Do you set goals for your business? Or do you think that’s just text book rubbish which never seems to really work in practice? I speak to lots of people running their own businesses who’ve either given up setting goals because life, the world and everything always seems to get in the way anyway; or they don’t set them because they just don’t know where to start. Should you just put a finger in the air and pluck out some figures that sound about right? Should goals always be financial or should they be about other things?

There are so many questions to think about that it’s no wonder so many people get overwhelmed by the whole thing and just decide that cracking on with running their business is far more important!

The challenge with that approach is that you’re virtually guaranteed to get weaker results in your business if you’re working without clear targets in place. There is a wealth of evidence going back many years that proves that written goals and targets make a massive difference to business success. The trends show that businesses with written goals significantly outperform those without goals.

So if you’re thinking that goals make a lot of sense but you’re still not sure where to start, here are some really simple tips to get you started:

Make it personal

The best goals are those that resonate with you personally and don’t just feel like a number for number’s sake. Think back to when you first started your business. What did you want it to deliver for you? Was that a financial return, was it a better life balance, was it a fund to support your children, or was it a mini-empire of offices across the UK?

Financial targets on their own are rarely a motivation. Money in itself is not a motivator. It may spur you on and excite you but that tends to be short-lived and for many people money-based targets feel shallow and selfish. So think about what the result of hitting a certain financial target would allow you to do for others. When the purpose of a goal is something more than just yourself it will feel like it has a much greater purpose and will be far more motivating.

Where are you going and what are you leaving behind?

Once you know what your main goal is, then you can start to pin down the things you need to do to achieve that goal. For instance, if your main goal is to start taking a better salary from your business so it can support your family more, do you need to make changes to your product mix, to your pricing, your marketing or your sales process. If you main goal is to have a better life balance, do you need to work with more customers who are on retained packages or does it actually make sense to work with less customers who pay a higher premium? Do you need to get some support in your business or start outsourcing so everything is so dependent on you?

Think through which of those things will help you hit your targets fastest, but will also help you build the business in the way that fits with your personal values and the things that give you the most satisfaction? It’s your business, you can build it your way!

Next, think about the biggest things holding you back right now. What are the obstacles or stumbling blocks that keep holding you back? Now build a goal around that and identify the most crucial actions that will help you leave that obstacle behind. This may be to do with distractions that constantly knock you off track; it may be about continually dealing with customers who quibble over your invoice and demand far more than they’re paying for. Some people are actually much more motivated by moving away from something (time, money or people challenges for instance) than by moving towards something (like time or financial freedom). When you recognise which of these approaches works best for you, you can build that into your goals to make sure they really resonate with you.

Make them stretching but realistic

A great goal will raise a hint of tension in your stomach when you think about it but that tension will turn into excitement rather than trepidation. One of the biggest reasons that people set goals and then give up on them is because they were over-ambitious and unachievable unless everything in the world conspired to create the perfect outcome. So nudge those targets a little but the moment your gut instinct tells you the target is a bit bonkers you need to listen to that voice and take notice. Otherwise you’re very likely to get all excited at the start but quickly lose your mojo when it becomes obvious you’ll never hit the target.

Write them down and review them frequently

Evidence shows that writing down your goals hugely increases the likelihood of you reaching them. Don’t worry about creating a 38 page plan like the Banks would ask you for. That’s not the point here. The point is simply so that you have a clear, unambiguous picture of the key aims for your business so that you can keep yourself on track. Ideally you should put the goals somewhere that you see them regularly so that when things get hectic you can’t just forget about them. And finally, review them often – a few minutes once a week, an hour or two once a month and a day once a quarter will go an enormous way to helping you stay on track. Put those things in your diary right now. Then respect those times just as much as you would if they appointments with customers!

Hopefully that gives you lots of ideas you can make use of straight away. If you still feel like all this goals stuff is just confusing mumbo jumbo though, it may be worth booking onto one of my quarterly planning workshops so you can spend a full day with other like-minded business people working on your plan.

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