Anyone can write out objectives, but few seem to achieve them. Maybe people lose sight of a vision or forget their mission – their reason “why”. Perhaps day-to-day worries get in the way of future success. As a business owner, you can’t set objectives for the future and “hope” you achieve them. Only ACTION will make your business better. Therefore, during your strategic planning sessions as you’re mapping out how to increase the value of your business, you must set long-term objectives in your business that can actually be achieved. Let me show you what works for me!
You’ve just done a SWOT analysis on your business in your strategic planning meetings. By identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you know the status of your business today. Now, it’s time to do something with the information you learned. It’s time to affect the future of your company. Look at where you are presently and compare that to your future vision. What’s the difference? What do you have to do to make your vision a reality? What do you need to achieve? More specifically, what are your business objectives?
According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, an objective is “something toward which effort is directed.” Synonyms for an “objective” include an “aim” or a “goal.” Whenever I work with business owners, I often ask the question, “What is your goal?” And what I’ve discovered year after year is that’s a hard question for people to answer. Sure, they have an idea about the direction they want to go; they have vision. But seldom do they establish proper business goals.
Perhaps one of the greatest impacts setting goals has for a business is it helps you and your team members identify a central point of focus in the future. Setting objectives – goals – helps you stay straight, if you will, on your course. So how do you set objectives? But more than that, how do you set achievable business objectives?
It’s been my experience that too many things can change within in a time frame longer than 3 years. Sure, you’ll experience ebbs and flows in your business over the course of 3 years but not nearly as many as you will beyond that time. Therefore, when you set your business objectives, set ones you know you can accomplish within 3 years.
While I’m on the number 3, whenever you’re setting objectives, use only 3 goals. Now, you may think that’s a little crazy, but have you ever heard of the power of 3? Think about it for a second. The number 3 is just about everywhere; it’s not accidental. Just look at the fairy tales you’ve heard since you were a child: Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, The 3 Little Pigs, 3 Blind Mice. What about the 3 wise men of the Bible or the 3 Musketeers? Why do teachers ask students to write 3-point essays, or why do preachers have a tendency to preach 3-point sermons?
There’s just something about the power of the number 3. Maybe breaking ideas into 3 digestible pieces of information helps people commit that information to memory better. No matter why the number 3 is so important, it’s powerful.
When you’re setting those 3 goals, make 1 of them financial in nature so you can achieve quantifiable success. Maybe you want to increase your revenue by 3% or increase your profit margins by 5%.
Don’t stop yet. Next, make sure your objectives align with your vision, mission, values, and SWOT analysis. This is where all the work you’ve done in the VMVSOSTA acronym comes into play. If objectives don’t line up with your values or they don’t line-up with the SWOT assessment you’ve done on your business, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Another thing I recommend people do is to have their management team set the goals. Owners and managers aren’t worried about one or two tasks. They’re worried about all tasks, divisions, and people. Your management team is trained and put in place to see the broadest views and the biggest pictures. They have the WHOLE organization in mind rather than one division of it. Therefore, put them in charge of creating your company’s objectives.
As you’re setting your goals, follow SMART advice:
Finally, write everything down! Dr. Gayle Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University of California, did a study on goal-setting with 267 participants. She found that “more than 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement (completely accomplished their goal or were more than halfway there), compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.”
You’ve already gone through the SWOT analysis. Now, based on your findings from that, you’ve created 3 over-arching objectives for your organization that can be achieved within a 3-year time frame. You’ve had your managers set specific, measurable, attributable, realistic, and timely goals, and you’ve made one of them a financial goal. Finally, once you’ve narrowed your options down to 3 goals, you’ve written them down. Yes, I am hounding you about getting this written down. You will need them to move forward with your VMVSOSTA steps. You can’t develop strategies, create tactics, or take actions without constantly referring back to your 3 objectives. You can’t predict what will happen in your company’s future, but you can measure the outcome of your strategic goals just by writing them down.
You have written them down, haven’t you? They are especially important in the last 3 steps in the strategic planning process!
Join me in my next article as I show you the next step in the VMVSOSTA strategic planning framework – Developing Strategies.