Setting goals is a foundational step of building your business. Business goals are the motivating force behind successful companies of all sizes. They keep your business moving forward, and without them, you can’t get from where you are now to where you want to be. While most people know the importance of setting goals, achieving them is the hard part.
Other than your business idea, having goals is an essential ingredient in your company’s success. A quick Google search will yield tons of results about goal setting and what the most effective methods are. While there are many goal setting strategies, what they all have in common are long term goals, short term goals, and a roadmap of how to get there.
In this post, we’ll discuss the top five tips on how to set and achieve your business goals for 2021.
1. Learn to set business goals properly
To set a goal, you must first learn proper goal setting. It seems obvious, right? Yet, this is the area where many entrepreneurs get stuck. Without thoughtfully created goals, you run the risk of spinning your wheels and burning out. It’s better to pause and take the time to create your goals rather than rushing into it just to say you did it.
The most well-known method of goal setting is SMART goals. The concept of SMART goals was coined in 1981 by a consultant named George T. Doran. Since then, it’s been used by countless executives and business owners to grow and transform their businesses systematically. To help you get started, here are examples of what SMART goals look like.
- Specific: Vague goals won’t work. Be as specific as possible. A vague goal would be “grow my website traffic.” A specific goal would be “drive traffic to attract 500 unique visitors per month.”
- Measurable: Your goals should include milestones and metrics. An example of a measurable goal would be “produce two blog posts per week to increase website traffic at a rate of 10% per week.”
- Attainable: Make sure your goal is realistic. While it’s great to shoot for the stars, seeing results is what will ultimately keep you going. Big long-term goals should involve achievable, shorter-term goals within them, which allow you to see quick wins, keep motivation high, and momentum going.
- Relevant: Make sure your goal fits with your overall business plan and makes sense for you to go after. For example, you’ve determined that your website is an issue, and it needs to be rebuilt. However, when you look at the cost plus all of the time and resources it takes to build a website from scratch, it may not make sense for your overall business goals. Perhaps editing and optimizing your existing site would be more worthwhile.
- Time-Based: Your goal should be time-specific and deadline-oriented. Deadlines will allow you to work backward and see how much activity is needed daily to produce a result.
“Studies have shown the most important element of goal setting is not achieving every task exactly as you had imagined (or when), but putting in the work at the beginning to determine and outline your goal. This process of envisioning the steps to get where you want to be helps you define the right path early on, so you don’t waste time aimlessly wandering toward your goal.”
Allison Dundovich, CEO of Bloom Mindfulness
2. Clarify and commit to your business goals
Once you’ve learned to set goals, it’s essential to choose your goal and commit to it. A common mistake is setting too many goals and then completing none of them. Becoming hyper-focused on a goal supercharges results. While there are several areas of your business that may need improvement, it’s crucial only to pursue the most important goals.
- Make a list of the areas of your business you’d like to improve.
- List them in order from the highest importance to least.
- Choose the top 2 or 3 goals to focus on and make sure they’re achieved before moving on to the other goals on the list.
After you’ve clarified which goal (or goals) you’ll go after, it’s time to commit. This may seem obvious. If we choose to go after goals, of course, we’re committed, right? Not necessarily. It’s easy to commit to a goal when it’s new and exciting. But when reality sets in, you’ll realize that the day-to-day demands of reaching your goal can be tedious and tiring.
Committing to your goals means sticking with it, even when it’s no longer fun. It means showing up on the days that you don’t “feel” like it. It means following through even when your goal has lost its appeal. When you choose a goal, make the decision that you will continue even when it gets hard. The practice of committing is a valuable life skill that yields success in multiple areas of life, not just business.
“There are four quarters in a basketball game. Look at your business goals the same way. Surely you have that huge 2020 goal you want to accomplish, but every quarter there needs to be one or two mini-goals that connect to your larger annual goals. Focus is a superpower, so if you can tap into that superpower of being ultra-focused in accomplishing those goals each quarter, that one-year goal becomes easier to achieve.”
Daniel Blue, President of Quest Education
3. Learn time management
Once you have your goal and the steps it takes to get there, it’s time to get to work. Getting started on your goals requires forethought. Remember, we want to avoid burnout and spinning our wheels on unproductive activities. Time management is necessary to make meaningful progress toward our goals.
The freedom and autonomy you have as a CEO or founder can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have control over your schedules and decisions. On the other hand, you have no one to keep you on track other than yourself.
