Setting goals is important for any area of life, especially business. Setting goals is like picking a destination on a map. Without a destination, you are not likely to get where you want to and you probably will not know if you have arrived. It is the same thing with goals. You are not likely to achieve what you want without setting them and without defining them, you will not know when you have achieved what you want to. Without goals, you and your business are left to wandering and going with the flow, like a leaf in the wind. Hopefully you end up somewhere nice but there are a lot of unpleasant places to land. People set goals of varying levels of specificity and achieve them with varying levels of success. If you are not interested in leaving your business, your future, your survival or your lifestyle to chance or to the whims of others, you will want to set specific, measurable goals. The benefits of setting goals is that they provide a direction, they hint at the pathway to take and they make life simpler.
People set goals in all areas of life, often without thinking of them as goals. A goal is an aim, a desired result or a destination of a journey. In that case, goals can be getting milk from the grocery store, tying your shoes like you do every day, winning a gold medal, increasing profits by 10% or becoming the most profitable company in the world. What ever it is, there is a desired result and a journey to achieving it. When you need to get milk from the store, life is simple. Unless it is your first time buying milk, you know what to do and where to go. It simply becomes a matter of doing it. If it is your first time buying milk, you may not know all of the stores that sell milk or where the milk is located inside the store or the price of milk or the best size to get or all of the types of milk you could buy, but you probably know enough information that hints at what pathway to take. At the very least, you will know enough information to be able to ask questions to find out how to go about the journey of buying milk. It sets you in a direction to discover the pathway to buying milk. Along your journey to buying milk, there will be many choices and options presented to you such as which road to take, which store to go to, who to talk to and what to buy. Some of these choices are distractions from your goal of buying milk. You may be tempted to buy something else or go to a store that does not sell milk or take a road that leads in the wrong direction. However, life is simple when you have a goal. For each set of options, some will take you closer to buying milk and some will take you astray. It seems obvious to take the road towards the store that sells milk but in business or the rest of life, the options do not always seem that clear for us.
When the pathway is not clear for us, it is because we are either going somewhere new or our goal is not specific and measurable. With buying milk, you either bought it or you did not. There is no kind of, sort of or almost bought milk. It is obvious when you have achieved your goal. The same applies to business and life. Goals need to be specific and measurable so that you can build a pathway to achieving them, can see when you are going in the right direction, and can see whether you have achieved them or not. Since some goals may not come with specifics, you will need to create ways to make them specific and measurable. For example, becoming the most innovative in your industry is not measurable. Does it mean the most new patents in a year? Does it mean having a product that is voted the most innovative by industry experts? Does it mean winning an particular award for innovation? You will need to invent specific statistics and measures for your business goals.
People are sometimes reluctant to create specific, measurable goals because they are afraid of failing and what that would mean about them if they fail. The fear comes from the unknown. The fear comes from not knowing how to achieve the goals and from being uncertain of the future outcome. When this fear prevents us from setting goals, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Figuring out how to achieve our goals comes after setting them, not before. However, human beings do not do things that they believe are not possible so if the goals do not occur as possible to attain, people will not create the goals in the first place. If they do create goals that they think are not possible, they are dreaming and will not take the actions to achieve them.
What does it take to consistently create and achieve your goals? Often, there is a bit of mystery around this. You have achieved some of your goals more consistently than others. Some of your goals have given up on and some have been replace with other goals.
To consistently create and achieve your business goals, you need the following:
- Telling the truth to yourself about what you will actually do and what you will not do. The same goes for what your staff will do and not do. This gives you a realistic idea of what you have to work with. Once you have goals and a plan, you will be able to see what resources, skills and people your business will need to acquire if necessary.
- Get clarity about where your business currently is. This is your starting point and it is difficult to reach your destination when you do not know where you are. This includes the current level of results being produced (sales, income, expenses, profit, etc.), current skill sets, people, resources, and capacities of your business.
- Create clear outcomes your business desires to achieve. Outcomes are qualitative whereas results are quantitative. The results will be created later inside of goals.
- Goals that are grounded in reality. They can be conservative or lofty, however they can not be pie in the sky. The goals you create must occur as real even if no one knows how to achieve them yet. Many people have dreams and dreams are nice. However, many people like their dreams and believe that they want their dreams to come true when they actually do not. The way to test this is to see if their behaviour is consistent with fulfilling those dreams. If the behaviours are inconsistent, then it is time to tell the truth and create realistic goals.
- Create a set of goals that your business is willing to promise to achieve no matter what as a matter of its word. The goals are specific, measurable results that define the outcomes your business will achieve. Figuring out how to achieve them will come in planning.
- Create a set of realistic yet optimistic goals that your business wants to achieve. The purpose for having optimistic goals is that your business plans to achieve them, and if the things go wrong along the way, your business can still achieve the goals that the business promised in number 5. If everything goes well, even better. Either way, your business wins.
- Create a plan to go from where your business currently is, to achieving the optimistic goals. The plan must contain clear actions throughout so that you and your business can see the pathway for achieving the goals. Once you see what must be done at every step of the way, the goals suddenly occur as attainable and doable. Ideally, you would have multiple pathways or backup plans to achieve your goals. When done properly, it becomes difficult to not achieve your goals. You can read more in our article about planning here.
Going through the process of creating goals for your business ensures that there is clarity about your business, there is direction, and clear actions to take in growing your business.