Although the majority of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, many of them business-related — only 8% keep them. Why the abysmal follow-through?
Part of it is because most resolutions aren’t specific enough, so it’s hard to know if you’re making progress. For example, an owner might vow to “increase sales.” But that’s too vague. How would you know when you’ve arrived? When is “enough” enough?
1. Make your goals SMART
The answer is for business owners to make their goals SMART, a management method first introduced by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book, The Practice of Management. That is: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
Here's what that means:
Specific: The goals must involve actual numbers — for example, increasing sales 10% or gaining six new leads a week.
Measurable: An old business axiom is “What gets measured, gets managed,” which means that we pay attention to whatever we are tracking. Goals can’t be nebulous, such as “improve brand awareness.”
Attainable: Sometimes we stop pursuing our goals because they are just too lofty. For example, you probably won’t leapfrog your biggest, most entrenched competitor in two months. You want goals that are challenging but possible, so you don’t feel discouraged.
Relevant: Goals need to directly contribute to your business success. The list of what you could accomplish is endless, but business owners can focus on that which is strategic, meaningful and will advance your mission.
Time-based: This means there is a deadline. You either reached the finish line or you didn’t. “Someday” is not a deadline.
“They don’t give your personnel a useful target at which to aim or a benchmark against which to measure performance,” he says. “The lazy ones will leave at closing time (or before) because they sold as much as they could within their comfort zone, and the workaholics will work until they are burned out because they can always sell more.”
Here’s an example of how you could take an ineffective goal and make it SMART:
Old Goal: “Make as much money as possible.”
New Goal: Increase my client base by 5% over the next three months while retaining current clients.
Specific: Yes — there is a number attached
Measurable: Yes — you either do or don’t
Attainable: Yes — the goal is not so lofty as to be impossible
Relevant: Yes — increasing your client base can correlate to making more money
Time-Based: Yes — there is a deadline
3. Taking it one step further
To make the goal even SMARTer, it could benefit from more specificity. One way to make goals count is to give them the attention they deserve.
You might choose to focus on increasing your client base through increased networking, and then attach smaller SMART goals to that aim. For example:
Make five sales calls each day
Set up three appointments with prospects or influencers each week
Go to one networking event or conference a month
Give one presentation each quarter
At the end of the three months, you can analyze the goal of growing your client base, as well as each of the mini-goals you made that were designed to get you there.
The book Start Your Own Business from Entrepreneur magazine states, “The most important rule of self-evaluation and goal-setting is honesty. Going into business with your eyes wide open about your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, and your ultimate goals lets you confront the decisions you'll face with greater confidence and a greater chance of success.”
That’s smart advice that will contribute to SMART goals.
About the Author
Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer covering business and consumer topics. She creates branded content for Fortune 500 companies, and her work has appeared in LearnVest, Costco Magazine, Forbes, TheGlassHammer.com and IDEA Fitness. Follow her @cathieericson.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.