The antidote to not having guidance is time management. A Google search of time management could lead you down the rabbit hole as this is a hot topic that many entrepreneurs struggle with. Focus and prioritization is especially relevant today with the ever-growing amount of technological distractions.
One of the most well-known time management techniques in business today is called Pareto’s Principle, or the 80/20 rule. Pareto’s Principle states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities. In other words, if you had a to-do list of ten tasks, two of them will be worth more than the other eight. The reason why people lose productivity or don’t accomplish their goals is that they procrastinate on the most valuable items and waste time on the less productive tasks.
To put the 80/20 rule into effect with your SMART goals, make a list of tasks that will help you achieve your goal. Then ask yourself, “if I could only accomplish two things today, which ones would make the biggest impact on my goal?” Those tasks then become a priority.
Not only will this help with prioritization, but it can be useful for other areas of your business. For example, many business owners realize that 80% of their business is coming from 20% of their customer base. Recognizing this allows them to double down on the 20% instead of investing time into less lucrative aspects of the business.
“The Power of saying “No.” cannot be underestimated. There simply are not enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished, and allowing other people to set your agenda is an awful way to remain productive. Saying “No” to irrelevant tasks that distract from the important priorities in an agenda is the only way to be truly productive.”
David Reischer, Esq. Business Attorney & CEO of LegalAdvice.com
4. Track and measure
Once you’ve set your goals, how will you know you’re on the right track? Right after you set your goals, decide how you’ll measure them. Do not begin to work toward your goals without a tracking technique. You want to be sure that your output is productive and moving the needle. You cannot be sure of your progress without tracking. You’ll also want this information so that you can repeat your success in the future.
Reaching your goals is an incremental process. It isn’t enough to set a goal and then regroup once it’s been achieved. To make sure you’re headed toward your goal, you must create key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are benchmarks that guide you along. They also enable you to experience little wins on your way to the ultimate goal.
To create KPIs, determine your goal and then reverse engineer the steps it will require. For example, let’s say your goal is to produce $25,000 in revenue per month. You might determine that you need to meet with ten customers per week to achieve your monthly revenue goal. To get ten meetings, you’ll need to cold-call or email 65 customers per week to get ten customer meetings. Your KPIs will look like this:
- Goal: $300,000 per year
- Monthly Revenue: $25,000
- Weekly Customer Meetings: 10
- Daily Number of Cold Calls: 13
By looking at the end goal and working backward, you can determine the KPIs you need to achieve it. KPIs will show you where you are in relation to your goal, but they’ll also motivate you.
Science has proven that we feel accomplished when we experience quick wins or check off small goals on our way to bigger ones. When we’re just starting, our goals can seem vast and overwhelming. That’s why it’s more important to focus on incremental KPIs than the end goal.
“To achieve our goals, we implemented a key performance indicator (KPI) system in accordance to each team and their workflows. The KPIs range from project duration to ad revenue. The KPI per team is the most important quantifiable measure of the whole team’s performance. Since implementing this KPI system, company performance has dramatically improved. We’ve seen great collaboration within teams, more innovative thinking, a greater work ethic, and improved morale with the increased transparency and being part of a team that is working towards a clear and common goal.”
Kean Graham, CEO & Founder of MonetizeMore
5. Accountability and support
To achieve your business goals, accountability is essential. That’s why it’s so important to involve others in your goal setting process. Whether you post your goals publicly on social media or share them with your team, you must let someone else know what you’re working on.
If it’s not your style to publicly proclaim your goals, an accountability partner allows you to have skin in the game without feeling exposed. The point of letting others know about your goal is to feel as though something is on the line. If you keep your goals to yourself, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook. When someone else knows about your goals, you’ll feel obligated to follow through and avoid looking bad. There’s nothing worse than someone asking you about your progress and having to explain that you didn’t put in the work.
“Tips that I use to achieve my business goals are to write them down… but then get an accountability partner and set up weekly calls to make sure I accomplish them. When you have someone asking you about them, you are way more likely to get them completed.”
Bryan Sebring, Owner of Sebring Design Build
Every business has different goals, but all goals must have a framework. Loosely made goals without structure have the lowest probability of being achieved. Before haphazardly throwing out goals you think will move the needle, pause, and think through a strategy. Your goals must be adequately set, committed to, and measured. Time management techniques and outside accountability will assist you along the way.
Most importantly, make sure your goals are true to yourself and your business. Your business goals don’t have to be the same as others. Ultimately, you’ll find more success going after goals that truly motivate you.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for relevance.