Mid-year often points your business towards tax time admin – but what about those business goals you set earlier in the year? Using the new financial year to cast a critical eye over your progress will help you figure out what’s next for your business, and give you time to address any problems or roadblocks that have occurred. And those check-ins are simply non-negotiable, says business coach Brook McCarthy. “When you can make a weekly ritual of checking in with your goals’ key metrics, the better you’ll tend to do,” she says. “As they say, ‘what gets measured gets managed’.”

Kirsty Fanton, a strategist, coach and copywriter for online service providers and digital product creators, agrees. “Business owners wear many hats and it can be hard being the person down in the weeds – while also being the CEO holding the vision and setting the course,” she says. “You really have to carve out time to look at your business from a different perspective.”

Two women seated at a desk in a meeting room looking at a laptop with a projector screen in the background displaying graphs. 

What Are Common Smart Business Goals to Set?

Most business goals that come across Kirsty’s desk revolve around making more money, or spending less time working – and sometimes both. “The strategies people choose to try and reach those goals are incredibly varied: new products, audience-growth targets, hiring team members, increasing prices; you name it,” she says. “Often what determines success is how much that strategy is aligned with the assets you have to play with, your own skill set and a really clear vision.”

Setting long-term business goals that are tied to revenue and profit is really important, says Brook, but you want to be clear with the short-term goals for a business as well, particularly when it comes to breaking down processes. “Say you want to grow your Instagram within 12 months – the goal that counts and that you have real control over is what you do to achieve this,” she says. “The end goal is 1000 followers, but the process goal would be three daily stories five days per week, and three static posts per week, scheduled once a fortnight.” 

How to Assess Your Progress on Business Goals

The first step is to revisit the goals you set at the start of the year and ensure they’re still relevant to your business. Have significant changes in your industry meant that what felt achievable in January needs to change to reflect the current climate? Look at your goals from a macro level, then drill down into their individual success.

Measure your progress so far against the ultimate goal. For example, says Kirsty, if you’ve set a revenue or profit goal for the year, determine if you’ve made the percentage of that figure you expected by this time.

“You need to pin down how many of which of your offers you need to sell, and at what price – especially if you're a business who offers discounts or deals at different points in the year,” says Kirsty. “Take your capacity, availability, and sales cycles into account and update this spreadsheet every month or quarter, based on what makes sense for your business, so you can see whether you're on track to hit – or even exceed – your big-picture goal by year's end.”

Regular, honest assessment of goals based on cold, hard quantitative data, as well as qualitative data, is critical. While a mid-year assessment is great for looking at the big picture, looking into your progress monthly will ensure you can evaluate your approach and adjust your timeline regularly.

SEE ALSO: How to Get Organised at Work in 2023 

Back view of a woman wearing a black top staring at a blackboard on a wall showing quarterly business goals. 

When Business Goals Crash and Burn: What Next?

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. “You’re human and it’s OK,” says Kirsty. “I’m a huge believer in pinpointing where and why things went off track because it’s valuable insight for next time. Take time to review what has and hasn’t happened so far this year, along with the reasons why, so you can set a more informed course for the rest of the year.” 

When Brook has fallen short of her business goals, she puts it down to lack of planning and follow-through. “The marketing, the visibility raising, your sales process – once you examine these, you’ve got to be objective with yourself. In other words, you can’t complain about the results you didn’t get because of the work you didn’t do.”

She adds that most small-business owners underestimate the time required for marketing and business development. “If you're committed to being in business in the long-term, then this is a non-negotiable – and it includes not just nurture marketing, such as posting on socials or publishing blogs, but time spent getting your business in front of brand new audiences, too.”

Setting Business Goals in Times of Strife

The pandemic, an impending recession – setting smart business goals can feel extra challenging in a shifting landscape. So what’s the solution? “We’re all operating with incomplete information all of the time, and the best insurance policy you have is your own resilience, resourcefulness, agility and openness to try something new,” says Brook. “Goals need to be fluid and responsive to circumstances, but in a considered way, rather than a gut reaction or knee-jerk response governed by fear.”

SEE ALSO: Queenie Tan: My Money Tips and Business Must-Haves

A side-view of a woman with a black marker writing on a sticky note that is stuck to a  window containing many other sticky notes in various colours. ‍

Frameworks for Setting Business Goals

There are myriad goal-setting frameworks - SMART, SWOT, OKRs – but the essential thing is finding one that works for you and your business.

“I’m annoyingly anti-framework when it comes to goal-setting,” says Kirsty, whose previous career as a psychotherapist involved studying a heap of methods to determine the ‘correct’ approach. “What I kept finding in practice was that meaning and motivation are the two biggest determinants of success. So, say you have a financial goal of making $100k in profit this coming financial year, to increase your chances of hitting that, you need to articulate why it’s important. Is it tied to an investment? Is it about increasing your salary so you can feel good about booking an annual family holiday? 

“There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you need to give the goal meaning – it’s about the ‘so that’ which comes after the metric; for example, ‘I want to work four days a week so that I have a day with the kids.’ Add that magic phrase into your business goal-setting sessions to get yourself off on the right foot.”

And if You’re Kicking Goals With Your, Ah, Goals? 

Set stretch goals. Kirsty is a fan of ‘good, better, best’ business goals to push your business along. “Your ‘good’ goal is your baseline marker of success, your ‘better’ goal is where you exceed your own expectations and your ‘best’ goal is something that feels relatively unattainable when you set it. That way you always have something to reach for and it’ll add fuel to your fire.”

Brook’s advice in the face of business goal-setting success is to focus on systematising and streamlining process and procedures, and leveraging. “Plus, taking a well-deserved holiday!”

SEE ALSO: 16 Goals that SMEs Should Embrace Year Round 

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