Whether you set personal New Year’s resolutions or not – and whether you’re still sticking to them at the end of January, this is a wonderful time to reflect on where you are with your business, conduct an end of year analysis, and set some goals to help carry you through 2017.
The Power of Goal Setting
Goals give you direction – something to aim for, to keep you moving forward. It’s easy to get lost in a storm of options for your business, and when you have ideas flowing through you, you can pick one thing up and work on it – then move on to the next. As a result, nothing’s really organized, and you haven’t made clear progress on anything. By goal setting, you have a clear cut plan on what you want to do, so you can work toward getting there. Then, you get there, and move on to the next one.
Goals make it easy to climb mountains. When you’re just starting out, getting to the big dream can seem like such a task you get discouraged. Instead of wondering how you’ll get to the top of that mountain and giving up before you even start the climb, goals are like little campsites on the journey. As you move through each one, you’ll feel more energized to make it to the next one and so on, until suddenly, before you know it, you’re at the top of that mountain, and you’ve accomplished your dream.
Goal setting inspire us. It’s about more than creating a plan and keeping yourself accountable – I’ll get to that in a minute – but it’s about giving us the inspiration we need to take action and keep working toward our dreams. If you don’t make it a goal and start taking steps to reach it, why do you believe you can accomplish it? Dreams without progress, albeit slow at times, are nothing more than vague concepts in your head. Make it happen!
Goal setting hold us accountable. Writing down your goals, complete with a timeline for when you hope to achieve them can help you look back and re-evaluate if you don’t accomplish your goals. It’s humbling to look back on a goal you set yourself six months, one year, and five years ago, realizing that you were supposed to get more done than you actually did. It’s a sign that what you’re doing isn’t working, and you have to make some real changes to get where you want to.
On the other hand, it is highly gratifying to look back at those goals and realize you’ve not only accomplished them, but surpassed them. Either way, it’s a great look at how far you’ve come, whether you missed the mark or not.
More than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of their business goals. Nearly half of the people who take the time to write their goals down (40%), don’t go back to check whether the goals were achieved.
Think About What You Want to Accomplish
Sit down with a pen and paper and think about the things you want to accomplish in business. Some example goals to get you started include:
- Delegate at least X% of my work to other team members.
- Increase number of clients by X% or add X clients.
- Increase profit by $X or $X%.
- Decrease customer churn by X%.
Give yourself concrete, measurable numbers, so you know whether or not you achieved the goal. If you don’t, you can simply delegate a single task and say you’ve reached your goal.
When Do You Want to Accomplish It?
Now, so you take action and don’t allow yourself to get lazy, add a timeline to your goal. For example:
- Delegate at least 10% of my work to other team members by the end of January 2017.
- Add five new clients by the end of February 2017.
- Increase profit by $5,000 in the first half of 2017, or increase profits by 50% by December 31, 2017.
- Decrease customer churn by 5% in the first half of 2017.
Without this timeline, it will be easy to lose sight of your goal and move onto other things. The timeline gives you a finite date to accomplish the goal, making it easier to make and stick to a plan to get it done.
Determine a reasonable amount of time it will take to complete the goal. You may need to break the goal into sub goals and determine how long each of those will take to get a better idea of how much time it will take.
When setting up your timeline, build in a buffer of extra time for each step, since most of the time, things take longer than we expect them to. Then, consider how much time you can devote each day or week to completing the goal.
Once you know how long it takes to complete the goal and how much time you can devote to it, design the schedule for starting each sub goal so you can stay on track.
For instance, if you want to lose 30 pounds, and you can reasonably only lose one pound a week, you know you’ll reach your goal in about seven months. You could lose five pounds in a bit over a month.
How Can You Make It Happen?
Here comes the fun part. How can you make your goals happen? What do you have to do to get to where you want to go?
In the case of the goal to delegate your tasks, you’ll need to first decide which tasks you can easily delegate, and then decide who you can delegate them to. If you don’t have a staff on hand already, you’ll need to first decide if you’re going to hire actual employees, or if you’re going to find freelancers to outsource the work to.
