Anne Alexander

Since 2002, Anne Alexander has provided coaching and consulting services to small business owners with five to fifty employees to help them move forward with substantial, profitable business growth, personal satisfaction, and bottom-line control. She is their confidential, strategic partner in managing and growing their business.

Ah, small businesses – the backbone of our economy, the daring dreamers who step into the entrepreneurial ring. But let’s be honest, without clear goals and a solid plan, running a small business can sometimes feel like driving a car without a roadmap—sure, you might get somewhere, but chances are it won’t be where you wanted to end up. After all, if you don’t know where you’re headed, how will you even know when you get there?

In this comprehensive goal-setting guide, we’ll walk you through some tried and true techniques that will help you master the art of setting practical, attainable goals and then using them as a roadmap for the success of your small business. 

Let’s dive right in!


From Chaos to Triumph: Why Setting Small Business Goals & Mapping Your Path is Non-Negotiable

What is the importance of setting goals for small businesses, you might ask? In the realm of business goal setting, wishful thinking might earn you a momentary daydream but won’t secure your spot in the hall of success. If you truly want to conquer the entrepreneurial landscape, you must trade in those whimsical fantasies for something far more potent – practical goals that are the cornerstone of a well-mapped business path.

As the renowned philosopher Seneca once mused, “Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”  So, it’s time to leave wishful thinking in the rearview mirror and step boldly into a future of achievement by setting the stage with clear, achievable, and practical goals. Here’s why:

  • Clarity and Focus: Practical goals help clarify your small business’s purpose and direction. They define what you want to achieve and help you prioritize your efforts. Setting specific, measurable, and achievable goals creates a clear path for your business, avoiding distractions and staying focused on what truly matters.
  • Motivation and Accountability: Practical goals act as catalysts for motivation. They give you something tangible to work towards, fueling your drive and determination. You’re more likely to hold yourself accountable for progress and take the necessary actions to achieve them. This motivation can be contagious and inspire your team to perform at their best, too.
  • Resource Optimization: Small businesses often operate with limited resources, making it essential to use them wisely. Practical goals help you allocate them more effectively by identifying the crucial areas for investment, prioritizing initiatives, and optimizing your time, energy, and budget to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Measurement and Evaluation: Setting practical goals enables you to track your performance, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and make informed, data-driven decisions down the line. Regular evaluation helps you identify what’s working and what needs tweaking, enabling you to constantly refine your strategies for optimal results.
  • Adaptation and Flexibility: Practical goals provide a framework for adaptability in a dynamic business environment. As market conditions change, having well-defined goals allows you to pivot and adjust your strategies while keeping the bigger picture in mind. By setting practical goals, you’re better equipped to respond to challenges, seize opportunities, and navigate the ever-evolving business landscape.
  • Long-Term Success: Small businesses that set practical goals are more likely to achieve long-term success. Goals provide a sense of purpose and direction, ensuring that your day-to-day activities align with your overarching vision. They help you build momentum, make consistent progress, and stay on track for sustainable growth. With each milestone reached, you build confidence and momentum, propelling your small business toward greater heights.

Now, let’s talk about how to set your sights on a harbor and let the winds of determination propel you toward it.


A Roadmap to Success: 6-Step Guide to Setting Practical Goals for Your Small Business

Setting a wide range of effective types of business goals is the secret sauce that can take your small business from surviving to thriving. 

So grab your thinking cap, and let’s dive into a step-by-step guide on how to set business goals that will set your small business ablaze (figuratively, of course) with a strategic business plan paved with tangible objectives. 

Step 1: Paint the Big Picture with a Clear End Goal

Every masterpiece begins with a dream and a vision, and your small business goals are no exception. Imagine a ship navigating stormy seas without a captain at the helm. Chaos reigns, and disaster lurks at every turn. But when you set practical goals and map out your business path, you become the captain of your destiny. You steer your ship with purpose, weathering the storms with resilience and adapting to changing tides. 

Success becomes not just a distant mirage but an attainable destination, eagerly awaiting your arrival. So, what’s your primary goal? What fueled the fire that ignited your small business journey in the first place? What’s the “ultimate destination” you want to reach? Whether it’s dominating the market, revolutionizing your industry, or retiring young, having clear goals will guide your every move. 

Setting practical goals is like harnessing the wind to propel your sails. It’s about embracing ambition while staying rooted in reality. You see, goals that are beyond reach may inspire fleeting excitement, but they lack the substance to withstand the tests of time. Practical goals, on the other hand, ground you in the present while propelling you toward the future.

two business women

Step 2: Get SMART with Your Small Business Goals

Now that you have your overarching dream goal in mind, it’s time to break it down into smaller, actionable goals. Enter the SMART goals framework – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. SMART goal setting has been around for a long time, and its endurance is evidence of its effectiveness. So let’s revisit the fundamentals. Each goal should be an actionable mini-goal on its own, allowing you to track progress across a certain time frame, celebrate victories, and pivot when necessary.

Here are some SMART goals examples to help you get the picture:

  • Increase monthly online sales by 20% within the next six months by implementing targeted digital marketing campaigns and optimizing the website for conversions.
  • Reduce customer churn rate by 15% by the end of the year through improved customer retention strategies, personalized communication, and proactive customer support.
  • Achieve a 90% or above customer satisfaction rating based on post-purchase surveys within the next quarter by enhancing product quality, streamlining the order fulfillment process, and providing exceptional customer service.
  • Decrease average response time to customer inquiries to less than 24 hours by implementing a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system and optimizing internal communication processes within the next three months.


