If you’re like most small business owners, you’re always looking for ways to level up and achieve even more.
But sometimes, it can be tough to know where to start – especially when setting small business goals. Most of us dream about what we’d like to accomplish, but we don’t know how to turn those daydreams into a solid plan and make it happen.
In this blog post, we’re going to teach you how to set goals that are both achievable and motivational. So whether you’re looking to increase your profits or get more organized, we’ve got you. The secret is to get SMART.
What is SMART?
The trick to achieving goals — instead of just setting them — is to set yourself up for success with SMART goals.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
- Specific: Be as specific as possible when setting your goals. The more clearly you define them, the easier they will be to reach.
- Measurable: Set measurable goals so that you can keep track of your progress over time and celebrate each milestone along the way.
- Actionable: Break down your goals into actionable steps so that you can take the necessary actions to get where you want to be.
- Realistic: Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable so that you don’t set yourself up for disappointment or failure.
- Time-bound: Set a timeline for each goal so that you have an urgency to reach it by a certain date.
A quick history of SMART goal setting
Where did the concept of SMART goals come from? The idea dates back to the early ’80s when a management consultant named George T. Doran first wrote about it in an article for Management Review magazine.
Since then, the idea has become entrenched in business culture and is used by small businesses worldwide as part of their goal-setting processes.
The reason this method has become so popular is that it helps to ensure your small business goals are realistic and achievable — which makes them easier to stick to in the long run.
SMART vs. vague goals
It’s easier to get a full grasp of the concept with an example.
Harvey runs a lawn care business in a major city. He feels like he’s constantly bumping up against the same problem: sloppy office systems that cause missed appointments and angry customers.
Harvey is constantly struggling with his goal, which is to get his office running more smoothly. Every year, he sets the same goal but fails to make any progress.
But if Harvey used SMART criteria, he could set himself up for success by creating a specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound goal. Instead of just saying, “I want to get my office running more smoothly,” he could turn it into something like: “I will implement a new office system within six weeks that will reduce missed appointments and customer complaints by 25%.”
Now Harvey has a framework, and setting a goal like that immediately makes him feel like he has some direction. He needs to figure out what’s wrong with his office system and research alternatives. He has an immediate deadline to work towards, as well as a measurable goal that he can track.
That’s why, when it comes to setting small business goals, SMART is the way to go!
Making SMART a Habit
Goal-setting isn’t just about writing down ideas and intentions — it’s also about making sure you actually take action. And for a busy small business owner — even a go-getter like you — it can be tough to stay on top of daily operations and track multiple goals.
When you hear yourself talking about some future goal — even if it’s something vague like increasing sales or getting more organized — stop and write it down. Then, break it down into SMART criteria and consider whether you can set a timeline for each goal.
Make a note on your calendar on the date you plan to complete it. If it’s a big project, break it down into steps and mark those on your calendar as well.
For example, Harvey might write down target dates when he’ll research different office systems, make a decision, and implement the new system. Doing this will ensure he is taking action and making progress toward his goal.
Or, if your goal is to increase sales, rephrase that into a SMART goal: “I will increase my sales volume by 15% within six months by adding a website tool that lets customers schedule appointments and running Google ads about it.” Once you have this goal written down, break it up into smaller tasks, such as researching different optimization techniques or creating an email marketing plan.
(At this point, we should note that ServiceWorks software can help you organize your office and add a customer scheduling tool to your website. It can also help you and Harvey with scheduling, route planning, tracking your staff, following up with customers, and collecting payments. And you can try it free for two weeks with no credit card! Just thought we’d throw that in there.)
By creating a system of SMART goals, you can work towards something tangible rather than just spinning your wheels and hoping for the best. It’s easier to stay motivated when you have a deadline and some measurable progress along the way.
Get SMART in 2023
Setting small business goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound can help you make sure your goals are attainable — so why not give it a try?
As time goes by and you start to achieve more goals, it might even become a habit.