How to Set Smart Goals and Achieve Them Year Round
You would think that December, the full swing of your cash cow holiday season, is a time you can sit back and watch your year conclude with abundance. Nope. You have work to do because it is the perfect time to start plotting out what you want 2019 to bring to you. The end of this year is upon you and if you are not ready with a plan for next year, you will begin in a place of confusion and will be playing catch up all year. Worse yet, if you don’t plan, your year becomes one of reaction to everything instead of acting on what you want and need to do to grow.
As entrepreneurs, we dream big and set giant targets to hit – usually in an unreasonably small amount of time. We then get discouraged when we not only miss the target, but sometimes we don’t even aim because we get pulled into all the details of the day and forget the bigger picture. That had been my picture for more years than I care to admit. The only goals I successfully hit were either set and accomplished in short order or may as well have been accidental. Seriously, how can you plan when every day is unpredictable and filled with small crises that need your immediate attention?
In 2010, I was done with my business dragging me around. I started my journey of running my business instead of it running me. I used many methods to set and achieve goals. Each one has their own merits and I kept a bit of them as I developed a hybrid of my own system. I needed a big picture starting point that brought all aspects of my business into alignment and a way to break those giant big boulder sized goals into rocks and pebbles that are smaller achievable goals. The key to setting goals and actually achieving them were:
- Creating three years of aligned goals all the way down to the monthly tasks
- Clearly defining the goals and sub goals in an achievable way
Within these two main steps, all those other techniques you have been reading about are used as well. The Franklin Covey Urgent/Important quadrants, time blocking, zero inbox, the 80/20 rule, eat the frog, and the glass jar just to name a few. Yet, these techniques don’t help you accomplish your long-term goals if they are not in alignment and threaded through your weekly and daily tasks.
The One-Page Plan
There are a few books and sites on creating a one-page plan, with my favorite being Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. His company, Gazelles, has useful worksheets for creating a one-page plan. The book is very comprehensive and the first time I worked through it, I was able to create a solid foundation to grow from. After that initial time invested, I zeroed in on the three-year plan portion. Knowing your mission, vision, values, and BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) sets you up for clearly seeing your goals. I highly recommend revisiting them every time you plan for the new year.
Bringing your goals closer to home, to the three- and one-year marks is where the more active and actionable goal setting occurs. Three years is closer than you think, yet it is far enough away to plan the activity around the steps to manifest your goals. My team and I are surprised every year at how much we achieve towards the big goal. It seems like a struggle all year, but looking backwards, even working half the plan got us further than being scattershot with our action. I look at the three-year goals I set five years ago and not only did we hit most of them within three years, we were able to get clearer about who we are as a company and eliminate the goals that didn’t have the return on investment we were looking for. This is part of the magic, you see where you are going and get to choose each step of the way is you still want that.
Setting your three-year goals starts with diving up your business into its three to five core areas of focus. For a retail store you could break it down to:
- Product Mix
There are areas of your business that needs a dedicated focus and that is unique to your business. Spend a moment thinking about how you mentally divide up your business needs and you will see that each area has a unique set of goals. Some example:
|Three-Year Goals||2018 Year Goal||This Quarter|
|$500,000 sales / 70K Profit||$270K in sales - $40,500 profit|
|Real time measure of sales||Upgrade POS soft & cash wrap|
|Budget||year calendar, gem show plan, Review 2017 sales|
|4 outside events||3 events & org for events|
|EXPERIENCE & CULTURE|
|Become a destination for customers||Get reviews and get on all review sites|
|Be the media spiritual expert||5 Media interviews|
|Philanthropic Giving Plan||Identify & Celebrate giving on website|
|Award-Winning Displays||Seasonal Window Plan w/$200 budget a qtr.|
|175K in inventory||80K avg Stock|
|Average Sales $50||Avg Sale $35.00|
|20% SKU's in-house brands||Create Kits for Store|
|Have 25% inventory in back-stock||Finish Basement org|
|Gem & Stone Inventory 20K||Gem Show Plan for year|
|Yearly Marketing Plan||Monthly Plan w/staff picks|
|Interactive Website||Redo site with live inventory|
|Ad Budget 10% of Revenue||Plan to leverage sponsorships|
|Traffic of 50 ppl a day (foot and web)||Social Media engagement plan - community|
Start by setting those three-year goals. Then list everything you are working on and your future project list. Do they align? Can you tie every goal for this year with your long-term objectives? The first time I did this, I was all over the map. My projects were not in alignment with my three-year plan or even my BHAG. They were flash in the pan ideas, distractions and honestly not important. To get them all into alignment, we adjusted some of our three-year plan and dropped the goals that were just busy work we “should” do. When you align your goals year to year, you see how the actions today bring you closer to the big picture your vision has painted for you. Another bonus to this alignment is that your trajectory of growth has fewer left turns and offers a smoother, straighter climb.
