A: "My goal is for my business to win more new clients."
B: "My goal is for my business to take on 12 new clients by June 30th next year."
Which of the above goals is more likely to be achieved?
If you chose B, you'd be right. It shows serious intent about achieving a goal by placing numbers and dates on it. If you chose A – well, hopefully by the end of this article you will have changed your mind.
So, what are the goals for your business in the next 30, 90, 365 days? And how can you go about setting goals that are more likely to be achieved?
With the turn of the year or during a slower period in business, it's a good idea to take stock of where you are now, recalibrate, and set new goals for where you want to be.
But whether you actually achieve those goals will depend largely on whether you are doing three things that many business owners are not currently doing…
If you're not following the three guidelines revealed below, your so-called 'goals' may simply be a collection of wishes.
The difference between wishes and goals
Non-specific goals that are not written down and cannot be broken down into definite actions are essentially wishes.
Wishes are fine – for children. They can be wild and wacky, unbound by logic. But they should occupy no space in the minds of business owners. It's no use saying:
"I wish my business could achieve a million-dollar turnover."
"I wish my business had more competent sales staff."
"I wish my business had fewer competitors."
If you haven't set proper goals, you are pinning your hopes on wishes. You can't plan your business around them. You can't commit to them.
When asked what their goals are, almost everyone will say "I want to be happy, healthy, and prosperous." This is fine and sounds good on a New Year's greeting card - but they are general wishes rather than actual goals.
Similarly, almost all businesses want to either increase revenue or reduce costs; or both. These are not goals either. They are just business realities.
Well-considered goals should be the basis of every business plan. They create the foundation of your work activities over the coming days, weeks, and months. They are what spur the necessary actions. They should shape your daily activities and provide the direction for where your business is heading.
You commit to making them happen and this commitment needs to be taken seriously.
Shape your goals correctly and all this is possible. By committing to doing the three things outlined below, you will start creating actionable, achievable goals that help your business to thrive…
1. Create S.M.A.R.T. goals
There is a lot of information out there on goal setting. You can go and try to read it all or you can cut to the chase.
Make SMART goals: that's not just a convenient or clever name. It's a really simple acronym to remember and apply every time you create a goal.
It means the following:
- SPECIFIC – your goal should be no longer than 15 words and be aimed at something very specific;
- MEASURABLE – you must know when you've achieved your goal: that means you need to make it measurable by including numbers;
- ACHIEVABLE – make sure that the goal can be achieved in the timeframe you set (see the final point);
- REALISTIC – make sure you have the right tools and resources to complete the goal;
- TIMED – include actual dates rather than a timespan. With a date, you are more likely to commit and work towards that specific day and take the action necessary.
Simply by focusing on the above with every goal you set, they will be easier to commit to and to achieve.
But there are two other guidelines you should follow to really create perfect goals…
2. Write each goal down
If you did a snap survey of the population and asked them what their written goals were, most would stare back blankly at you. Around one percent might be able to show you a set of written goals.
With business owners, they might pull out a business plan…but unless that includes a set of goals that are clearly defined, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed, they are also falling short.
Those who write down their goals have over an 80 percent higher success rate of achieving them than those who don't.
In a much-referenced Harvard Business School study of MBA students in 1979, it was found that three percent of the class had both written goals and a plan. When they were resurveyed 10 years later, this three percent was making ten times more than the remaining 97 percent of the class!
The bottom line is that to be truly effective, goals must be written. Only then will you commit to the necessary actions.
3. Focus on the activity – not the goal
If you're a rugby union player lining up a conversion kick after a try, is it best to focus on the scoreboard or the goalposts?
Ultimately, the goal is to win the match by getting the highest amount of points on the scoreboard. However, if you focus on that (the end goal) you'll miss the kick…and be less likely to achieve the end goal!
To achieve a goal, you need to focus your sights on the specific actions necessary to complete it. Only then will you kick the goals.
Now apply this to your own business: break each goal down until all that is left is the action required.
For instance, say it's the end of December now. If your main goal is to generate 10 new sales by 30th March, what does that mean in terms of activity?
When you consider the end goal, that may seem tough; a real challenge.
But start breaking it down:
- How many proposals do you have to write to get 10 sales? 40?
- How many sales meetings do you need to have to generate 40 proposals: 80?
- How many calls do you need to make to set up 80 meetings: 240?
- How many business days are there between now and the target goal date: 80?
- How many calls do you need to make each business day to arrange meetings: 3?
The goal that once seemed so far off (10 new sales) now seems far more achievable because you know the precise daily action required to accomplish it: three calls to prospects per day is not scary at all. And you know that by taking this activity, you will reach your target.
See how this works?
Remember – without following the three guidelines above, your so-called 'goals' may be no more than wishes.
By setting real goals you have positive, purposeful, reachable signposts for the future of your business; rather than simply being reactive, you are in control of your own direction and destiny.
This is important stuff! Follow the steps outlined and you can make a big difference to your business in a relatively short space of time - if you are prepared to commit to the actions.