Adapted from content excerpted from the American Express® OPEN Small Business Network
Goal-setting is crucial to the success of any business, but is particularly important for entrepreneurs who can become distracted without focus. Goals direct actions, give you something to aim for, and can serve as a yardstick for measuring your business' success.
The way you approach goal-setting will determine whether you are able to attain your goals. Most people agree that goals are important, but less than five percent of people write down goals or have action plans for attaining them. Fear is most often the culprit. People don't like to write goals down on paper (a crucial part of goal setting) because they are afraid to commit to them. If this is your problem, try to remember that a goal can be changed at any time after you write it down. Also keep in mind that goal-setting becomes easier the more times you undertake it. When you have set goals and attained them, the power of goal setting will compel you to set more.
If you avoid goal-setting, the tips and hints below should help.
Have short-term and long-term goals
You might want to set weekly goals, quarterly goals, annual goals, and even 3-year or 5-year goals. One way to generate short-term goals is to first consider your long-term goals. Is there a certain amount you want to earn or a number of clients you need to sign up by a certain time? If nothing like that comes to mind immediately, take a few minutes and think about what professional goal you would like to attain. Once you have determined long-term goals, you can work backward. If your goal is to make $100,000 this year, you should make a list of what it would entail to make that money. If you encounter difficulty creating your list, ask peers or friends for help. When your list is complete, break those small steps down into goals.
Make your goals specific and measurable with a deadline
"Increase my sales" is a good goal, but it's so vague that it does not provide a means by which you can judge your success. Modify your goals by making them specific. All goals should be specific (Get new clients), measurable (Get three new clients), and have a time frame (Get three new clients by November).
Don't set yourself up for failure
Make sure your goals are attainable. If you aim too high, you're dooming yourself to defeat.
Don't be lazy
On the other hand, some entrepreneurs set goals that are too easily attained. If you tend in this direction, look for ways to challenge yourself. If you usually aim to add one new client every quarter, push yourself to shoot for two or three.
Goals should help you attain a specific aim. Look out for goals that are just going to keep you busy, but are not appropriate to the overall success of your business. If you don't believe your goals are worthwhile, you won't make the necessary effort to achieve them.
Be patient and persistent
It your system of setting goals does not seem to be working because you are not attaining much of what you write down, do not give up. Keep setting goals for several months and you will find that your goal setting skills improve.
Review your goals constantly
Keep your weekly or other short-term goals in plain view -- by your desk, or next to your computer, for example -- so you know what you need to attain. Look at your annual goals monthly to see if you're on track. If your business' focus changes, don't be afraid to alter your goals. Flexibility is a crucial component of goal-setting.
Copyright © 1995-2016, American Express Company. All Rights Reserved.