Set Business Goals That Work

Set Business Goals That Work

Are You Ready for a New (and Better!) Year?

The beginning of a new calendar year is a convenient time to set goals, yet they often get kicked to the curb by the end of January. It’s easy to think “New Years’ goals never get followed through anyway, so it’s okay.” Most small businesses have a calendar year for financial purposes; rather than considering your goals as “resolutions”, think of them as part of your business process. They are reviewed regularly, monitored, and adjusted as needed.

If you’re ready to set business goals that work, here are the steps I go through at the beginning of a new year (or anytime I set goals):

  1. Know where you are starting from. All too often, we look out to where we want to end up without looking down at our own feet, to understanding from where we are starting. Consider setting your GPS when you head out to a new destination; first thing you’re asked is, “what’s your starting point?” It can feel a bit scary to look under your financial covers but it’s usually not as bad as you fear. If you haven’t already, begin tracking your key metrics; the end of a calendar year is a convenient time to begin.
  2. Know what results you want for your business year. Where do you want to end up? Again, defining a route on your GPS requires a destination. While I’m all for “Big, Bodacious Goals”, your goals also need to be realistic, you need to be able to see yourself reaching your goals.
  3. Define your path. Once you’ve defined your starting point and your desired destination, define the most direct route. While you don’t need to know every step you will need to take, you do need to define the next step, and have a general understanding for possible further steps. My clients have heard “What’s the most logical next step?” from me again and again. Like in travel, there are many routes to your desired destination; there is one most logical path. Choose the next step along that path. Write an Action Plan, a bullet list, or have a little more fun and draw a map – just write it down.
  4. Define check-in points and milestones. Once you’ve created these milestones, you may need to tweak your path. Do you need to speed up? What support do you need along the way? If there is a milestone that you are particularly unsure of, define what additional support you will need to reach it – legal, financial, outside marketing expertise or coaching. Additional support needs are not cast in stone, but considering your needs ahead of time will keep your eyes and ears open for it when you see it.
  5. Mind set. Mind set, including mantras, belief statements, affirmations and intentions, cannot be your entire action plan, but a positive frame of reference must exist if you want to reach your goals. Find evidence that others have reached similar goals, find elements of your goal that you can easily see yourself reaching and focus on those smaller steps.
  6. Take action. No matter how big or small, just take action. I want you to push yourself to find the line between “OMG! I can’t do THAT!” and “Gulp. I don’t really want to take this step but I guess I can.” Take yourself to that edge repeatedly and you will move forward more quickly than you ever have before. You will be training yourself to be comfortable with being uncomfortable; your fearful self will learn that it’s okay to squirm a bit, that you will survive.

Goal setting, and mapping out strategy, is not a new year’s activity but a recurring business practice. If you’ve decided that you want different results in 2016, begin your year with a new goal setting process. Get started on your worksheet below! 

Set Business Goals That Work: “Filling the Gap” Worksheet

Snowed In? Here’s an Idea…

Use this winter weather to plan ahead for your small business!

Much of the East Coast is STILL snowed in. (!) Schools and businesses are closed, highway speeds have been lowered. Days like this are asking for reflection and strategic planning, so consider this your nudge. To help you along, use the template I’ve provided here; not only will it help you update your 2015 goals but it well keep you on track during the year. Download it today! 2015 business planning worksheet

One More Thing…

timemanagement_runnerI must have been bitten by the “One More Thing” vampire at an early age; it seems like I have always tried to get just one more thing done or, perhaps, that’s only been since I’ve had kids, but that’s another story for another day.

Those bitten by the One More Thing Vampire are driven to accomplish just one more thing before they leave for an appointment, before they begin the more important project. The satisfaction of crossing off one more to-do item is just so compelling! I’m sure there is a burst of some feel-good hormone that goes along with those to-dos being crossed off. Regardless, continually fitting in “one more thing” can cause us to feel stressed and can actually be a detriment to our business. Let me share a client story.

This client has a long to-do list and always feels behind. What’s most worrisome is the idea that there might be some critical task on the list that he’s forgotten about, which drives him to keep trying to accomplish one more thing. While we are working on better task management and systems to decrease the worry, we also want to eliminate the One More Thing syndrome, which has caused him to be late and even miss many appointments. I asked him to experiment around an upcoming meeting; he agreed.

It all started with accepting that he would not finish all of his to-dos (do we ever, really?) and would leave early. Biggest step, right there.

He arrived a few minutes early and he spent 1-2 minutes reviewing names of the people also attending the meeting and what he knew about each of them. Connecting their name with his visual memory of their appearance helped a lot.

He met some of the other attendees on the way in, and was able to confidently greet them by name. He said that set the tone of the meeting.

During the meeting, he said that he felt more confident and comfortable, which led him to participate and contribute more to the meeting.

As the meeting ended, he was invited to lunch by 3 of the 4 key attendees.

Not bad, for an investment of a few minutes. And, a return much higher than finishing one more to-do on his list.

If you recognize yourself as having been bitten by the One More Think Vampire, try this exercise:

The next time you’re tempted to tackle just One More Thing, ask yourself this question:

How will I most move my business forward today: by tackling this to-do, or by arriving a few minutes early/working on this other strategic (but harder, for you) project/calling it a day?

