Setting Goals for Your Business

For me, the first day of the new year always marks the beginning of busy season.  January is ‘go time’.  My staff and I love it because there’s lots of work to do, we get to reconnect with our long-time clients, and meet some new ones.

For the first ten years of my career, I was completely focused on the technical work of a CPA.  All my time and efforts were spent working directly on services for clients.  I loved doing it because it was very analytical, hectic and challenging.

Years later, I still enjoy the technical work.  But, as a business owner, I need to work differently.  Because of this, busy season creates some conflict in my head.  The technician in me wants to dig into the client files and bang away until I get it all done.  The business owner in me knows that there are larger issues – staffing, marketing, budgeting, etc.  Obviously, every business needs someone to pay close attention to management.  If I get absorbed by details of the technical work, I’m not as effective in managing as is needed.

My primary responsibility is to manage the business from a higher level.  So it’s critical that I spend enough time managing, planning, and goal-setting.  If I don’t have a specific destination in mind, I’ll probably end up in a random place that I don’t care about.

Is there an easy way to set goals?

Not really…setting good goals is work.  Like many business owners, I’ve made some plans and goals for 2012 – staffing plans, budgets, and plans for sales and marketing.  Goal-setting needs to be very specific and precise – no wishy-washy goals.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to remember how to do this:  Goals must be “S.M.A.R.T.E.R.”.  Yes, that’s a fancy business school acronym, but it represents a very powerful idea.  The seven components of good goal-setting:

  • Specific – Express the goal in very specific terms. (What? Who? Where?)
  • Measurable – The goal must be subject to measurement so we know if we attained it.  (How many?  How much?)
  • Attainable – The goal should be realistic, not too far-fetched (How?)
  • Relevant – Set goals that really matter and are worth pursuing (Why?)
  • Timed – Set a very specific timetable for reaching the goal (When will we get there?)
  • Evaluate – Check your progress along the way (Are we there yet?)
  • Reevaluate – After you reach the goal (or fail to reach the goal), consider why, and how it could have been done better. (Why did we succeed (or not)?)

It’s important to write down your goals and revisit them during the time frame you set for accomplishing them.  If it doesn’t include the details above, it’s too wishy-washy. For example, we can all relate to this goal: “I want to make more money from my business”. That’s too vague and generic.   A better way to state this goal would be: “I want to work no more than 35 hours per week and earn a profit of $100,000 by the end of 2012”.

Take the time to set good goals for you and your business.  It might make a big difference in your results for 2012.