Then, you’ll need to train them to handle whatever tasks you want to delegate. This may take a few minutes, a few days, weeks, or months, depending on the complexity of the tasks you’re passing off. Though you’ll have to invest time and energy into the initial training, the time savings in the long run can help you focus on other areas of the business where only your talents and skills will suffice.
When it comes to adding clients – there are several ways you can do this, so you’ll need to decide which methods you’re going to use, and then take steps to implement them. Are you going to invest more money in advertising? Are you going to ask your current clients to send you referrals? Invest more time and effort in online marketing? Post flyers? Pass out more business cards? Attend more networking events? Run sales and discounts to entice new customers to come on board? A combination of several of these options?
If your goal is to increase profits, you can use many tactics like the ones above to bring in more customers – because more paying customers mean more money in your pocket. But, you can also tackle this from the other side, by working to reduce expenses, too.
Are there vendor service contracts you can either cut or renegotiate at a lower rate? Different vendors offering better deals for the products and services you need to run your business? Can you use less paper and ink and shift more documents to digital only?
If you want to decrease customer churn, you need a strategy. It’s not just one or two small things you can do and suddenly have better customer retention. One of the best things you can do is train your sales team to set and meet the appropriate expectations from the start. If you can’t deliver on your promises, then of course the customer’s not going to be happy.
To develop a customer retention strategy, ask yourself how you are different from the competition, and what your customers lose when they leave you for the competition. Knowing the answers to these questions helps you zero in on your competitive advantage. Once you know what this is, make some changes to highlight these advantages so customers see them as clear differentiators.
Take the time to listen to what your customers are saying, and make it easy for them to give you feedback. Use customer satisfaction surveys, because they’re easy to implement and you can send them after the sale. The information customers give you in those surveys is highly valuable. You can use their insights to help stop customer churn and improve your overall service for new customers.
For best results, keep the surveys branded and personalized. Make it responsive so customers can easily access the survey from either their desktop or their mobile devices. Keep it short – under 10 questions – so more people are likely to complete it. They don’t want to take too much time out of their day, and you should respect that. Make sure you have a clear objective with each survey, knowing the information you want before you send the first one. Track your feedback over time, so you can watch for changes in customer satisfaction levels.
Beyond using customer satisfaction surveys, you can also call your customers. You can engage them on social media, and use social listening tools to find out what people are saying about your brand. By listening to customer feedback, you can find the problems that are negatively affecting their experience – then take action to address it before the customer leaves for the competition.
Goals Aren’t Set in Stone
The beauty of a goal is that you can change it as necessary, and you can make as many smaller goals as you want along the way. Simply saying, “I want to increase profits” or “I want to lose weight” isn’t enough. While your ultimate goal may be to increase profits by 500% or lose 100 pounds, that’s a huge mountain to try to climb all at once.
Instead, start with something like, “I want to increase profits by 20% next quarter” or “I want to lose 5 pounds by one month from today.” These smaller goals are more attainable and less overwhelming, so when you reach them, you can set new mini-goals to help you get to that final goal. But, let’s say you reach that first goal before you expected to – increasing profits by 20% in the first month of the next quarter. Now, you can challenge yourself to take it further. As your business changes, your goals should change. If you find that your goal is a little too lofty, it’s okay to go backslide a bit to a more reasonable goal.
Your business goals help you measure your success. They help you make sure everyone in leadership positions is on the same page – even if it’s only you, for now. They help you understand the effects of your business decisions, and guide you in the right directions.
Since these goals are not set in stone – make a list of goals now, and work toward them. Then, when you get through the first half of the year, sit down and reassess where you are. Continually monitor your business progress against your goals, so you can decide whether or not you need to adjust course before you had originally intended. Almost half (46%) of companies review and revise their goals on a regular basis over the course of a year.
Do you set goals for yourself every year, either business or personal? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments. I’d love to hear from both sides on this one.
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