Recently I had the distinct pleasure of speaking at a conference called, “The Believers in Business Conference” held at one of the largest churches in the Metro DC area (Evangel Cathedral). More than 200 people convened to discuss strategies for launching and running a successful business. The Sessions ranged from how to transition from a J.O.B to entrepreneurship, how to secure financing for your business, how to establish and run a non-profit organization, how to set up the appropriate legal structure for your business such as LLC, S Corporation, C Corporation, or Partnership, etc. And there was my session on “The Power of Goal Setting for Your Business.”
With a packed room and very enthusiastic attendees, I shared the following tidbits of wisdom for how to ensure that your business is set up for success by setting goals and building a strategic plan.
- Count up the cost. Starting a business is no easy or small task. It requires a lot of thought, planning, faith, knowledge, resources, support, time, effort, and yes, money. For some, it may be a small startup that requires little up-front capital, but it will still require a lot of effort, time, energy, planning, and knowledge of business. No one should make this step without first counting up the costs. Not only the costs of starting and operating a business, but the costs or the toll that it may take on your physical and mental health, your relationships, your family, and your finances. Some people empty out their bank accounts or their entire retirement savings to start a business. What do you do then if the business fails? Some people work 70, 80, 100 hours a week trying to get the business off the ground. What is the impact that this will have on your relationship with your significant other, or your children? How will it affect your health and well-being if you’re not eating appropriately, getting very little sleep, or don’t have any time to exercise. How will you handle the mental stress of operating a business? As in any new venture or new relationship, you have to ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up in order to follow my dream and to be successful.” Counting up the costs and knowing what you are walking into and then preparing for the journey is the first step towards business success.
- Start with the end in mind. Too many times people start businesses based on a whim or a great idea that has not been properly thought out, researched, and written into a business plan. Anyone who has enjoyed a level of success in their business will tell you that they started with a plan. As the old adage goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Having a good plan means thinking about what it is that you want to accomplish. Asking “what does success look like when it’s achieved? What steps do I need to take in order to launch a successful business? And “what resources do I need in order to get there.” Steven Covey, author of many best-selling books and one of my favorites in particular, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” wrote that effective people start with the end in mind. A plan is simply thinking about the end and then backing up to lay out a strategy for how to get there. It’s like taking a cross country trip. In order to get from point A to point B, you use a map or your GPS to identify the route you need to take and to determine how long it will take to get there. Likewise in business, you have to start with a road map in the form of a business plan. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate 200 page dissertation but you should write down the type of business you’re interested in; identify what is your business vision and mission; know who are your competitors and what they offer; what you will offer that will be better, different, or unique; how much money it will take to get started; what kinds of supplies, equipment, and resources you will need; where the business will operate from; who will be your clients/customers; and what is your marketing plan for getting those customers. This process of thinking is called “Strategic Planning.” It can be this simple. And as part of this process you should give some thought to what will be your long term and short term goals for measuring success including setting specific timeframes. When you start with the end in mind you have something to start with and something to work towards.
- Follow your passion and your calling. The worst thing that we can do as business owners is to get into a business that does not allow us to utilize our gifts, talents, and strengths and to do it simply because it sounds lucrative or glamorous and is popular. If you are not driven, self-motivated, and called to do it, you will struggle to keep it afloat. I’ve heard many business owners say, “In owning a business you will put in longer hours, work harder than you ever did when you were working for someone else, and you will wear many different hats as your own boss, but it is the most fulfilling job you’ll ever do.” People who say this don’t mind working hard at something that they are passionate about and at something that gives them meaning and fulfillment. And the only thing that will give you meaning and fulfillment is following your purpose and doing that thing that you were called to do. Granted, not everyone is called to start a business or to be an entrepreneur, but all of us are called to do something meaningful while here on earth. In order to be successful in business, in your career, and in your life, you must always follow your passion and your calling. When you’re setting goals, you will be more likely to stick to them and achieve them if they are the things that drive you, motivate you, and the things that you are passionate about.
- Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. I’m sure everyone has heard this acronym and would consider it a bit overused. But as a success coach and a consultant working with business leaders and individuals on building their strategic plans, I can tell you that the skill in writing out SMART goals is definitely underdeveloped. Here’s a prime example. Every New Year, people set their New Year’s resolution. The most popular one is to lose weight. Research tells us that by Valentine’s Day, nearly half of the resolutions have been broken and by April 1, 70% will be abandoned. Why is this? The goals that are set are not SMART goals. Going back to the weight example. If you say that you are going to lose 20 pounds this year, consider a few other things to determine if this is a realistic goal. Have you lost that much weight in the past? How much weight have you lost in a given year over the past five years? What kinds of activities will you incorporate into your lifestyle to make this happen? Notice I said “lifestyle.” Most people don’t change their lifestyle. They attempt to do certain activities for a few weeks or months, but they do not make it a lifestyle change. Simply saying that you will lose weight is not enough. You have to make it measurable and realistic. If you don’t normally go to the gym, you may be setting unrealistic goals if you say that you will now go to the gym five days a week. If you know that you love meat and now you say that you are going to become a vegan with no real plan then you’re setting yourself up to fail. If you say you want to make a million dollars in your first year of business and you have no plan written down, nor have you made that much in the last five years of your business, you are not setting a SMART goal. Remember, a SMART goal must be specific, measurable, realistic (or relative to your ability to get it done), achievable, and time bound. Don’t make it too easy and don’t make it too hard. Customize it to you and your business and not to someone else’s standards.
- Get away and reflect, refresh, and revise your goals as needed. I’ve developed an annual ritual, and I’ve done it for at least the last seven years, of getting away to a tranquil quiet place where I can think and reflect. I review my successes and accomplishments for the year. I look at setbacks I’ve experienced, and mistakes and missteps I’ve made. And I reflect on what I need to do differently to ensure success going forward and to avoid making the same mistakes. Whatever time works for you, I recommend that you just get away and do it. I do it at the end of the year because the first part of the New Year is approaching and it’s the best time to be thinking of making a new start. I try to identify those things that I need to put into place so that I have the rest of the year to make those things happen.
For me, it means getting away from home. I recommend you do that too because being at home, if you’re like me, makes it too easy to look around and see everything that needs to be done. If you’ve got children at home as well, obviously, you’re not going to have a whole lot of peace and quiet. There are just too many distracters. So it’s good to get away—even if you have to limit it to a day or two. It might be an overnight trip; it might be to a friend’s house where you know that it’s going to be a quiet place.
Goal setting is not that hard. It just takes time, commitment, and willingness to get it done. It means transferring your thoughts and great ideas for your business into a written format. And it means using it as a roadmap and a plan for your success. These tips will not only work for your business, but they will work for your personal life too.
If you’d like to access the slides that I used for this session, go to http://www.slideshare.net/shirleyatshrm/the-power-of-goal-setting-and-strategic-planning
To order my recently released audio on Reprioritize Your Goals, go to http://drshirleydavis.com/product/reprioritize-your-goals-audiobook/