Step 3: From Dreams to Reality: Give Your Strategic Goals a Reality Check

These SMART goals we just talked about? Well, they’re not just there for show. However, SMART goals are just the beginning of your goal-setting arsenal. Dreaming big is great, but setting too unrealistic goals can be a fast track to disappointment. And when it comes to financial goals, it means treading on thin ice.

Once you SMART your way through your small business goals, take a step back and assess your resources, capabilities, and the current state of your business. Make sure you’ve set realistic business goals that challenge you without plunging you into the abyss of despair with grandiose goals.


Step 4: Break It All Down: Long-Term vs. Short-Term Goals

How do you set achievable goals for a small business? In the grand tapestry of achieving success, breaking it all down is the key to unlocking your small business’ full potential. By setting both long-term and short-term goals, you embark on a journey grounded in practicality and fueled by ambition. But why is this breakdown necessary? And what purpose does it serve?

  • Use Long-Term Goals for a Sense of Direction and Purpose

Long-term goals, such as your annual or 5-year goals, are your compass. They represent the bigger picture you need to keep in mind, guiding you toward your future business growth. But setting long-term goals alone is not enough as you navigate the unpredictable waters of small business ownership. They may be powerful, but they can also seem distant, even unattainable at times. This is where small business goals, such as short-term goals, step in like trusty companions walking alongside you on your journey.

  • Use Short-Term Goals as Actionable Steps

Break down your larger vision and overarching goals into bite-sized short-term goals – more manageable pieces and action goals that you can tackle on a regular basis. Examples of short-term business goals include monthly, weekly, or daily goals. Short-term goals for a business act as milestones and little victories, marking your progress, keeping you motivated along the way, and an inch closer to your long-term goals.

They provide tangible targets you can reach within a defined timeframe, offering a sense of accomplishment and fueling your drive to keep going. It’s the thrill of ticking off those checkboxes and knowing that each completed short-term goal brings you one step closer to the ultimate destination.

Short-term goals are like quick wins that keep the fire burning but never lose sight of the horizon, either. Think big, act strategically, and let your long-term and short-term goals be the guiding stars that illuminate your path together for the biggest impact.


Step 5: Unleash the Power of Objectives and Key Results

If you’re on the hunt for a recipe to whip up clear and forward-thinking, high-level small business goals, why not sprinkle a dash of the mighty OKR framework on top? It’s the secret sauce that some of the most triumphant companies of our era swear by. With OKRs – Objective and Key Results -, you can direct individual triumphs toward united organizational-level goals, brewing a concoction that becomes the very essence of a bulletproof company strategy. 

The true magic of the OKR goal framework lies in its ability to unleash the power of audacious aspirations, often known as “stretch goals” or “Moonshot Objectives.” Savvy business leaders understand that these goals may not always be within immediate reach (like we’ve discussed), but they can act as the catalyst that propels individuals to break free from conventional thinking and the boundaries of what seems feasible. And guess what? Sometimes they even surpass expectations.

If you find yourself easily achieving every single goal, it might be a sign that you’re not aiming high enough! So, dream big with one foot on the ground, aim for the moon, and who knows – you might end up dancing among the stars and skyrocket your small business to the very top.


Step 6: Business-Specific Goals: Woo Your Customers and Boost Growth

Your clients are the lifeblood of your company, so when it comes to business goal setting, it’s also crucial to set specific business growth goals that cater to customer expectations and keep your finger on your target audience’s pulse. Nurture your customer base, cultivate customer loyalty, and map out a marketing plan that would make your future self proud. When your customers are happy, your business will thrive organically as a result.


Bonus Tip: Identify KPIs to Measure the Success of Your Small Business Goals

Any business coach or consultant will tell you that, to gauge your progress and make adjustments along the way, you might need key performance indicators (KPIs), too, which exist within the OKR framework. These measurable metrics will tell you whether you’re on the right track or need to shift gears by giving you the opportunity to take a data-driven look at your accomplished goals. It’s a goal review process of all your efforts. On that note…

man making business plan

How Often Should Small Businesses Review Their Goals?

Regular small business goal-setting check-ins are essential for staying on track and adapting to the ever-changing circumstances. It can vary depending on the types of business goals you set, but reviewing your small business goals on a quarterly basis is considered best practice, allowing flexibility while ensuring progress and alignment with your trajectory. 

This frequency enables timely adjustments, maximizes efficiency, and boosts the chances of achieving desired outcomes. Remember, a flexible and dynamic approach to small business goals, even their review process, will keep yours on the path to success.


Master The Art of Business Goal Setting to Unleash Your Small Business’s Potential

In this fast-paced business world, having a plan and setting practical small business goals is like having a compass in a vast, uncharted sea. Arm yourself with knowledge, determination, and the right goals to watch your budding business navigate the waters with ease. However, remember that business goal setting isn’t a mere checkbox exercise or a one-time event.

Learning how to set business goals is an ongoing process that requires regular evaluation and adjustment. So, always keep an eye on your progress, celebrate every milestone, and adapt to the ever-changing circumstances. Stay focused on your high-priority goals while remaining agile enough to seize unexpected opportunities.

And, if you ever find yourself in need of some extra assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to Anne, an experienced business coach and consultant. She’ll help you unleash your small business’s potential, set achievable goals, and conquer the business world (or at least your corner of it) one step at a time. Good luck!


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