9 simple steps to reaching your ambitious small business goals
Goal setting is an important part of any business as they act as the motivation behind growth and profitable activities. For a small business or a self-employed person, being clear on what it is we want to achieve is crucial to ensuring your success. Without any goals to guide our actions, small business owners run the risk of aimlessly pushing forward until they flounder.
Business goals help us to identify where we want to be and we will get there. With our goals in place, we can outline the steps we need to take to get us to where we want to be.
Small business goals examples
If the thought of all this focus is making your feel a little worried, it’s ok to put your hand up and say, “hang, on I don’t even know what the best goals for small business owners are.”
In this article on setting objectives, the difference between long and short term business goals are explained. It’s important to recognise that it is likely you will have long term goals for your business – say three to five years in length. Short term goals compliment the overarching objectives you have for your company and act a little like milestones. These milestones are incredibly motivating as they help to give you a sense of achievement as you work towards those future aims.
For a small business or start up, your long-term objectives are likely to be related to profit and growth, however, you may choose to focus on a different element:
- Service – focusing on improving customer service and experience
- Social – developing your relationship with other organisations and/or focusing on giving back to the local community
- Profit – setting goals to increase revenue
- Growth – growing and expanding your business, such as hiring new members of staff.
These areas are often interlinked: if you work on engaging more with your followers or collaboration with other business owners within your niche, positive outcomes will flow from that focus, leading to more clients and increased profits.
Which area is a priority for your business? Choose your short-term goals based on your business priorities and try not to focus on things that do not move you one step closer to your longer term objectives.
How to set goals for your small business (and actually achieve them)
Now you’re feeling comfortable at the thought of business aims and objectives, here are my goal setting tips to help you identify, plan and work through your goals. Whilst you read through, bear in mind that what works for someone else may not work for you, so it’s all about finding the methods that sit well with you and your business.
1. Set goals that motivate you
First and foremost: the simplest way of getting something done is by making it something you want to do.
If something is not a priority to you, then it will lurk on your to-do list for weeks without any movement at all. Ask yourself whether this task is business critical or not: if the answer is no then you have the option to remove it. If the answer is yes, break it down into bite-sized chunks to make it more palatable.
It’s also ok to recognise your strengths and weaknesses. If something is on your to-do list that you know does not fall within your skillset, seek to delegate as much as you can. Your time is the most precious component of your business and if you take hours struggling to do something, consider whether it is a good use of your time. Yes, you may argue that you are learning by doing, but if you know that you need a new logo designing for your website and it will take you days to do it, outsource this to a graphic designer who will be able to provide you with the results you want in half the time.
2. Break goals down into smaller steps
Nothing makes us lose motivation quicker than a difficult task we have no idea of how to tackle. Baby steps are a great way to recognise progress as you regularly celebrate your achievements.
Business goals have a tendency of being fairly formidable, so to give ourselves half a chance it’s important that we break these down into more manageable steps. This may be where the action points come into play to move you towards a long term goal.
For example; if you have a goal to ‘write a book’ written on your to-do list this year, it’s unlikely to even become started. Unpick all of the things that sit behind that goal, such as: research, develop a synopsis, outline the chapters, write a 1000 words each day, proofread and edit the draft.
3. Create an action plan to keep you on track
Although I’m always a fan of pen and paper for jotting down ideas as they come, creating an action plan is a useful way to help you monitor your progress more effectively. You could use a spreadsheet to create your own or a web-based project management programme such as Trello.
Record your long term business objectives, then break these down into the short term goals – or milestones – you want to hit to keep yourself on track. Beneath each of your short term goals, list the action steps you will take and when each item needs to be done by. Use a traffic light system to colour-code your progress so you can quickly see what stage you are at.
If the thought of traffic lights seems a little bit too ‘project management’ for your liking, use your favourite colours or simple ticks. Anything to help highlight your progress will keep you motivated as you cross each step off your action plan.
4. Review your progress
Your action plan should help to keep you accountable, however, you could make some time in your diary at the end of each week to go over your progress. Use your action plan to help you highlight the areas where you’ve made great progress over the past week and allow yourself a pat on the back. Use this happy glow to help you refine the steps you will take next week to get you closer to your overall goal.
If you have team members to help you with this then schedule time with them. Reviewing your goals is a great way to keep up motivation together as you can celebrate everyone’s achievements and plan their work for the following week.
5. Get a support network
Turning to a support network is one of the best ways to keep you accountable. Your support network can be comprised of friends, business mentors, family, member of your team or business connections who support you and would love to see you succeed.
The Balance shares several ways in which a support network can help you, such as:
- Cheering you on when you are faced with a challenge
- Providing advice and guidance by bringing a different perspective
- Help and assistance by sharing their skills and experience with you
- Delegation of some tasks to free up your time
- Motivation in the form of accountability – someone to keep you on track
- Celebration of your success
Make sure you regularly schedule some time in with a cheerleader with whom you can unashamedly share your successes.
If you don’t know of anyone who can provide you with any support, then now’s the time to focus on getting yourself a network in place. Working for yourself can sometimes feel rather isolating, so if you are self-employed or you work from home, you may like to read another article I wrote on the importance of finding your tribe.
6. Remain flexible
Small businesses and solopreneurs are always juggling a busy set of priorities. There are times when life conspires against us and our path may be thrown off course by a supplier who cannot deliver, or a sick child requiring you to take time off.
Although set backs can be frustrating, accept that they are an inevitable part of work and home life. Allow enough flexibility in your schedule to allow yourself a little extra time or a change of plans if need be. This way your motivation won’t suffer when you’re faced with a sudden challenge.
Business goals and objectives can also change over time as fresh priorities emerge. Take time to constantly come back to your goals and review whether they are still relevant to where you are with your business. It’s ok to make changes as you go.
7. Accept imperfections and setbacks
Being at the helm of your own business means that you are accountable to your own high standards. However, there are times that we need to accept that not everything we do will be perfect. The fear of failure often stop us from moving forward because we fail to see the learning opportunity or new ways of thinking that may come from taking the first step.
When you find that your progress is being hindered by your own inner critic, know that there is often never a perfect time or situation to do anything. Yes, you may make some mistakes, but you will learn from them and adapt what you do for next time. The main thing in this situation is to keep moving forward and not hold yourself back by doubt and hesitation.
8. Stick with it!
Working on a new goal requires regular effort, which may not yield you overnight results. Imagine you wanted to run a 10k but you had never jogged before. You would allow yourself time to build up to the full run as you practiced each day on jogging for a little longer each time.
Business goal setting is very similar in that you focus on taking small steps that lead you to where you want to be. Even though the situation may not be perfect and you’re struggling against fear and uncertainty, it’s important to keep taking those baby steps and celebrating the distance you have covered.
9. Don’t forget to celebrate
It’s incredibly important to celebrate your wins! Often it can be too easy to pick out where you feel something could have been done better, or it didn’t succeed at all. By celebrating your success you are taking the time to acknowledge the effort that has gone into your achievement. Take some time to review each stage of the process and you’ll find it’s a powerful way to close each chapter and keep you renewed and revitalised for the next stage ahead.
Are you self employed or a small business owner? How do you set and monitor your goals?
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