If you’re like many small business owners, you might find yourself spending so much of your time tending to your day-to-day operations that there’s little time left for planning, reflection and considering the future beyond what needs to be done later today or tomorrow.
Trevor Flint gets it. As founder and director of Capstone Associates, he works closely with business owners to help them find clarity on what they really want to achieve - and discover how they can make it happen.
We asked Trevor for his industry insights about the importance of goal setting for small business owners.
Why is goal setting so important in business?
In my experience, small business owners are often wired to be fire-fighters. By that, I mean they will always do what needs to be done, the urgent - handling their customers needs, paying bills, managing their taxes. Their brains are wired for achievement, but after a number of knocks and blows, they might start to feel overwhelmed. They can start to think everything is too difficult and start to lack belief in themselves and their business.
Taking a longer-term view, by setting and achieving strategic goals, is the key to moving past that cycle of urgency while still placing appropriate focus on what’s important.
Instead of running a business which has become just a job, setting goals gives business owners the chance to build their business into something substantial which can help them live the kind of lifestyle they aspire to. They can build the kind of business which can make a contribution to their lives, their families, communities and, in some cases, even the world around them.
Here are three steps to follow when you’re setting strategic goals for your business.
Step #1 Get clarity
Start by working out exactly what you want your business to look like. It’s a good idea to look 3 to 5 years into the future.
Consider what you would like to see in terms of your products and services, what kind of clients you want to work with, how much time you want to spend in your business, how much revenue and income you need to support the lifestyle you’re aspiring to. Be clear on exactly what you want.
Step #2 Examine your starting point
Look at exactly where you are right now with your business. It might be a long way from where you want to be but that’s how you can start working out the specific actions you need to take towards your vision for your business.
Step #3 Map out the specifics
Once you know where you want to be - and where you are at the moment with your business - you can figure out the specific steps you need to take.
As an example, if you have a goal to achieve a million dollars in sales five years from now, what is your sales target in the next 12 months? What do you need to do in the next 90 days? What can you start doing this week?
Once you start looking at the changes required, you can plan your actions. What obstacles do you need to consider? What opportunities can you take advantage of? What kind of money, machines or other resources do you need? Do you need further training or education within your industry? Do you need to market your business more effectively?
Once you start to think in this way, you’ll ultimately identify options and create a strategy to work towards your goals.
Once you know your goals, how can you achieve them?
You want to be able to come up with two or three non-negotiable, practical things you can commit to doing this week, and every week, to help you achieve your goal.
If there’s a huge gap between where you are now and where you want to be, you might need to really think outside the box or speak to an expert. Or you might look at breaking it down further to achieve a goal you can believe in. If your mind can’t grasp your goal as a reality, it can be demotivating.
Committing to taking small steps towards your goals can give you a sense of satisfaction which wires your brain for achievement and builds momentum. Then as you celebrate small wins along the way, you can get even more intentional and you’ll do more and more.
Trevor Flint is the founder and director of Capstone Associates which partners with businesses to help them navigate the complexity of owning, growing and ultimately transitioning out of a successful business.
Trevor is an MBA-qualified senior leader, drawing on more than 20 years of international experience as delivers business strategy based workshops for us, including titles such as Setting and Achieving Goals, Building Entrepreneurial Resilience and Strategies to Drive Revenue and Profitability.