Setting business goals at this point in 2020 can seem pointless. However, I was thinking about what 2020 has been like for business owners and I thought that this was a perfect analogy. Down here in the south, NASCAR racing is one of the more popular sports. Now, I don’t quite understand the appeal of watching cars drive in a circle for 3-4 hours but many people love to watch the races. Inevitably, when you have a bunch of vehicles traveling in a pack, at a high rate of speed, there’s going to be an accident. When there is a crash in a NASCAR race, they begin waving what’s known as the caution flag. It warns the other drivers to slow down while they get the wreckage cleared from the track. Even though you might have been forced to slow down, don’t stop!
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As business owners, we have faced the full gamut of business scenarios in 2020. Many business owners closed their doors for good. On the other hand, some business owners have posted record years. The common ground for those of us who have survived is that we’ve all faced unique and trying circumstances throughout the year. As a result, we are exhausted. However, now isn’t the time to stop!
We have been going at a frenetic pace all year. It’s likely that quite a few business owners have found themselves back at the epicenter of their organizations. So stop. Take a step back. We can’t work ON our businesses if we’re too busy working IN them. So, now that the caution flag is out, what do we do? Well, we need to be S.M.A.R.T. What does that mean? It means that we need to take stock of our companies and make Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. Spelling it out is one thing, but let’s really explore what each part of being S.M.A.R.T. means.
Oftentimes, I speak with business owners who have goals but they don’t make them specific enough. Simply saying, “I want to grow my business,” just doesn’t cut it. Making such a general statement is the same as having no discernable goals. Friends, if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time. So, instead of saying, “I want to grow my business,” say, “I want to increase my IBITDA by 4% this year.” Having a specific target gives everyone in your organization something tangible to work towards.
In addition to setting specific goals for your business, they need to be measurable. We can never know if we’ve accomplished our goal or how far off it is if we have no way of measuring success. The most common way of measuring progress is through key performance indicators (KPI’s) and these vary across different industries. For example, a service-oriented business might measure success by the number of clients that they serve each month. On the other hand, a manufacturing company would be more likely to measure success on the number of widgets that they produced. Regardless of the type of business, we must have a clear way of measuring our progress when working on our businesses.
This one can trip people up just a bit. Many people confuse achievable with easy when it comes to their goals. Basically, a goal that requires no effort really shouldn’t be a goal. However, if the goals that we set for ourselves and our team are so outlandish that they are unachievable, that can be demotivational. If we know that something can’t be done then we don’t invest ourselves in trying to make it happen.
Instead, set goals that are achievable but require a little extra effort. I remember when I was a kid and my mom put the cookies up on top of the refrigerator. I couldn’t reach them on my own so I had to put forth some serious thought and effort to get to that Oreo that I wanted so badly. In the end, I figured out how to reach them by using a dining room chair and a couple of old phone books to stand on. The same approach should be applied when setting goals in our businesses. The cookies might be out of reach but there is still a way to get them.
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Similar to making sure that we don’t set unrealistic and unachievable goals, we must be mindful that the goals we set out to achieve are relevant to the betterment of our businesses. If I need to increase IBITDA by 4% over the next year but then set a goal to increase client satisfaction survey participation to 100%, that isn’t relevant to the needs of my business. Don’t waste time on goals that won’t get you where you want to be.
Finally, we must make sure we have a realistic timeframe for our goals and hold everyone accountable to them. The amount of time that we budget toward our goals needs to be long enough for the task to be completed but short enough that our teams remain focused on getting it done. By being S.M.A.R.T. in our approach, it is still possible to meet some of the goals that we set for our businesses at the beginning of the year.
Despite the fact that COVID-19 has brought out the caution flag for many business owners, our goals are still attainable. We may need to slow down and reassess our path to achieving the goals that we set at the beginning of the year, but there are still ways to reach the finish line. In some cases, it might be necessary to just start from scratch. If this is where you find yourself, that’s okay. Just remember to be smart in your goals.
In other situations, a business coach can be a powerful asset to business owners. As we’ve gone through this year, it’s been difficult to stay on track. Many of us have gotten caught up working in our businesses and forgotten to work on them. This is where business coaches come in. They hold us accountable and make sure that we stay on track to meet our goals. I often like to think of them as an extension of the advisory team that is so necessary to us, as business owners. Like our financial planners, tax planners, and lawyers, a business coach works with us to help us avoid the habits that are so harmful to our businesses, driving us towards our goals.
Folks, I know this year has been tough. But life is still good, even when it’s complicated. Fortunately, we can at least make our business goals financially simple. Let’s go out and make it a great day.
If you have questions about how to adjust your own plans to achieve your goals, schedule a meeting with us. The business professionals at Financially Simple are here to help!