It should go without saying that every business owner has, at least, a vague set of goals they strive toward. Whether you’re bringing something new to the table or breaking into an established market, goals are the things that drive you. It’s almost impossible to run a successful business without this incentive, especially as a small business owner in modern, highly competitive markets.
Does that mean all businesses have goals?
The short answer is, not really. It’s easy for small business owners to fall headfirst into their rough vision. They typically have a limited number of employees and few initial investors, so there just isn’t that many people to inspire them to create a hard set of goals.
If you already have a business strategy, without goals, it may not be as effective as you think. According to a study published in the Journal of Business Strategy, although small businesses often perceive themselves as successful regardless of the goals they set, goals may actually influence their inherent business strategy. Another study published in the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development found that goals are linked to your path of innovation.
One thing is clear, goals are essential to ensuring the cohesion, direction, and possibly even the success, of your business. Here are the top five ways goals can support your small business.
1. Goals Encourage Productive Independent Work
Regardless of its size or current scope, your business is alive. In a very real and literal sense. If everything is working as it should be, each member should be an efficient and effective asset to your business as a whole. Your employees (which can include Virtual Assistants or Business Partners) will likely require and thrive under a certain level of autonomy. You simply can’t look over their shoulder every moment of the day.
Goals empower you and your team to work under one vision. When you understand your overall objectives, you can make the decisions necessary to achieve them. For example, if your goal is to diversify your product sales, your salespersons can push your outlying products. While if your goal is to slide into a niche market, your salespersons can direct their efforts on specific products.
2. Small business goals facilitate teamwork and company culture
Yes, company culture is a term often thrown around in big corporations, but it’s just as applicable to small businesses. People love working together for a common goal. But without the same goal in mind, they often clash and create a competitive environment. While interesting on paper, it hardly provides a productive work environment.
In order to effectively utilize the abilities your team members can offer, you need to provide an environment where they can efficiently assess the problems they’re meant to tackle. This way each member can bring a new approach to the table, and still end up at the same destination. With this synergy, you can now modify, combine, and experiment amiably with innovative ideas. And so, a new company culture is born!
3. Goals Help You Monitor Your Development
This may be the most obvious perk of setting a goal, but it should never be overlooked. When you’re starting a new business or revamping an existing business, your days can bleed together. Before you know it, the quarter is over, and you aren’t even sure where you started in the first place. This haze can become the quicksand that traps your business in a sinking slump.
If you developed your goals appropriately, you should be able to use them as a milestone to measure your progress throughout your business development and personal career. Setting attainable goals that account for the growth you expect, allows you to see if you’re falling behind and need to take another approach, or exceeding and need to leverage your successful tactics. Goals may also help you better allocate your efforts so that you can tackle a host of objectives instead of focusing excessively on a single objective.
4. Goals Inspire Critical Thinking
So, you’ve set goals you thought were attainable. It made sense initially, but your results just aren’t cutting it. What’s the problem? This is how goals help you think critically about the hurdles you encounter. By setting attainable goals, you can recognize and rectify the problems in your approach before they become bigger issues in your business. Even if you’re breaking even, goals drive innovation and growth by allowing you to think about your potential.
The motivation you get from your goals stems from the way you develop them. By nature, goals are meant to embody your aspirations for the future. You know they’re real and possible, but you may not know how they can be reached in a technical sense. Fear not, you already crossed the first hurdle by identifying your shortcomings in the first place.
5. Achieving Your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG)
Of course, there are different types of goals. Although all of them should be attainable within a set time-frame, that period can differ dramatically. It’s important to have goals that apply to your seasonal and annual objectives, but don’t shy away from bigger goals. That’s right, the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs).
These goals are the ones you set for far into the future. They’re stimulating, compelling, and absolutely attainable with the right forethought. For example, launching a revolutionary technology, changing the international marketplace, or even becoming a billion dollar company. They’re designed to energize and mobilize your team.
It may seem like an extravagant idea, but many groundbreaking companies have taken their shot at them and succeeded. It all starts with that first step, setting your goals, big and small, and sticking to them. As the entrepreneur Verne Harnish says in his book Scaling Up, “goals without routines are wishes; routines without goals are aimless.”
Your small business goals checklist
Finally, how do you make effective goals? It can be a nerve wrecking exercise for some small business owners. You don’t want to aim too high and fall short, but you don’t want to undersell yourself either. Luckily, the Australian Investors Association has set out a fantastic checklist to help guide new business owners. They’re called S.M.A.R.T. goals.
In simple terms, when creating goals, you should ensure they’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. If your goal can check off each of these parameters, congratulations! You’ve just set your first S.M.A.R.T. goal.
If you need help in setting goals for your small business when why not try my Entrepreneur Mentoring program. It’s a 12-week one-on-one coaching program designed to support people just like you.