Do you feel like you’re putting in tons of time and effort but not seeing results in terms of increased revenue, profit, or growth for your business? Setting SMART goals could be the game changer you’re looking for.
If you have big dreams for your business, but don’t feel hard work alone is getting you where you want or need to be, SMART goals can give your dreams definition and direction. In my blog Do You Know Where You’re Going?, I touched on how important it is to know what you want for your business – to know where you want to go. Without that insight, you may feel like you’re wandering aimlessly.
If you’re wandering aimlessly, you may also start to wonder what the purpose to all of it is. Why are you working as hard as you are if you’re just spinning your wheels day after day? What’s the point if all that effort and energy results in you not being able to pay yourself well for your time? That’s often where the dream starts to die and many small business owners burn out or consider throwing in the towel.
When I work with business owners who find themselves frustrated and ready to throw in the towel, I always go back to the basics and ask them the following questions:
- Why did you start your business?
- What were your dreams for your business when you started?
- What is your dream for your business now?
- What goals have you set to get you there?
When I get to the question about goals, I often either get a blank look or they tell me they’ve set goals in the past, but haven’t been successful in achieving them. That leads to an honest discussion about the importance of setting achievable goals for a business, as well as what they really want for their future. And that’s a great start for turning things around!
When you think about the future of your business, it should always include goals.
Dictionary.com defines a goal as “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed.” I’ve also seen goals defined as “the destination of a journey.” Result or destination, one thing is clear from my years as a productivity and profit coach. Vague goals (and dreams) are hard to reach. You need clarity, an action plan, and effort to get there.
SMART goals will…
- help you clarify what you want and why you want it.
- define and give direction
- help you see the bigger picture and the purpose to it all.
- provide an action plan, which serves as a roadmap and increases your likelihood of success.
- motivate, because they are relevant, meaningful, and have milestones to celebrate along the way
- encourage better decision making, because your purpose and direction are clear – choices either fit or don’t fit with the goal.
- help you prioritize the tasks and activities that will move your business forward, so you can stop feeling like you’re just spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
How do they do all that? There are elements to SMART goals that cause you to dig deeper to really define your goal. And that can be the difference between achievement and missing the target.
What are SMART goals?
Though there are variations on the theme, SMART Goals are commonly defined as goals that are Specific, Measurable (or Meaningful), Achievable, Relevant (or Realistic), and Time-Bound.
They are a “deeper dig” when it comes to goal setting, and rely on a clearly stated vision, steps to take along the way, and a set finish line.
SMART = Specific
One element that makes SMART goals effective is that they are very specific. You could say “I want to grow my business” or “I need to make more money this year” and call that a goal, which it might be. However, just making those statements won’t make it happen. To start, those statements are pretty vague.
With SMART goals, you create a clear vision statement which expresses the exact result you are striving for. For example, instead of stating, “I want to grow my business this year,” you would frame it as, “I want to add 3 major clients at the x level and increase my online sales by 15% by December 15.”
Once you clearly define the goal, you can work backwards to create the strategies and steps to get you there.
SMART = Measurable and Meaningful
Two of the M representations typically used when talking about SMART Goals are Measurable and Meaningful.
In terms of Measurable, I always suggest you build in another powerful M – Milestones. When you set SMART goals, it’s good to have benchmarks – for two reasons. First, milestones mark your path, and reaching those smaller goals signals you’re on the right path. The markers measure your progress.
Second, milestones are incredibly Motivating. They give you an opportunity to celebrate smaller wins along the way to the bigger goal. I have always been an advocate for breaking bigger tasks into more manageable pieces and I am all about celebrating wins – big and small! More immediate gratification definitely helps when it comes to motivation.
In terms of Meaningful, it’s so important to make sure business (and personal) goal-setting is based in what you value most. Meaningful goals, like Milestones, are extremely Motivating. It’s your answer to “why am I doing this?” when challenges pop up along the way. When you base your goals on your values and are working toward something that matters to you, you’re far more likely to see the value in following through.
SMART = Achievable
The thinking behind the Achievable part of SMART goals is that you should aim high but not so high that it’s out of reach. Stretch yourself, but don’t set yourself up for failure. If your ultimate goal isn’t reachable right now – for various reasons like inability to take a class to learn the skills you need or lack of available resources – and you ignore that reality, you’re far more likely to get frustrated and bail on the whole thing. I encourage you to really consider the goal you’re setting, make sure it’s achievable, and give yourself the best possible chance for success.
SMART = Relevant and Realistic
The Realistic part of SMART goals goes right along with Achievable. It’s great to dream big, but dreams will stay dreams if we can’t bring them into reality. If the goal you want to set doesn’t seem realistic (for whatever reason), choose a goal that is. If you set a more reachable, realistic target now, you may find you’re in a better position for the bigger dream once you’ve reached the smaller goal first.
Realistic also relates to your personality, your values, and who you are as a business owner. Would you be able to stay focused on a goal that extends out 3-5 years or would a 1-year goal make more sense? Are there sacrifices you would have to make, but are unwilling to make, to reach your goal? Use what you know and understand about yourself, your personality, and your values to set goals that are realistic for you.
The Relevant component of SMART goals goes along with Meaningful. Relevance matters when it comes to staying Motivated to keep moving toward the goal. When a goal is relevant, it organically generates a clear list of benefits. And that list of benefits is what will give you the reason to keep going if the going gets rough.
SMART = Time-Bound
The Time-bound part of SMART goals simply means you create the light at the end of the tunnel. It is the “when” you will reach the destination or result. If you don’t set it, your goal could still feel vague and you could once again find yourself aimlessly wandering and spinning your wheels. Milestones are also time-bound, for the same reason.
What are SMARTER Goals?
SMARTER goals are SMART goals that go just a little further, in an important way. Somewhere along the way the E and R were added. I’ve seen different ideas on what they should stand for, but the best I’ve seen are Evaluated and Reviewed.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Business environments (and life) are dynamic and responsive to variables – both anticipated and unknown. If you build evaluation and review into your benchmarks and time frames, you’ll be able to make adjustments, if necessary.
In the end, nobody can promise SMART goals, or even SMARTER goals, are a magical secret for success. With goal setting and SMART goals, like anything else, the tool works well when you use it effectively and consistently. I have lots of tips and strategies for helping you do just that.
Setting SMART goals and formulating an action plan gives you a roadmap for the purposeful activities that will move your business forward. SMART goals can help you clarify and plan those purposeful actions. The more specific you can be with the goal, as well as the action steps you’ll take to get there, the better.
Remember, a goal is the destination of a journey. So, lay the path, take the steps, and you CAN reach the finish line – even if you’ve struggled to reach it in the past.