So you think your company is ready to take the next step. What exactly does that mean? Sure, you’ve probably got some vague notions of where you want to see the business go – grow revenue, hire more employees, open a few more locations. But those won’t just happen spontaneously. What you need is a map.
And that means goal-setting. “Goal-setting, when you put it to paper and you effectively communicate it, becomes the compass for the business,” says Mike Mack, CEO of X5 Management, a business consulting firm in Edmonton. Yet in a 2010 Staples small business survey of more than 300 companies, more than 80 per cent said they did not keep track of business goals. That’s a bit like trying to cross the Atlantic without a map. “Without goal-setting, your business will likely end up where it didn’t intend to,” Mack says. And when it comes to business, surprises are a bad thing.
Convinced that goal-setting is right for you? Not so fast. It is possible that goal-setting can hurt more than it can help – if you pursue outcomes that are unachievable or have goals without tracking your progress. Here’s how to do it right.
Long and Short
You probably know what you want to achieve, like to develop new products or expand into different markets. But accomplishing one thing on your list may require multiple changes or smaller goals. “The process must include all aspects of the business,” says Mack. Develop smaller goals to fit within several larger goals, which can be accomplished over a longer time period, and look at developing goals in different aspects of your business, from risk management to operational efficiency.
Stretch the Limits
Goals can be specific and measurable. But that doesn’t mean they’re all realistic. Mack says it can be good to have some “stretch” goals – aggressive targets – but at the same time, some that are more achievable and realistic. “Wimpy targets get wimpy results, so you always want to create a bit of a stretch,” he says. A mix helps your company live up to its potential, without leading to discouragement when goals aren’t reached.
Write it Down
It’s fine to have long- and short-term goals in mind, but how do you ensure they’re actually achieved? Make it formal and put it in writing. Business people “need to take more time working on their business and frequently step away from working in the business so they can see it at a higher level,” Mack says. This could mean business retreats or working with a business coach to articulate goals that are specific, measurable and deadline driven.
Employee buy-in is crucial. Part of getting that is first determining why you want to pursue your goals. Is it just for the sake of it, or is it because the timing and opportunity is right for the company? That answer will help you communicate the goals and reasoning behind them to your staff. “You have to be able to clearly articulate your ‘why’ and influence your employees to buy into the goal,” Mack says, “and if you can do that, you’ll dramatically increase your probability of success.”