Business goals

Why goal setting is important

Goal setting gives you both direction and a destination – and encourages you and your staff to reach beyond your perceived limits. Here, we outline the benefits of goal setting and how to set effective goals.

Goal setting and success

Imagine a person walking into a train station with some luggage and going up to the ticket office to ask for a ticket. "Where do you want to go?" asks the ticket clerk. "I'm not sure," replies the traveller, "but I have a feeling I should be going somewhere."

Some businesses limp along in this manner – feeling like they should be moving forward, without knowing exactly where they’re going or how they’ll get there.

Trying to work without definite goals is like setting off on a journey without a map or destination. Without goals we tend merely to drift through life, achieving far less than we’re really capable of.

The motivational power of goal setting

The motivating power of goal setting is considerable. Goals are crucial to your success because they:

  • Allow you to take control of your business's destiny – rather than simply letting events control you.
  • Give you the opportunity to motivate yourself and your staff – which can be a distinguishing mark of successful business people.

The importance of planning

Your business goals should arise out of your business plan, rather than being conceived in isolation from it. So, planning comes first – and then come the goals.

The important point here is that all the goals you set should serve a common strategic vision for the business.

Put your goals in writing

It’s important to write down both your personal and business goals, and keep them where you can see them. It’s no use storing the goals in your head. Studies have shown that written goals are far more effective than vague aims lurking in the back of your mind.

This is because you have to think before you can write, and this thinking both clarifies your goals and starts your process of commitment and involvement. Also, you can refer back to your written goals long after you've forgotten passing thoughts.

In the case of business goals, think about displaying them prominently where staff can see them.

Be brief and specific

Keep your goal statements short and be specific. Vague goals are meaningless, like:

  • "We’re going to be more successful at selling."

Instead write down meaningful, quantifiable goals, such as:

  • "We’ll increase sales by 12% each month for the next five months.”

Name all the facts, figures and dates relating to your goal. This makes your goal more real and motivates everyone to accomplish it. Vagueness on the other hand just offers an escape route. If the goal was never clearly defined, how can anyone tell if it was satisfactorily achieved or not?

Goals should be your own

Your own, carefully considered goals carry far more conviction than a goal imposed upon you by someone else. Avoid letting others set goals for you.

Encourage your staff to set their own business or personal growth goals that align with the goals of your business. By encouraging them to take ownership of their own goals you're empowering them to improve their performances.

Choose challenging but not impossible goals

There’s also no point in setting wildly unrealistic goals that you or your staff can't possibly achieve. You’ll only end up diminishing your self-confidence, or their respect, and losing faith in the whole process of goal setting.

Instead, the joy of goal setting lies in meeting – and sometimes beating – your targets. Your aim is to set goals that are achievable but get staff out of their 'comfort zones.’

Share your goals with others

Let people close to you see your personal goals. Share your business goals with:

  • Your advisors and mentors.
  • Strategic or joint venture partners.

Sharing your goals with others will make you more committed to them and will also enable others to offer appropriate feedback to help achieve them.

Accept responsibility for your goals

Treat goals as a contract that you and your staff set out to fulfil. Encourage them to take the contract as seriously as any other they would commit to. In many instances, you can visually display the steps towards your goal.

It may also be appropriate to reward staff for achieving goals. You can use goal setting to tap into the spirit of competition so that all your staff lift their game.

Set a definite deadline for each goal

A goal is not a goal until it has a deadline. Human nature leans towards putting things off. If we didn't have deadlines, we probably wouldn't start anything. Therefore, we need the pressure of a set time limit if we’re ever to achieve our goals.

Measure performance

Choose goals that you can monitor and measure. It's important to set short-term and medium-term goals as stepping-stones towards long-term goals. You’ll need regular steps along the way that allow feedback on your progress.

Achieving each step boosts morale and commitment and keeps everyone firmly on course towards your major target.

Review your goals regularly

Nothing diminishes confidence as quickly as an exercise born in a flush of enthusiasm, then forgotten or abandoned. If you set goals and then forget to follow them up, your staff will soon learn that you’re not serious about achieving them.

Scheduling regular goal reviews with your staff and with advisors is therefore very important, because the reviews remind everyone that you remain committed to achieving your business’s goals.

The business world is changing rapidly so don’t be afraid to change or alter some goals to fit new circumstances. There's no point in pursuing goals that are no longer meaningful to your business. Take stock of your situation every so often.

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