Your business is your baby. And what else do you want to see your baby do, other than grow and/or prosper? The key to growing your business and making it successful is to continuously set goals to pursue. It’s a common misconception that goal planning is difficult, or even unnecessary. In reality, goal planning can be as simple or complicated as it needs to be—depending on your unique situation.
Goal Planning Resources
It’s no secret–I am a sucker for goal planning…and being super organized about it. It’s that first-born daughter syndrome. I am sure there’s a medical term for it. Any time I find a new resource that’s going to help me clarify my goals and take small steps to achieve them, I am going to be all about it. So let’s first dive into the tools that I use throughout my goal planning process every quarter/year.
First, is PowerSheets. PowerSheets are a bound book that helps you define goals by asking questions about different aspects of your life in the “prep work” section. It’s like having a hand to hold as you define what is going to be the priority for you this year. Granted, these are geared slightly more toward personal goals, but the process can easily be applied to business goals as well. I often do use them to help me define my business goals, but they also help me keep in mind the balance that needs to be kept to love on my family throughout the year as well.
Second, is the book Traction by Gino Wickman. The “Vision” section of this book really focuses on defining goals and the Vision/Traction Organizer is the main tool that allows you to see the big picture of your goals and to ensure they align with your business’s values and mission. The author, Gino Wickman, is gracious to give a free download of the V/TO; however, it obviously makes more sense with more background from the text. If you’d like to get a brief overview of the book, head to this book review: TRACTION: A BOOK REVIEW.
So now, let’s dive into the nitty gritty of the goal planning process!
Review your last year
When reflecting on your previous year, it’s important to review each of the following areas:
- Goals for the year. What were your goals for last year? Were they met? If not, why not? Looking back at your goals can give you insight into where you need to make changes in order to accomplish what you desire going forward.
- Performance for the year. How well did you perform versus those goals from above? If they weren’t achieved in their entirety, what do they say about how well things went last year? Do they point out some areas of improvement that could make a big difference if accomplished this upcoming year?
- Finances for the year. How did your finances fare over 2022—did they improve or worsen compared with 2021 or 2020 (or other years that may be a more accurate representation of average revenue)? Was there one specific area or two where costs were especially high—and if so, how can these expenses be limited going forward while still providing excellent service and quality products/services at an affordable price point (or vice versa)? This is a point that Mike Michalowicz makes in another great business read, Profit First.
Track your performance.
Tracking your performance is an important step in the goal planning process. It allows you to see how well you’re doing, and helps you identify areas for improvement. The easiest way to track your performance is by creating a spreadsheet with three columns:
- Name of goal
- Date completed (if applicable)
- Performance level (out of 10)
Know your numbers.
- Know your numbers
To begin, you need to know how much money you need to make and how much money you can afford to spend on your company. To figure this out, use a financial calculator that factors in taxes and expenses (like the one at Mint). This will help you understand exactly how much profit you’ll be making each month so that when it comes time for goal setting, you’re not flying blind with respect to projected revenue or expenses.
- Be realistic about what goals are achievable
Coming from personal experience, life throws curve balls at you. We are in the season of growing our family and that has certainly impacted the feasibility of some of my business goals. Take those major life events into account when creating your year’s goals, so as not to derail your progress toward an ambitious goal (i.e., “Shoot 30 weddings this year”). It can be demoralizing when they happen checkpoints aren’t hit throughout the year.
Identify the year’s goals.
The first step to setting goals is to identify the year’s most important goal to achieve. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to lose sight of your goals in the midst of day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. I recommend creating 3-5 large goals for each calendar year. This way, you’re not overwhelmed by all the day-to-day tasks a larger number of goals involves, but you also still feel tangible progress throughout the year.
Let’s touch on the overused acronym: SMART. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. We have already touched on the “achievable” and “realistic” qualifications. But this is the part where we need to define the “specific” and “measurable” qualifications.
Not SMART goal: Shoot enough weddings to cover my business’s expenses.
SMART goal: Shoot 15 weddings as a primary photographer in 2023.
Break your year’s goals into quarterly “rocks” or “sub-goals.”
When you sit down in front of your calendar, you will want to fill in a few different things. First, be sure to fill in any time off that you’d like to take (birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, etc.). This will allow you to see when business goals can be accomplished.
Next, identify if any of your goals are time-dependent. What I mean by this is: Are any of your goals attached to a launch at a specific time in the year? Are any of your sales periods dependent on a holiday (i.e. Black Friday)? If so, I recommend those be put on your calendar next!
For each of your remaining goals, break them down into quarterly “sub-goals.” This strategy is “defining quarterly rocks” in Gino Wickman’s book. Many goals are achieved with small progress throughout the year, but it’s easy to lose track of that progress without smaller checkpoints to hit. When selecting these tasks, think about what specifically needs doing in order for them all to occur on time (for example: “write article about X” or “find a venue for Y”). That way, if any part of one task hasn’t been completed on time, then there won’t be any confusion about which things haven’t been done yet and why.
I push the quarterly rocks even further and create weekly and monthly checkpoints/tasks for each goal. This sounds overwhelming at first, but it ends up being very cyclical (at least for me). For example, if you have a goal of “Grow my email marketing list by 400 subscribers” you can then commit to creating sub-goals of writing weekly emails. Perhaps that means you are writing content (blog post + email blast) the last Thursday of each month for the following month.
Transpose your quarterly rocks and weekly/monthly tasks into a calendar of your choice.
Using a calendar to define small tasks and track your progress will help you stay motivated and on track. It is easier to sit down at the beginning of a day (or week) with a to do list already in front of you. This also helps as you prioritize your work tasks throughout the day…because, let’s face it, day-to-day tasks within your business are great distractions from achieving the bigger goals within your business.
It is also important not to overwork yourself by setting unrealistic expectations regarding how long each task will take. If this happens consistently, chances are good that you will become tired and get burnt out. This is one of the main reasons I encourage you to define 3-5 major goals, as opposed to more.
Design a goal-oriented system to track progress.
You’ve now set your goals, so it’s time to track your progress. PowerSheets is a great tool to use if you prefer a pen and paper approach to tracking progress. If you are a digital person, you could use a spreadsheet or app.
Keep reviewing your progress on a regular basis so that when things are going well and when they’re not going well—and most importantly why they aren’t going well—you’ll know what needs adjusting. Wickman recommends weekly meetings to track progress. This is something that I have thought about implementing in my business in 2023. Since I am a solopreneur, I am thinking monthly will fit my needs a bit better and still allow me to course correct if I need to do so.
Goal planning can be as simple or complicated as it needs to be according to your unique situation.
Goal planning is a process, not a one-time event. It’s also a way to make sure you stay on track with your long term goals (e.g., profit) and short term goals (e.g., revenue). You need to continually ask yourself: “How will my business reach its ultimate destination?” This can be accomplished through goal setting and tracking your progress towards those goals.
Your goals are the driving force behind your business. They’re what keeps you going when things get tough, and they give meaning to all of your hard work. When you know what you want out of life and business—and have a clear plan for getting there—you can turn any challenge into an opportunity for growth.