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

The Myth of the Ever-Growing Small Business

takeabreak1Small business owners can have a bit of a one-track mind: gotta grow, gotta grow, gotta grow. I was meeting with a client the other day, tweaking her sales formula and updating her scheduling process. She has been on a rampage growing her business and told me about all the work she had scheduled for the summer. There was something in her voice…she sounded a bit wistful. So when she asked me, “What’s next? What do I do next?” I said, “Maybe rest.” Her reaction astounded me.

The relief was apparent on her face, and she said, “You mean I can take a break? I don’t have to always be growing and expanding?” She, like so many small, growing businesses run by energetic owners, thought that business growth needed to be at a constant incline – up, up, up. I drew an incline with a short plateau, and then an incline again. I explained that growing a business is much like physical training; intervals of hard training interspersed with short rest periods, allowing the body and mind to rejuvenate and to be restored. Growing a business takes energy – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – and your energy stores need to be filled.

Scheduling a slow-down doesn’t necessarily mean coming to a complete stop. Here are some examples of how clients have used intentional slow-down periods:

  • Update a customer service delivery system
  • Step up the service to existing clients
  • Write
  • Creating a new service offering
  • Fun, even playful, networking events

Is it time for you to plan a slow-down? If you’re tired or envy those who tell you about their summer plans, consider how you could benefit from slowing down a bit. Understand the potential consequences of not slowing down, and build a safety net if necessary. Define an end-point so that your business slow-down doesn’t become a business melt-down. Then, go float in a river, hike a mountain, or just read a beach book.

3 Fail Proof Ways to Set Goals – And Stick to Them!

2014 will be here before we know it - have you started setting your goals?

2014 will be here before we know it – have you started setting your goals?

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

We’ve heard so many times about the importance of setting goals. Calendars, mugs, desk paraphernalia and social media (heck – even me!) remind us daily to set goals, often with quotes like those above. We all know we “should” set goals, and we want to, we intend to, but we just don’t get around to it. What’s the deal?

There are a few reasons that goal setting gets put aside. Let’s walk through the most common reasons and find solutions.

  1.  There’s just not enough time. I hear this from business owners frequently. Between the never-ending email, answering client questions, working through staff concerns and issues, and keeping the revenue stream going, long-term planning gets pushed aside.
  2. It can be scary to put a stake in the ground, so it feels easier, in the short term, to avoid it. The catch is that the lack of goals causes us to waste time and energy by pursuing faulty avenues, wondering how we are doing, and just plain worrying. Classic “short-term easy way out” versus long-term gain.
  3. We don’t know how to set goals. It’s natural for humans to set goals and to go after them; honestly, I think we are born with that tendency. Somewhere along the way it gets complicated with books, checklists and workshops. Amazon lists over 6,000 books on “how to set goals”!

Now that you’ve seen yourself in at least one of those scenarios, let’s explore some solutions:

  1. As many quotes as there are about setting goals, there are probably as many quotes about time – “we all have 24 hours in a day” – that sort of thing. It comes down to seeing value in spending time on setting goals. If you haven’t experienced success with goal setting before, just try an experiment with a small idea and see how it works. For example, set a new customer inquiries goal for January, 2014 and follow the steps I’m about to outline.

If you truly believe it is just about time, set aside time and space for goal setting – preferably out of the office without interruptions. Give yourself a time limit and stick to it; a couple of hours is a great place to start.

  1. I get that setting goals is scary – I get scared, too. Remind yourself how good it feels to set a goal and to achieve it. Pause long enough to really capture that feeling, and it will help pull you towards setting a goal and achieving it.

Give yourself a safety net if you’re nervous about setting a goal. Rather than relying on one strategy, map out two to pursue and have at least one in the back of your mind.

Find someone to share your goal with, someone who will safely hold your goal for you – encourage you, strategize with you, and celebrate with you. 

  1. The “how” of setting goals starts with finding the “right” goal for you. My definition of the “right” goal for your business is one that makes you smile, gives you the feeling of everything falling into place, and makes you squirm. Goals that push us to try new ideas,  to learn new concepts or skills, or to use previously untapped resources can make use nervous; as long as they meet the first two criteria you’re on the right track.

Once you’ve landed on a goal that you feel good about and that pushes you, here’s where we often get off track. Believing in your goal is a requirement to reaching it, but action needs to accompany that belief. Mantras and positive self-talk can help but they can not achieve.

Separate your goal into pieces:

  • Results Goal – Define the outcome of your goal; what can you measure? Outside forces that we can’t control are at work on our goals, so we can’t completely control the outcome. Results Goals are things like revenue, percentage growth, or customer count.
  • Action Goal – This is the piece of your goal that you can control; it’s what you do – the number of phone calls, the education you attend, the events you host.

Correlate Action Goals to your Results Goals, asking yourself “what action will most likely help me to reach this Result Goal?”

Finally, measure your actions and results and record them. Every Monday a reminder pops up on my screen to record my weekly traffic; sure, it is sometimes a nuisance and I think “I don’t have time”, or “what if the numbers went down this week?”. I plug away, though, because setting goals and working towards them is my nature, and it’s your nature, too

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.