How to Set Your Business Goals the S.M.A.R.T. Way

Business goals – so needed and at times so hard to write or at least nail down. Have you ever felt that business plans are way too jargonized and bland? That is often due to tradition. A big business may indeed feel the need to comply with legal and financial jargon for their business plans, however, for small businesses and freelancers there really is no need for that initially. Write your business plan for you and you only – it’s the primary source of motivation and focus that you need to ensure success.

In short, you need to set realistic goals and include them in your business plan, there is no way around it. The most effective way to do that is to set goals and write them in a way that you can’t ignore them. Set and write them with the most common excuses to avoid achieving them in mind, set your procrastination filter to high. Excuses such as: “I forgot about them”, “The dog ate the dinner” are pretty lame, don’t you think?

Here we are some ideas to start you off the on journey that will help you set your business goals the smart way, once and for all.

It doesn’t matter what stage your business is at, writing down your goals is beneficial, no doubt about it. You need to build upon the right foundations and here’s how you do that.

Bottle your business passion:
The easiest way to do that is by jotting down your elevator pitch, i.e. the statement that defines your business, the benefits it provides and its main goal. Suppose you have already done that, then take a look at your pitch and check out what has changed since the start of your business. Make sure that it is simple and easily understood and answers these questions:

  • What is your client’s problem or need?
  • Why and when do they have the need/problem?
  • What can you do to help/resolve the need/problem?
  • What are the (preferably quantifiable) benefits of working with you?

We work with (client), who has a problem/need with (fill in blank) and what we do is (your action) , so that (function happens) that leads to (benefit to client).

Know your business values:
We believe that your business values matter so much, we wrote a whole article about it that you can read here. Uncovering your values will help you set the framework of your goals. And remember – first the values, then the goals.

Take a look at the bigger picture: Leave the nitty-gritty aside for a moment, and focus on the broad target of your business. Whether these goals are achievable or not, you’ll have plenty of time to worry about later. For now – make sure you get the general direction. Some examples of those goals can be to: increase sales, get more customers, expand your product range or improve your marketing.

Time to get smart about your goals and by that we mean it’s time to use the tried, tested and highly recommended SMART tool for setting business goals, namely: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound.

Get specific: The overall picture is a good start, but it’s far from the end goal. Take one of your target goals, e.g. to get more customers and get specific about it – why do you want more clients (the reason), what will that lead to (the effect), how are you going to achieve that (the method) or do you even need to achieve that? By asking the right questions you are breaking down each goal to a sub-goal that is much easier to work with.

For example, the target goal of getting more customers can include the following sub-goals.

You know an average client is worth £X,000 in revenue p/annum to you.

You know that currently you could take on X new clients without increasing overheads.

To get X new clients you need to be contacting at least 10x as many potential clients than X. And to be clear – potential means they have an identified need and budget.

So you could set a target of X(10) x 10 for prospecting and then break that down into a monthly/daily activity.

You can then start to define specific actions to allow you to reach out to and influence as many potentials as required:

  • improve referral marketing
  • get more traffic to your website
  • improve your CTA
  • improve conversion of leads to sales

And so on and so forth – the point of this activity is to get as specific as possible and see which of these goals can work and which cannot.

Measure: Just having goals means little if you are unable to measure what you’ve achieved. Did we say little? Of course what we know is that it means nothing. Smart goals are measurable – you know when you’ve hit your target and you know what needs to be improved. To have a measurable goal, go back to your target example and decide how much you’d like to increase your customer base by. Do you need more new customers or your current ones to buy more? Set milestone targets and sub targets so that you are able to track progress.

Attain: We are supporters of big dreams but setting impossible goals isn’t really going to get you anywhere. Separate between dreams and actual business goals. Those that are attainable are the smart ones and the ones you can actually measure. Continuing the example of increasing the customer base, here are some questions for you:

How big is the market for your product?
What has your business achieved in the past in terms of gaining customers?
What do similar businesses do to get more customers?

By basing your goals on your past achievements and those of other businesses, you know that they are attainable.

Be realistic: Attainable goals cannot be anything else, but realistic. So if you have ensured that, all you need to do is add your motivation, energy and resources to the magic mix. Answer the following questions:

How much extra can you invest in your goals?
How much extra do you actually have?
Are your goals consistent with your elevator pitch and business values?
What are some of the potential problems along the way of achieving those goals?

Bind them with time: You need to understand that you don’t have forever to make your business goals happen. You need a timeframe – a specific, realistic and attainable timeframe. Your goals need to be time-bound or they are no goals at all. “Someday” isn’t a timeframe, it’s a sure way to failure.

Add your special flavour to the SMART goals. Don’t expect this to be a one-size-fits-all. You need to have smart goals your way, adjusting them in a way that they go hand in hand with what your business is about. Adjust the definitions and don’t forget that you are allowed to re-evaluate those goals. Along the way you may realize that some goals aren’t really attainable or realistic enough, but that’s what’s great about smart goal setting – you can evaluate your current ones, get rid of those that don’t work and set new ones. A business plan (which is a document consisting of goals, elevator pitch and business values) naturally evolves with the business itself.

Start today. Which goals are you planning to commit to in 2014? Use the comment box below.

1 Comment

  1. Diane on 24th January 2014 at 11:46 am

    I love the idea. Goal setting is very important. Thanks for sharing.

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