How to Set Achievable Business Goals for Your Next Startup

Starting a business is a very complicated task, filled with lots of formalities, paperwork and politics. Starting a successful business is even harder, because it requires all your time and devotion, as well as strong determination, the will to follow your goals strictly and to not give in to difficulties on the road. Determining achievable goals is a good first step towards creating a business, which is unfortunately often underestimated by young entrepreneurs. This is one of the main reasons 1/3 of the new businesses don’t make it past their first year. Setting achievable goals for your business will help you be more focused on the most important things and set aside wild targets and impossible to achieve objectives. Here’s a few tips to help with this.

Use the S.M.A.R.T. Acronym for Setting Short-Term Goals. The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is one of the most popular methods for determining business goals nowadays. It’s a term from the end of the 20th century, it was first mentioned in an issue of Management Review from 1981, where they published a paper written by George T. Doran called “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives”. According to the publication, all business goals should be Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Timed:

  • Specific – every successful business goal has a clearly defined objective. For instance, if you want to increase customer satisfaction or revenue, first you need to define your market, which channel you will use, by how much, which methods you will employ, and so on.
  • Measured – Every goal should be measured and the steps towards its completion should be properly calculated. If you want to improve customer service, first you need to know your customer satisfaction rates, your retention rate, find out why your clients choose you, look at your customer reviews and determine which are your strong and weak sides. Every business goal you have contains smaller tasks which need to be achieved in order to get the data you need.
  • Achievable – Every true business goal is linked to a budget and some realistic expectations. Otherwise, it would be a dream, not a goal. Of course, dreams are also very important for a successful entrepreneur, but they are often too obscure, while goals need to happen here and now.
  • Realistic – Is this what you work on? Is it consistent with the mission of your company? Is everyone on board?
  • Timed – Every goal should have a time target. Without a time limit, it’s difficult to measure the success of the goal.

Determine Your Long-Term Aims. According to most business analysts, long-term goals usually fall into four general categories – social, service, profit or growth:

  • Social – This type of goals focuses on giving back to the community, through volunteer organizations, philanthropy or organizing charity events, for instance.
  • Service – These goals are related to improving your customer service, the customer satisfaction rate or customer loyalty.
  • Profit – When choosing this direction, you’ll need to focus on increasing profits by a certain number or percentage.
  • Growth – All goals related to the expansion of your startup, like hiring new employees, developing new services or products, and so on.

When you choose the long-term direction of your company, you need to evaluate your possibilities and focus on what you really want and need to achieve.

Take organized action. The truth is that no matter how simple and neat your plans are, growing a business often requires a lot more than a few goals. In fact, you will be overrun by many big and small tasks, and it will be difficult to keep track of all of them. A good way to stay organized is to keep digital checklists of all your short-term goals and regularly check on the status of each one. You can use a simple Microsoft Excel file, make different sheets for each goal, and in each sheet write down the specific tasks which need to be done. Once the task is done, you can mark it there and leave notes if needed.

Be consistent. Another big problem, which can come from having too many goals, is them contradicting each other. For instance, many companies want 100% customer satisfaction rate, but they also want to have high margins. Well, working on customer satisfaction rates is quite expensive, because it involves PR campaigns, giveaways and proper risk management, so you can’t have both at the same time, you should choose which goal is more important to you and stick with it.

Appreciate the successes. An important, but often overlooked part of the goal-setting process, is to appreciate the successes you and your employees make. You’re all working very hard to achieve something in your business, so you deserve to be rewarded when that hard work finally pays off. And it doesn’t have to be a financial incentive even, you can show your appreciation in many ways – a cake, a small celebration in the office, anything that will show your employees that you’re a team and in this together. It will help morale and inspire everyone to work even harder.

Jane Wilson is a full time working mom, a blogger and a marketing and social media manager from Melbourne. She manages everything marketing-related in Fantastic Cleaners Melbourne, a company that specialises in providing cleaning and home improvement services in the area. Her work there is an inspiration for all her projects related to sustainable living and nature friendly cleaning. She also owns a personal blog, called Modern Housewives, where she provides all kinds of home and garden related tips.