"If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up someplace else," Yogi Berra said. A goal is a way to make sure you don't wind up someplace other than where you want to be.
At its simplest, a goal is just something you aim for. But goals are powerful contributors to successful business growth in several ways. To begin with, the process of setting goals forces you to think through what you want from your business and how growth may-or may not-provide that. This process helps suggest directions for pursuing that growth, which can greatly improve your chances of achieving your goals in the first place.
Goals also give you a framework within which to work. This tends to focus your efforts by helping you rule out actions that won't contribute to achieving the goals you have set. A very important part of that framework is a timetable. Any good goal has a timetable, and that timetable will influence your actions profoundly. For instance, if your goal is to retire by age 50, you'll know that any growth plan with a payoff that won't occur by your 51st birthday is not one you'll consider, no matter how attractive it might otherwise seem.
It's not enough just to have goals. They need to be the right goals and ones that are appropriate to your ambitions and abilities. When entrepreneurs talk about their goals, whether they are for the past year or for a lifetime, the most frequent issue is whether those goals were the best ones to have.
If your goals appear to be holding you back or directing your efforts into unproductive areas, then there is definitely something you can do about it. In fact, setting new goals for yourself and your business is both easy and essential if you're going to grow. When looking at new goals, make sure they have the following qualities:
- Specificity. You stand a better chance of achieving a goal if it's specific. "Raising capital" isn't a specific goal; "raising $10,000 by July 1" is.
- Optimism. Goals should be positive and uplifting. "Being able to pay the bills" is not exactly an inspirational goal. "Achieving financial security" phrases your goal in a more positive manner, thus firing up your energy to attain it.
- Realism. If you set a goal to earn $100,000 per month when you've never earned that much in a year, that goal is unrealistic. Begin with small steps, such as increasing your monthly income by 25 percent. Once your first goal is met, you can reach for larger ones.
- Thinking short- and long-term. Short-term goals are attainable in a period of weeks to a year. Long-term goals can be achieved five, 10 or even 20 years from now; they should be substantially greater than short-term goals but should still be realistic.
- Income. Many entrepreneurs want growth to provide financial security. Consider how much money you want to make each year when planning your growth.
- Lifestyle. This includes areas such as travel, hours of work, investment of personal assets and geographic location. Are you willing to travel extensively or to move if that's what it takes? How many hours are you willing to work? Which assets are you willing to risk?
- Type of work. Your growth plan may require changes in the type of work you do. When setting goals for type of work, you need to determine whether you like working outdoors, in an office, with computers, on the phone, with lots of people, with children, and so on.
- Ego gratification. Face it-many people want to grow their business to satisfy their egos. Owning a bigger business can be very ego-gratifying. You need to decide how important ego gratification is to you and what size business best fills that need.
- Honesty. The most important rule of goal-setting is honesty. Building a business with your eyes wide open about your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes and your ultimate goals allows you to confront dilemmas with greater confidence and a greater chance of success.
There's no free lunch when it comes to achieving goals. Any goal you set will require some investment of time, effort and money that will cause you to forego other goals. One way you can figure out whether a goal is going to be worth it is to do a cost-benefit analysis. This doesn't have to be complicated. Simply draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper to create two columns. On the left, list the benefits of achieving a given goal. On the right, list what it will cost you to get there. You can simply count the benefits and costs columns and see which has more, or assign weighted scores to each entry and total them at the bottom. You may not want to let this quick and easy analysis make the final decision for you. And it may sometimes be the nearest thing to a tossup. But even a simple cost-benefit analysis can give you an idea of whether a given goal is worth investigating further.