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Write Your Business Plan

12 Ways to Set Realistic Business Goals and Objectives These are the key questions you should ask yourself to help you determine what you want your business to achieve.

By Eric Butow

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This is part 11 / 12 of Write Your Business Plan: Section 1: The Foundation of a Business Plan series.

Close your eyes. Imagine that it's five years from now. Where do you want to be? What will the business look like? Will you be running a business that hasn't increased significantly in size? Will you command a rapidly growing empire? Will you have already cashed out and be relaxing on a beach somewhere, enjoying your hard-won gains?

Now is a good time to free-associate — let your mind roam, exploring every avenue you want your business to go down. Try writing a personal essay on your business goals. It could take the form of a letter written to yourself from five years in the future describing all you have accomplished and how it came about.

Related: Defining Your Business Goals

As you read over your words, you may make a few surprising discoveries. Maybe you don't want to own a large, fast-growing enterprise but would be content with a stable small business. Even if you don't learn anything new, getting a firm handle on your goals and objectives is a big help in deciding how you plan your business.

Business goals may differ from those you set for yourself, such as more vacation time or weight loss objectives. Business goals are typically long-term calculated plans that you are working toward. They may encompass one or several shorter objectives and can be measured along the way, often by setting up milestones. Goals should be realistic and include a time frame.

Related: The Main Objectives Of A Business Plan

The same goes for your business objectives. In business, objectives are specific results you seek to achieve within a specific time. They are usually short-term and are easily measurable. Minimizing expenses, increasing revenue, and rolling out a new product are examples of objectives. They can also help you meet long-term goals.

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12 Questions to Ask Yourself

If you're having trouble deciding your goals and objectives, here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. How determined am I to see this venture succeed?
  2. Am I willing to invest my own money and work long hours for no pay, sacrificing personal time and lifestyle for years?
  3. What will happen to me if this venture doesn't work?
  4. If it does succeed, how many employees will this company eventually have?
  5. What will be its annual sales in a year? Five years?
  6. What will be its market share in that time frame?
  7. Will it be a niche market or sell a broad spectrum of goods and services?
  8. What are the plans for geographic expansion? Local? National? Global?
  9. Will I be a hands-on manager, or will I delegate a large proportion of tasks to others?
  10. If I delegate, what sorts of tasks will I share? Sales? Technical? Others?
  11. How comfortable am I taking direction from others? Could I work with partners or investors who demand company management input?
  12. Will this venture remain independent and privately owned, or will it eventually be acquired or go public?

Related: When Is The Best Time To Write Your Business Plan

Your plan may look beautiful, but without a solid understanding of your intentions in business, it is likely to lack coherence and, ultimately, prove ineffective. Let's say in one section you describe a mushrooming enterprise on a fast-growth track, then elsewhere endorse a slow and steady expansion strategy. Any business plan reader worth his or her salt is going to be bothered by inconsistencies like these. They suggest that you haven't thought through your intentions. Avoid inconsistency by deciding in advance what your goals and objectives will be and sticking with them.

Related: Look Ahead To These 4 Business Plan Milestones

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