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A Guide to Goal Setting

Transforming resolutions into results comes with being realistic.

Do you make resolutions at the beginning of every year? Resolutions can be powerful tools. In fact, they can help you take your business to the next level. The catch is, once you make a resolution, you have to work to make it come true.

If you want action, you need an action plan. Goal setting is the best way I know to transform lofty resolutions into bottom-line results. Research shows that when entrepreneurs set measurable goals for themselves, they're more like to achieve them.

When you engage in true goal setting, you define your objectives in pragmatic, measurable terms. You also need to identify the resources, time and funds you'll need to invest to attain them. That's how you develop action plans. Once you know where you want to go, the next step is to figure out how you'll get there and how much you're willing to spend on the trip.

Use the SMART System
When it comes to goal setting, the SMART system is simple, down-to-earth and gets the job done. Each goal must be defined so that it meets the following criteria:

S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Realistic
T - Timely

Specific, achievable and realistic-- Make sure your goals are concrete, concise and attainable. Instead of, "I want to make a lot more money this year," specify "I want to increase my revenues by X percent (a realistic amount) by the end of the year."

Measurable-- Frame your goals in such a way so you can measure your progress. For example, plan on measuring monthly or quarterly revenues against last year's figures--something you should be doing anyway.

Timely-- Give yourself a reasonable time frame for achieving your goal. Then break it down into smaller, short-term increments. Realistically, you may not achieve that X percent increase early in the year, but you can work toward it. Divide your goal percent increase into monthly or quarterly increments that allows you to build on your momentum. This produces measurable, attainable and short-term goals to pursue.

Record your goals and action plans on paper. Whether you write them down or type them, the very act of recording them will help you flesh out your ideas. Once your plans are complete, you'll have a detailed roadmap with directions to follow.

Review your goals and plans regularly. Make a monthly appointment with yourself if that's what it takes. This will help keep you on track as time unfolds.

Also, beware of "BHAGs"--big, hairy, audacious goals. Super-ambitious goals are great when it comes to long-range planning and decision making, but they don't lend themselves to goal setting. Focus on attainable goals that you can realistically reach within the year.

It's easy to make resolutions, but it's hard to make them come true. No wonder some entrepreneurs make the same resolutions every year, without ever achieving them. Don't let yourself fall into that group. This year, resolve to set SMART goals and action plans.

Ray Silverstein is the president of PRO: President's Resource Organization , a network of peer advisory boards for small business owners. He is author of two books: The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses and the new Small Business Survival Guide: How to Survive (and Thrive) in Tough Times . He can be reached at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com .

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