to "do" something, than "not" to do something. Make sure the language you use when setting your goals implies positive action.
Set Goals Around Performance, Not Outcome
Set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It is discouraging when you don't achieve a goal because of things that are beyond your control, such as weather, other people's judgments, injury, or just bad luck. For example, if you set a goal to be one of the top three companies in your industry, there are many things you can't control. For instance, one of your competitors might merge with another of your competitors making it far larger. If that results in you not being in the top three, you may feel you have failed in achieving your goal. If, however, you set a goal of having your sales team increase sales by 20% for each of the next four quarters, you have an achievable goal that is under your control. And, you may indeed find yourself in the top three.
Write Your Goals Down
People who write down their goals are 80% more successful in achieving them than those who don't. Writing down your goals makes you more committed to them. Having them accessible in your workplace, where they are a visual reminder every day, also increases your chances of success. Post them in your staff room, or give everyone a copy of them to encourage motivation and team spirit.
Set Priorities for Your Goals
Chances are, you'll be working on more than one goal at any given time. Make sure you have decided (and your staff knows), which are a priority. Different departments may have different priorities, or your priorities may change given the time of the month and the activities going on in your business. Know what your priorities are and you'll experience greater productivity.
Make Them Measurable and Have Timeframes
"To improve our sales" is not a measurable goal. What exactly does improvement mean? Better customer service? Higher revenues? And how much improvement is enough? 10%? 25%? 50%? "To increase company sales by 25% by year end." is a measurable goal. Adding a timeframe gives you an exact point of review. On December 31, you can look over your sales figures for the year and determine exactly whether you met your goal of increasing sales by 25%.
Set Goals that are Challenging, but Realistic
Goals set too low do not motivate people to reach higher. Goals set too high discourage people because they are unattainable. Make sure you've evaluated your goals carefully and have set them with the right mix of challenge and realism.
Involve Your Staff in the Goal Setting Process
Ultimately you are responsible for the direction you set for your company, but involving your staff in the goal setting process helps them feel invested, and increases motivation for goal achievement.
Setting goals for your company is one of those things that Steven Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) says can get lost in the "urgent" demands of the day-to-day. But attention must be paid to it as an important activity - one that will dramatically increase your effectiveness and bring you closer to where you want to be with your business, and your life.