How little wins can re-ignite your business success

 Many small business owners take stock at the start of the year. It’s a time to look back at what’s been achieved – and set goals for the year ahead.

But setting ambitious goals can be daunting. Let’s say you’ve hit a turnover of $500,000 and want to crack a million. Or you want to take your offering overseas, or launch something entirely new.

Goals like these may be clear. But how, exactly, will you get there?

The answer is deceptively simple: break your dauntingly big tasks up into smaller, achievable chunks. For instance, you could turn your yearly financial goal into a series of monthly goals linked to specific initiatives or plans. Or you might aim to get 240 new clients this year by aiming for 20 a month.

By chunking big tasks, you generate that all-important sense of progress – for you, and for your team.

Play it SMART

A great way to start is by running through the SMART checklist for your big picture business goals.

To be useful, a SMART goal must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

Running goals through this checklist helps you avoid vague, non-specific objectives.

Once you’ve figured out your main goals for the year, you can drill down to the detail. Big picture goals should act as stepping stones to the real thinking – the plan for getting from where you are to where you want to be.

This is where you can break up the big goal into smaller, discrete tasks. Once you’ve done that, allocate time frames, responsibilities, actions and resources.

For instance: a SMART goal might be to double turnover from $500,000 to $1 million in a year. Then you would break this big goal into monthly targets and give yourself and your employees responsibilities, actions and resources for getting to these goals.

Melbourne business coach Maureen Pound recommends pairing SMART goals with an emotional payoff to increase your chances of getting there.

“One of my clients wanted to cycle for a month around Cuba. For that to happen, he had to have systems in place so his staff were trained and so his business could keep running while he was away,” she says. The client had a SMART goal with a payoff he really wanted – and he got there.

Pound says many business owners think a goal like doubling turnover is enough. But she sees many people fail to reach ambitious money-only goals. “It’s more effective if there’s an emotional attachment to the goal,” she says.

Step by step

You can try the small-wins approach from the bottom-up as well as top down.

This means stringing a bunch of small achievements together to give you fresh insight into your business, market or competition.

For instance, you could undertake market research to better understand your business strengths and weaknesses – and uncover new avenues for growth.

You could create or refine your business plan to help attract investors or adjust your positioning in the market.

Or you could experiment with a version of the lean startup model, in which entrepreneurs and small business owners aim to build a ‘minimum viable product’ as fast as possible.


Climbing to the top, step by step

Jules Malseed-Harris, the Melbourne-based founder of OurHome, the world’s top rated family chore app says this model focuses on getting your idea into the market quickly – and then improve it steadily, based on customer feedback.

“The way we build our product is based on customer feedback,” he says.

“We keep a running tally of what features people are asking for – and we build the popular requests into the app.”

“What we love about it is the sense of progress, one improvement at a time,” he says. “And our users tell us they love being listened to as well.”

That ticket to success? It might well be small wins and steady improvement.