The growth of your small business might show no sign of slowing down, but there are always hurdles to overcome. One of the hurdles that catches small business owners out most often is knowing how to set achievable goals.
There is a reason good project managers are able to demand such high salaries. The key skills associated with setting objectives are valuable and relatively rare. They are not that hard to acquire, though – it is mostly a matter of thinking each stage through carefully, and it gets easier and faster with practice.
Image by Phil Roeder
Setting goals is a basic procedure that, if executed properly, can help aid your business strategy and benefit your company on both corporate and functional levels. So what challenges do small business leaders face when setting their objectives?
Here are five tips to help you set your goals:
1. Keep your business objectives SMART.
That’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-focused. Your employees will have a greater understanding of what you want them to achieve if you are specific in your requirements and give them a clear timescale of when you expect each task and objective to be completed by.
2. Keep projects and jobs separate.
Remember that a set of goals is not the same as a complete list of an employee’s duties. They should present a challenge, but also outline tasks that are achievable and within each employee’s skill set. If you have a diverse or particularly large company, considering writing different goals for different teams.
3. Avoid power games.
If you run a business that employs a higher volume of men than women, you may already have had some experience in power games. When writing your objectives, consult relevant line managers, but don’t be swayed by what other people are gossiping about and stand firm on your key points.
Presenting objectives to your staff in a step-by-step fashion is important, as it encourages a tightly focussed project and it really helps to keep the objectives’ results measurable. Being clear, concise and precise with each little step along the way means there is very little chance that anyone will make a costly mistake – and if they do, you can identify where the mistake was and what it was, and everyone can learn from it for the next time!
While it’s important to stand firm on your objectives, it’s also important to encourage your employees to speak up if they don’t understand what’s being asked of them. Encourage one-on-one consultations and nip any negativity or backlash in the bud before each objective is undertaken.
The single most important factor in making realistic objectives, in my opinion, is how simple things are.
If you rely on complex, intangible properties, such as individual skills and talents, you might end up putting too much pressure on your staff, leading to problems with stress and motivation. Even complex tangible objectives, such as number of sales in a month, can have too many factors feeding into them to make them achievable.
Instead, set actions such as (in the case of increasing sales) an amount of friendly interactions with customers per day, which you can increase or decrease in quantity as needed.
Keeping things simple also means that if you listen carefully to what your staff are saying, you will understand where you can improve your abilities when setting objectives still further, to the point where you could become a pro! It’s a tactic that pays off, both now and in the future!