The Importance of Setting Ambitious but Achievable Goals

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goal settingSetting ambitious and achievable goals is one of the foundation blocks every business leader must address. From a cursory perspective, setting ambitious but achievable goals can seem an easy, obvious exercise. But, when the business leader truly considers those goals, he or she quickly realizes that company goals affect every customer, employee, supplier and creditor of the business. Indeed, a company’s goals are the company’s future.

With that in mind, the results of the 4th Annual Staples National Small Business Review Survey provided some startling information about small business owners. 80 percent of 300 small business owners indicated that they do not track their progress on company goals. Not surprisingly, 77 percent of the 300 business owner’s expectations.

Setting ambitious and achievable goals for a business comes at a cost. First, the owner and key personnel will have to dedicate the time to create the goals. Secondly, some of the goals may require budgeting expenditures and small businesses often have difficulty maintaining the discipline to invest in the company’s future when most often survival seems the owner’s primary goal.

Operating a business without goals adds to this survival mode. Investing the time and a reasonable percentage of the budget into the business future is what adds value to the enterprise and creates equity for all shareholders.

The Discipline of Goal Setting

Be they personal or business goals, the discipline of setting ambitious but achievable goals is structured. Goals have definite characteristics:

  • Specificity – Business goals must conform to the mission statement, solid and detailed. Goals should answer the five “w’s;” who, what, where, when, why.
  • Measurable – Goals should be quantified and easy to track.
  • Attainable – Every goal should be achievable but not without challenge. The idea is to advance the enterprise, not to create goals that would be achieved through a natural progression.
  • Relevant – Goals must be relevant to the enterprise, its employees, customers, creditors and suppliers.
  • Action-Oriented – If goals are to be achieved, an action plan must address which employees will accomplish the specific tasks that will make to operation successful.
  • Time-specific – Every goal should have a deadline. Goals can be separated into short-term goals and long-term goals.

The Benefits of Goal Setting

Goal-setting benefits everyone connected to the business. Proper goal-setting accomplishes the following benefits:

  • Assures all related parties there is a plan for success.
  • Assures everyone there is focus on growth.
  • Ensures structure.
  • Delivers motivation to the workforce.
  • Reduces doubts and eliminate procrastination.
  • Identifies objects and sets remedial actions in place.

Goals Have Parameters

Long and short-term goals should be identified. The accomplishment of shorter goals is presumed by long-term goals. Long-term goals usually evolve over 3-5 year periods. Shorter-term goals can run from six-months to three years.

Business goals are usually divided into four categories:

Service – Relates to services, including customer service that the business will provide. Usually these goals are designed to improve customer retention and customer satisfaction.

Profit – Goals to increase profits by defined percentages.

Growth – These goals focus on expanding the company, services and customer base.

Social – Social goals should not be disregarded. Goals designed to increase the company’s status in the periphery of their market should be defined and an action plan to have a sustained activity level should be set in place.

The Ambitious Goals Setting Process

The process of setting ambitious but achievable goals often requires input from not only the owner but from other sources, such as key personnel, accountants and consultants. The time and expense of these endeavors can be easily justified by recognizing that this exercise may well determine the future of the enterprise.

The goal-setting process includes the following stages:

The purpose – The purpose of small business goal-setting sets short and long-term goals that advance the mission statement and in turn may redefine the mission.

Reset focus – Separate the important goals from the unimportant goals. Goal setting eliminates distractions.

Small steps – Goals should be broken down into small steps that can be tracked. Goal setting also identifies who will make those steps and when.

Keep it simple – All goals must be identified in plain language and stated in digestible form. The more quantified the goals are, the easer they are to track.

Envision the future – Goal setting really begins with an accurate understanding of where the enterprise stands today and where the owner envisions its proper place in the future and identifying the steps necessary to get there.

Stay motivated – Goals keep everyone, including the highest level of management, motivated. When the owner sets the goals, he or she will see where the biggest challenges reside.

Let the past go – Remember that goal setting is about the future. Learn from lessons of the past but do not let them dominate your vision for the future.

Track progress – Goal setting comes with responsibility. To keep the goals moving forward, the small business owner must follow, review and track all goals. This is so important, but as clearly evidenced by the Staples National Small Business Survey, can be challenging for small business owners who inevitably wear many hats.

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