Starting and running a business is a journey.
And along that journey, you’ll likely be setting goals to help guide your personal and professional growth.
The key is to identify and set goals that, when met, will deliver results. After all, you have enough to juggle. You don’t want to waste time on vague or unattainable goals that do nothing to help you and your business grow and improve.
Instead, focus on setting SMART goals. Let’s first explore what they are, then we’ll give you a few examples to help jumpstart your own goal-setting process.
WHAT ARE SMART GOALS?
The SMART acronym dates back to November 1981 in Spokane, Wash., according to Project Smart. Consultant George T. Doran published a paper titled, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.”
SMART goals, in short, provide a results-oriented framework to goal-setting. Think back to your own experiences with goals or everybody’s favorite: New Year’s resolutions! You can likely pinpoint more than one occasion on which you set a goal and then had trouble meeting it. Or, if you did, perhaps that goal didn’t deliver the anticipated result.
That’s where SMART goals can help. Let’s break down the acronym:
Specific — Vague, open-ended goals are often an inhibitor to progress. For example, a goal of “I want to sell more product” isn’t specific enough. Try assigning a value and a timeline to the goal so that it becomes “I want to increase product sales by 25% within the next year.”
Measurable — If you can’t measure your goal, how can you be sure you achieved it? Setting measurable goals also helps if you’re looking at long-term goal setting. That way, you can periodically check your stats to see what progress you’re making. If you want to increase your year-over-year website traffic, for example, you wouldn’t wait a year to monitor traffic stats. Instead, you’d likely check in at least monthly to see if you’re on track to meet your original goal.
Attainable — This can be a tricky one for entrepreneurs, since so many of us are used to thinking and acting big! But when it comes to goal-setting, there’s a balance between a goal that’s challenging and one that’s simply unrealistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure out of the gate and, instead, think of what you want to achieve given your particular circumstances and limitations.
Relevant — It can be tempting to set long-term goals that will give you the added boost to make big things happen. Instead, ensure your goals are relevant to your current and near-term situation, not to mention to you and your business. It’s easy to get caught up with what others are doing, especially on social media, and think that you need to set several goals to modify your entrepreneurial behavior. Instead, stick with what makes sense for you and your business. After all, these are your goals!
Timely — Again, don’t look too far down the road when goal-setting. It’s fine to set some one-, two-, even five-year benchmarks, but the more timely your goals, the more likely they are to be successful. For example, if you haven’t yet brought a product to market yet, you’d want to focus on that before you set a goal to boost product sales. You can also think of “timely” goals as “time-bound” — in other words, give yourself a deadline. Otherwise, it’s easy to keep pushing that goal to the bottom of the “to accomplish” list.
3 TIPS TO MAKE SMART GOALS WORK FOR YOU
Now that you’ve got a grasp of what SMART goals are, let’s explore how to make them work for you and your business.
Brainstorm first. Before you dive into setting goals, grab a piece of paper and a pen and indulge in a few minutes of brainstorming. Where are you right now with your business and professional skills? And where do you want to go? Making a list of things you want to focus on can help you identify where to start setting goals.Start small. We’ve talked about starting small and scaling up in other facets of your business, and goal-setting is no different. It’s often tempting to make a huge list of goals as you’re swept up by thoughts of what you’ll accomplish. Yet at some point, reality sets in, and the long list that once was invigorating now seems downright daunting. The trick is to start small. Set 1-3 goals, for example. Maybe you need to launch your website. Or you want to start an email newsletter. Or, on the professional development side, you want to start attending two networking events per month. Then, as you accomplish your goals, you can set more. And speaking of starting small: you don’t necessarily need your goals to hit every letter in the SMART acronym. If you can, that’s great. But otherwise, focus on at least three of those attributes, which will help you make more impactful and achievable goals.Document your goals. Whether it’s a notebook, a spreadsheet or a note on your smartphone, don’t forget to note your goals. That way, you can track your progress. No matter what goals you set, we’re betting you’re not going to achieve them overnight — and that’s good! Logging your goals not only makes them feel more official; you can also refer back to them and see how you and your business have grown. And if you don’t meet a goal, make some notes. What were the factors that impeded your success? Can you modify the goal for better results? Or did it highlight an area of your business that needs some attention? Your professional goals are very much a part of your entrepreneurial journey, so for both learning and posterity’s sake, it helps to record both goals and outcomes.
Ready to set a few goals of your own? Great news! And if you’re still unsure how to proceed, that’s fine, too. Instead, start with this goal: register for Kauffman FastTrac, a free online course that will help you launch your business. The self-paced curriculum includes a focus on goal-setting and just might be the inspiration you need to unleash your inner goal-setter!