Whether a sole-trader, contractor or owner of a small business with employees, it is important for you to know where your business is going and can identify when you have been successful. This can often be accomplished by setting goals.
Setting yourself goals is incredibly easy and is something we do all the time. ‘Tomorrow, I’m going to get up earlier’ is an example of a personal goal. Yet, for us to be able to use goals to make a sustained and measurable change to our businesses, we need to think sensibly about how we set goals.
In this blog post, I am going to explain how to write goals using the SMART principal.
What are SMART goals?
SMART is acronym that stands for SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RELEVANT and TIMED. These elements can be thought about in any order.
S – Specific
It is important to be specific around the details of your goal. How helpful is a goal that states “I want to make money” or “I want to gain customers”? Not very. A specific goal has a much better chance of being accomplished than a goal that is too general. If you have people working for you, they’ll need you to be specific about the end results you are looking for. The use of words such as ‘to increase’, ‘to generate’ or ‘to establish’ gets rid of any ambiguity.
When aiming for specificity, you can try answering the six ‘W’ questions:
- Who – Ask yourself who are the people who need to be involved in the setting of this goal. Inform them. Think about creating the goals collaboratively.
- What – Ask yourself what needs to be accomplished? The more detail you use the better as it will allow you to explore your goals in much more depth.
- When – This is more relevant to the ‘timed’ section of defining S.M.A.R.T. goals, however you should begin thinking about how much time your goals will need early on.
- Where – Though this may not always be applicable, do think about whether your goals are location-dependent and identify these here.
- Which – Here, you should identify the issues which may hold you back from achieving your goals. Think about any obstacles or any requirements you’d need to meet. This question can be beneficial in deciding if your goal is realistic.
- Why – Why are you writing this goal? For what reason? If you don’t know this, what is the point of making them?
M – Measurable
You’ll need to identify how you will measure the success of your goal. To do this, let’s think back to the goal, ‘I want more customers’ – this is an example of a goal that lacks measurable qualities. How will we know when this goal is achieved? When you have one more customer? Essentially this would be the goal being met but I doubt you’d feel completely happy with that result. To make the goal measurable you need to identify how many more customers.
Having a measurement will also help you know when you are making progress towards your goal and can let you know you are on the right track. Get numbers involved. State these numbers in terms of quantity, quality, timeliness or cost
A – Achievable
It’s good to have dreams but if these dreams are too lofty, you may be setting yourself up to fail. It’s likely you are. You will need to identify whether your goals are within your employee’s realm of authority and capabilities. There is no point stating that you want all your employees to be using the newfandagled IT system by the end of the month if they have not been trained in its use. A more achievable goal would be to have the all the staff train in the use of the IT system by the end of the month.
You can identify whether your goal is achievable by asking yourself: Is it POSSIBLE for me or my staff to achieve this goal? Or am I or are my staff in CONTROL of achieving this goal? If the goal is neither possible or able to be controlled, you will not be successful at it.
R – Relevant
Your business is unique. It may be tempting to try to follow the goals or objectives of other similar businesses but this will not aid the success of your business, with your staff, your location and your needs. Always refer the goal to your business, its unique elements and ensure it is align with your current, broader business objectives. Think about the goal in the context of your business, no one else’s.
T – Timed
Your goal must have a deadline. There can be no argument here. There is scope for extending your SMART goal if necessary and I mention this below, however, you will need to identify an achievable timeframe to complete your goal within as this provides the necessary focus and sense of urgency for the goal to happen. Setting a deadline requires an answer to the question: When do I want to have achieved my goal?
Extension of SMART goals
It is important to note that SMART goals are not static. Once a goal has been set, that isn’t the end of the matter. As with all areas of our businesses, we should be constantly monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the goals we set. You may look back and realise that a SMART goal you have set needs to change alongside your business’s needs. To do this you can write a SMARTER goal; this acronym adds Evaluate and Re-Do to the original.
The clarity about what you want your business to achieve that is created by writing your SMART or SMARTER goals will make all the difference between success and failure. It helps to focus all those involved in your business, ensuring you are all on the same page as well as providing you with an understanding of the progress and development of your business.
What processes do you follow when setting goals for your company?
Mel Green – Evergreen Editorial Services