Many businesses neglect setting clear goals. And even when they have an objective in sight, most fail to monitor their progress. This is especially true of small businesses.
According to a National Small Business Survey conducted by Staples, which gathered data from 300 companies with 20 employees or less, more than 80 percent had no idea where they were in relation to achieving business goals.
This means that as many as 22 million companies, of the more than 27 million in the U.S. as counted by the 2007 census, are essentially driving blindly towards the future.
Identify Your Destination
Running a business is much like driving; if you’re navigating unexplored territory without a roadmap, you’re going to have a hard time finding your destination. In fact, you may not even know what that destination is.
For example, let’s say you're on a road trip to a warm, sunny location – any warm, sunny location. Think of all the places you could end up if you don’t have a destination in mind. Doesn’t Death Valley, California meet the description? The temperatures there reach well over 110 degrees F, so it’s certainly “warm and sunny.” However, there’s nothing to do while sweating profusely except gaze at the sunbaked dirt.
San Diego, California, on the other hand, is also warm and sunny. It’s beautiful in comparison to Death Valley, with nice 70-degree weather, gorgeous beaches and plenty of opportunities for entertainment. If you know you want to arrive in San Diego and plan your route accordingly, your road trip becomes a success. What made the difference? You were specific about your destination. This is essential in business, too.
Get Specific about the Future
Business goals and objectives come in both short and long-term varieties. The timeline for a long-term goal may be one to five years. Short-term goals, by nature, have much shorter timelines. In fact, you can think of them as the points on the roadmap that will get you to your long-term initiative, or destination. Each initiative may require meeting a number of short-term objectives successfully.
Goal setting theory relies on details. The more specific you are in defining your goals, the easier it will be to identify and connect the dots to create your route. For example, let’s say you want to double your revenue within over the next year. If last year’s revenue was $100,000, your long-term goal becomes increasing that to $200,000.
It may sound like a lot, but before you become overwhelmed, remember that we can easily convert strategic goals like this into smaller, less intimidating points on our map. One year contains 12 months in total. If we divide $100,000 (the amount you need to increase revenue to reach your long-term goal) by 12, we discover that you need to add an additional $8,333 in revenue to your stream each month. Let’s say you can do that by selling 28 additional $297 products each month.
Here are your goals:
- Long-term: Double revenue to $100,000 by end of next year
- Short-term: Increase sales by $8,333 per month by selling 28 additional products every four weeks
Search the Internet for a goal setting worksheet and goal setting templates, or create your own based on the outline above.
Now it’s time to determine how you’re going to get those new clients. These are the steps you’ll take to meet your short-term goal, which in turn will get you to the long-term goal. For example, we’ll imagine your website has a two percent conversion rate.
This means that you really only need an extra 1400 targeted visitors to your website each month and you’ll have 28 additional sales. It’s up to you to determine the actions you’ll need to complete to bring those targeted visitors to your site, but that sounds a whole lot easier than adding $100,000 in extra sales.
Now you at least know what you need to meet your goal. You've specified getting 1400 additional visitors will get you there.
Stay on Course
By using these types of goal setting strategies, you easily create a roadmap to reach your long-term destination. Incorporating each step into your daily activities will help you stay on course. It will also keep your workload manageable.
For example, we’ll imagine that sending an email newsletter to your prospects database generates a minimum of 450 website visitors each time. Creating and sending it, start to finish, takes you ten hours. Sending out a press release on the Internet generates another 250 visitors, and takes five hours. Send two email newsletters to your prospect list and two press releases each month and you have your additional 1400 website visitors.
Yes, that’s 30 hours of work you need to complete, and it may sound like a lot when you consider everything else you’re doing to run your business. However, divide those 30 hours out over four weeks and you end up with 7.5 hours per week or about 1.5 hours per day. If you honestly don’t have this amount of time in your daily schedule for business building activities, delegate or outsource it.
The key to staying on course is consistency and sticking to your plan. When you do, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing your monthly goals met. This, in turn, will further motivate you to stay on top of the daily and weekly tasks that lead to that success – and, eventually, reaching your long-term goal.
There will always be some tasks involved in running a business that you don’t enjoy. For me, I don’t like sending my bank statements to my accountant every month. I have no idea why I despise this task, but I do. However, I don’t have a choice in the matter – he needs those statements. He sends me a reminder to keep me from sending them too late.
Reminders really help, whether they prompt you to do something you don’t enjoy or work on a project you are excited about. They are fabulous little helpers when it comes to staying on course with your goals – and there are many ways to generate them.
One way is to recruit an accountability partner. Maybe this is a mentor, or a friend who is also trying to build a business. Give this person a list of the tasks you need to complete each week. Ask him or her to send you an email reminder every Monday. Then make an appointment at the end of the month to get together and see how much you can check off.
Whiteboards are invaluable as well, especially for those of us who love to make lists. Write your tasks for the week on a prominently displayed whiteboard and you will have a constant reminder of the actions you must take to stay on course. For those who prefer a techie approach, set your goals and reminders in your Outlook calendar – just don’t get into the habit of hitting the snooze button.
Are You Ready to Drive?
Stephen A. Brennan once said, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to create my roadmap and drive towards the successful completion of my own business goals. I hope you will join me.