Author Zig Ziglar once famously remarked that people tend not to wander around and then suddenly find themselves on the summit of Mount Everest. In a similar way, those of us that are wandering aimlessly through life are extremely unlikely to suddenly start a succesful small business or lose a significant amount of weight or achieve any of a number of other worthy goals. Goal setting can be one of the most positive, powerful practices you could participate in. When done well, goal setting ignites enthusiasm and provides clear direction. Any ongoing work I do with a client starts with establishing their goals for their small business before moving on into more detail with strategy and tactics.
When practiced poorly, however, goal setting can have a negative impact upon your motivation and progress which will undermine the success you hope to achieve. Poor goal setting makes people cynical, wastes their time and fosters confusion about where to concentrate actions and energy. How does such a potentially successful practice as goal setting, go wrong, so often?
The biggest problem I encounter with clients is setting goals that are unreasonably high. Of course any goal should be stretching to tease out that extra effort that will produce the best possible results. There is nothing wrong with big audacious goals, but they need to broken down into a series a sub goals, thereby creating a step by step process of getting from where you are now to where you want to go. Goals that are concrete, measurable and time based produce results, Goals that are not produce frustration and discouragement. How will you know if your small business goal is too big and needs to be broken down into sub goals? Here are four different methods that I use with clients to help keep goals grounded. After all, it's only at ground level that they can actually gain traction.
The way I use this test is to say the goal out loud to an audience in a strong, confident voice. If both you and the audience can keep a straight face, that's a good sign that it is realistic. Another way to apply this test is simply to ask yourself "Can I really do this?". If the honest answer is a definite "yes", then this is most likely a realistic goal.
Another test might be to review your life experience. Have you ever had a month in which you have actually reached the level of success implied by your goal? If you have, regardless of the circumstances that surrounded this achievement, your goal is realistic. Even if you came really close but didn't quite achieve it, then consider it realistic. If you did it before, you can unquestionably do it again.
This is my personal favourite as it gets you right down to the nitty gritty of what your next action needs to be to achieve your stated goal. Lets say that you have a goal to acquire four new clients this month. It's just then a question of breaking this down into it's constituent parts based upon past experience or your most educated guess and committing to do what is required to achieve it, if it appears possible after numerical analysis. Here's an example:
Goal - 4 New Clients
Over the last six months you have had to present to three prospective clients for every one that you have signed up, so you know you need to make 12 sales presentations to acquire 4 new clients. You also know that you need to speak either on the phone or face to face with an average of 10 prospects in order to make an appointment for one sales presentation, so you know that you need to speak to 120 prospects that month. Now looking at your diary and likely commitments for that month you need to ask the question, can I speak to 120 prospective clients this month? Based upon the resources and time you have right now, if the answer is yes, then it is realistic. If not, make a new goal based upon your current reality. This kind of goal setting is especially powerful as it highlights the key skills required to achieve any goal. For those people that hate prospecting, the key to continued growth is in becoming very good at sales presentations so that a higher number of sales presentations convert to sales. If you could convert one in two rather than one in three sales presentations into sales, you would have to make alot fewer calls to achieve the same goal (you would only need to speak to 80 prospects a month rather than 120)
Have others that you could honestly describe as your peers achieved a similar goal? Do you colleagues or competitors who have been in business about the same time routinely get that much business? If so, this goal is achievable, albeit you may not know and understand exactly how right now.
If any of these tests have made you think that the goals you have set are unrealsitic, change them now. There is no value in struggling to meet an unachievable goal. There is enormous value, however, in goals that are stretching yet achievable. This process of setting and then striving to achieve goals it absolutely fundamental to the growth of your small business. If you want a little help either setting appropriate goals or in defining the specific steps you will need to take in order to achieve them, then contact us here at Continuous Business Planning. Our job is to help guide you, like a satellite navigation system, from where you are now to wherever you want to go. Don't be afraid to dream big. Just be sure that you start your journey of a thousand miles with small steps in the right direction.