Small business tips

How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Business

Every small business owner dreams of success. But far fewer define the goals needed to achieve those dreams. The S.M.A.R.T goal-setting approach makes it easy to set realistic business goals and achieve them.

Read on to learn about the methodology and how it can benefit your business.

What are S.M.A.R.T. goals?

S.M.A.R.T goals refer to a goal-setting practice that helps you set clear and reasonable expectations to maximize your odds of achieving a goal. Each letter of the acronym identifies an essential component of effective goal-setting.

“S” – Specific

Business goals like “make more money” are rarely attained because the objective isn’t specific enough to be actionable. You need to identify the driver and the desired outcome of the goal.

The easiest way to do this is to ask yourself the five W’s:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Why do you want to achieve this?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where will this goal take the business?
  • When do you plan to accomplish it?

With this approach, you can swap the goal of “making more money” for the specific goal of “finding one new client by the end of the month.” This specific goal checks all the five W’s and makes for easy implementation.

“M” – Measurable

If your business is stagnating, it could be because the goals you are setting aren’t measurable or concrete. For example, let’s say you want to generate more social media leads.

How many more leads do you want to receive, from which social channels and by when? Collecting and monitoring hard data in numbers will keep you accountable for your progress toward the goal. This quantified approach to goal setting separates S.M.A.R.T goals from purely aspirational goals.

“A” – Attainable

Dreaming of turning your one-person venture into a six-figure business overnight? While it’s not utterly impossible, it’s also not attainable to most.

Attainable goals are those that can be achieved with the material, financial and human resources available to you.

Setting unattainable goals can demoralize business owners when they do not achieve them. But setting and achieving attainable goals can provide a confidence boost that can further motivate you. Once you achieve one goal, set the bar higher for the next one.

For example, your goal can be to have your one-person venture make a profit in its first year—even if that profit is $1. From there, you can scale it up to eventually make that six-figure business attainable.

“R” – Relevant

Not all goals that can be achieved or worth achieving. Certain goals aren’t relevant to your needs, your other goals, your skillset or current market realities. If any of these criteria apply, it may be wise to pause the goal for a more opportune time.

Case in point, an economic downturn marked by lower consumer spending may not be the ideal time to introduce an upscale product. Having this awareness of goal relevance will help you stay ahead of trends and stand out from competing businesses.

“T” – Timely

When setting S.M.A.R.T goals, give yourself a firm deadline for goal attainment. For instance, set a goal of doubling your email subscribers by the end of the year.

Always define a timeframe that is realistic for the scope of the effort. With a clear deadline, you can plan for a goal, make progress toward it and ultimately achieve it.

Why should you use S.M.A.R.T. goals?

You should use S.M.A.R.T. goals because they help clarify your priorities, allow you to focus and drive you forward.

Instead of obscure goals like “get rich,” a set of specific goals informs you what you need to do and why you need to do them. It forces you to manage your time better, too. There’s also the sense of accomplishment when you’re able to knock off multiple goals.

About the author

Manasa Reddigari

Manasa Reddigari has tackled topics ranging from computer software to home remodeling in her more-than-a-decade-long career as a writer and editor. During her stint as a scribe, she's been featured by MileIQ, Trulia, and other leading digital properties. Connect with her on copyhabit.com to find out what she's been writing about lately.

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The Growth Center does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.