Keep Your Goals S.M.A.R.T.
Now that you have your initial list, it’s time to send your goals to school and make them SMART. It’s useless and demoralizing to have a goal that is either unachievable or not measurable. I know I want to celebrate when we hit our goal and if it’s too nebulous in its objective I will never have a reason to be the celebratory cupcake. When you put your goals through the SMART test they become clear to everyone on your team. When everyone in your business is not only in the same boat with your goals, but also rowing in the same direction, you get to the goal faster and everyone wins. A SMART goal is: specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-bound.
When I started setting goals for the year, I would write down things like, “improve customer service,” or “generate a million dollars in sales,” “get employees trained and engaged,” “start a blog,” “redo our website.” These goals, although not dumb, are not smart. How will I know when I achieved these goals? Who was responsible for them? How will I direct my energies? When will I get it done? What purpose does it serve? If I handed any of these off to a staff member, they would not know why that goal was set and what the larger picture was. Let’s take a few of these goals to school and make them smart.
Specific. This is what you want to achieve in detail. Your goal needs to be specific, simple and clear. This is the mission of the goal. Answer the who, what, where and why questions for your goal to get as specific as you need it to be.
Measurable. This defines what you want to see, hear and experience when you goal is completed. This makes your goal tangible and helps you and your team staff focused and meet deadlines. You may want to set up measures along the way.
Achievable. Your goal is meant to stretch you past your comfort zone. Goals that don’t stretch you are just the normal course of business. They stretch, but they are still attainable. Determine if you have the skills, resources and time to achieve this goal. Weigh your return on investment, is this goal worth the effort and cost it will generate?
Relevant. Here it is, the moment when you look at your goal and ask if it really fits in with the broader view of your business. Is it in alignment with your vision, mission and values? Does it align with other goals? Do you really care about it or is this something you “should” do because it’s expected of you?
Timely or Time-bound. Here is where you commit in to when you complete this goal and if it’s the right time to pull this goal to the top of the list. Also, deadlines are great inspiration and motivation. The best time-bound goal has a natural repercussion when it goes unfinished. If it would “be nice to have this project completed in June,” it does not have a true time-bound aspect. When there is a real due date, you can build excitement with your team and everyone rallies behind the goal.
Re-writing these goals went a little like this:
Improve Customer Service
Create a courtesy call system that measures our customers’ satisfaction rating
S We will create an internal system of regular calls to customers after they receive their order to ensure everything arrived in good order and in a timely way.
M This call will be made two weeks after an order is shipped. We will have five yes or no questions where every “yes” answer earns a point. Our goal is five out of five. We can track this total average monthly as a measurement for our customer service department
A Our Customer Service staff can make these calls at the end of the day after all shipping is completed. The sales team will give us their top customer complaints for us to create the questions from.
R This information will help us improve our systems, products and customer interaction. Customer perception of the value of our product is reliant upon a top-level customer care department
T To be implemented by the end of the current fiscal quarter.
Generate 1M Dollars in Sales
Create a marketing plan to pull 10 new customer orders a month generating an additional $10,000 a month
S Identify and target a growing retail market for our products to convert 10 stores into customers
M Generate 200 leads a month for a 5 percent conversion rate of lead to customer.
A Our marketing department will research, identify and create a plan for our sales team to implement. We will need new training for this market. We will need a budget of $10,000 for additional ads, catalogs and mailing lists.
R Increasing our sales will help fill the gap in production we have and allow us to purchase new equipment that will bring the cost of production down by 5%
T Research will be completed by the end of this quarter and we will begin implementing by the end of the next quarter.
Get employees trained and engaged
Create a company-wide cross training program with a reward program
S Document all training and institute a cross-training program to fill the staffing gaps that occur with paid time off.
M Using training checklists and reviews of procedures, create a reward system for mastering cross-trained jobs.
A Create a schedule of training, having current staff team up with and train a member of a different department. Production manager will oversee training and confirm its success.
R Production will continue with minimal stoppage, keeping the flow of products steady to our customers.
T This will be done department by department with a completion date of September 1, the beginning of our busiest season.
You now have actionable goals that will either be useable or you put them on the backburner. That last goal of cross-training got put in the three-year goal because the marketing plan required a new website and a new blog to be successful. We didn’t need to cross-train until business picked up. What we accomplished in the first year was to create a training checklist for each department. We started using that checklist in the second year and cross-training stared in the third year. It all came together when we smartened up our goals and plan.
When you have smart goals spread out over a one and three year plan, you drive faster to your goals and you can pivot when needed. The more you plan and invest in creating an actionable plan, the more likely you are to achieve your goals and grow your business. Don’t get caught in mid-March not knowing what the rest of the year holds for you. Get that plan done by the new year and your energy will fly in the direction you want it to.