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Be it resolved: Business goal setting

January 3, 2017

It’s that time of year again: your family’s all long since headed home, and all that’s left to do is climb the step ladder in the cold January air to take down the holiday lights.

Well, that, and one more thing: in the cold, harsh light of a new year’s morning, when you’d rather be thinking about a bloody mary and eggs benedict at your favorite brunch spot, instead you–the ever-diligent small business owner–find your mind wandering to the place it most often goes: your business.

Specifically, just how are you planning to take the lessons of 2016 and use them to create an even better 2017?

Sipping that first cup of coffee of the year, it’s hard to know where to start.

Do you think blue sky: translating big dreams into bigger plans, disrupting the market, overhauling your business, and rolling out an entirely new and exciting revenue stream to make your business (and you, as its proprietor) that talk of the town?

Or do you take the pragmatic approach, pouring over your books, sales data, website analytics, and loyalty program redemptions to find the hidden opportunities that have been lurking just beneath the surface of your daily operations–those you’ve just been too busy to take the time to ferret out and exploit to your benefit?

And then there’s the middle way–taking a dash of blue sky thinking coupled with a heavy dose of pragmatism to set achievable, smart goals to improve your business incrementally, moving forward week after week, growing day by day, until you’ve achieved what it is you set out to do.

When you set the right goals, make the right investments in terms of time and effort into your business, and target those quick wins, over time your business can end up making significant gains year after year.

Below, we’ve outlined a few simple goal-setting strategies that can help you map out a successful 2017:

Focus on real problems holding your business back.

Think about the nitty-gritty details that niggle your business day in and out. Maybe it’s some unnecessary costs that are killing your bottom line. Or perhaps it’s some some time-consuming task that just kills productivity. Or perhaps you’ve got a particular product category that could be improved. Whatever it is, find one or two or three, study them from all angles, and know the internal and external forces that keep you from making the most of each area.

Set SMART goals.

Everyone thinks they set smart goals when they’re planning for the future, but to set a truly SMART goal, it’s got to be:

  • Specific–define the problem, all the parameters, the important stakeholders, and the key factors.
  • Measurable–set specific metrics by which you’re going to measure success. Whether it’s time saved, money made, additional customers through the door–it doesn’t matter–it just has to be quantifiable so success or failure can be tied to specific numbers.
  • Achievable–it’s just as important to set goals that are actually within the realm of possibility. Sure, sometimes it’s nice to shoot for the moon, but if you’re really looking to make real improvements to your business, setting small goals and then achieving them is better than trying to hit home runs all day and falling short.
  • Relevant–key to setting a good goal for your business is ensuring that you’re focusing on the right things. For example, if you’re looking to reduce line times at your ice cream shop, hiring a new delivery driver might not be a helpful measure. Focus on the problem at hand, and then set goals that directly apply to it.
  • Time-bound–imperative to setting and achieving a good goal is putting an expiration date on it. That is, setting a period of time in which you’re going to implement your plan and take action on your goal. With a deadline looming on the horizon, and a set of key measurable metrics you’re working towards, you’ll be much more likely to achieve what it is you’re after.

Employ tools where it makes sense.

Many of those who start their own businesses have that old-school pioneer spirit where they feel as if they have to take on the world with nothing but true grit and elbow grease. bBut if you think you have to suffer to have a successful business, think again.

Today, savvy proprietors work smarter, not harder, and key to achieving your small business goals in 2017 is employing the right tools. Whether you need a hand managing time cards, running a loyalty marketing program, optimizing your menu, ordering everyday supplies, or any other of the million-and-a-half tasks a small business owner has to tackle each day, there are a number of apps to help you manage the day-to-day so you can focus on thriving rather than just surviving.

[image: Newtown Graffiti by Bartender on flickr]