Planning and goal setting for a small business can be a little nerve-wracking at times. Let’s face it: sometimes, even the goals we set for ourselves at the start of the year tend to fall by the wayside as soon as February starts.
By July, you’ve completely forgotten about your goals or don’t have the motivation to work towards them anymore. So naturally, we tend to give up and just wait for the New Year once again to set more goals. And so the cycle continues…
But have you ever stopped and tried to figure out why you’re not meeting your personal or business goals? Did you actually set yourself up for success to meet your New Year’s resolutions?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through some important tips to help you plan and set goals for your small business, and how to actually achieve them throughout the year.
Let’s start with…
Planning & Setting Goals: How to Set Yourself Up For Success
Listen— setting goals is not like making a to-do list. You can’t just simply make a list of your goals and move on! You also have to plan and set yourself up for success.
After all, business goals are usually milestones you want to achieve— not just simple tasks you can check off within a day. Writing your business goals is not enough— you need a strong game plan to help you succeed.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. The Importance of being SPECIFIC
Have you ever procrastinated on a project just because you’re not sure how or where to start?
By nature, our brain and body avoid things that are unknown or unclear to us. That’s why we hate the all too familiar “What the heck am I doing?” feeling.
When you’re as detailed as possible with your goals, you eliminate that ambiguous barrier, so you can focus on the actual steps that help you make progress.
Consider these tips and see what we mean by being SPECIFIC:
BE CAREFUL OF BROAD GOALS:
By nature, there’s nothing wrong with broad goals. No one’s going to shoot you down for wanting to lose weight, improve your social media presence, or end world hunger. But these goals are still too vague to become actionable.
When planning and goal setting for your small business, aim to clarify your goals. Give yourself something measurable to aim for. For example, instead of writing “Improve social media presence,” write “Reach 500 followers on Instagram and at least 70 likes on each post.”
DON’T JUST SET ARBITRARY GOALS:
If you want to stick to your goals and stay motivated to achieve them, it has to mean something to you and actually impact your business. Otherwise, you’ll waste time, energy, and resources on things that don’t even make a difference, even if you do achieve them.
Always clarify the WHY behind your goal, and if it’s not impactful or meaningful enough, then you’ll know what goals are worth pursuing or not.
BREAK IT DOWN TO BABY STEPS:
If you want to launch a new product, your action steps can’t look like this: Step 1 Create a product. Step 2. Finalize product. Step 3. Launch product. Step 4. Market product.
Within those steps, there could be hundreds of smaller to-do’s that are more actionable and easier to attain over a shorter period of time. Breaking down your plan into baby steps makes it less intimidating and easier to tackle— one step at a time. (After all, we all know how to eat an elephant—one bite at a time!)
Tip: You can start by clarifying your goal (e.g. Launch an online course about product photography for small e-commerce businesses in September 2022), then identify your milestones (e.g. Finish research about e-commerce businesses), before narrowing it down to doable baby steps (e.g. Braindump topics I want to learn more about).
2. REVIEW your progress and feedback.
Now you know exactly what you’re aiming for and how it impacts your small business. But how far is it from where you are now?
Here are a few exercises to help you reflect on your progress and improvements:
LOOK BACK ON YOUR WINS:
- What were your accomplishments this year?
- How did you reach those sales or what helped you?
- What about your small wins? (Did you get a good review from your client? Did you get a World’s Best Boss mug from your team?)
LOOK BACK ON THE ISSUES YOU ENCOUNTERED:
- What were they?
- Think about the things that led to them in the first place.
- What did you do to overcome them?
- How can you avoid them in the future?
- Is there a specific issue you keep running into?
- If so, what are the usual warning signs? And what can you do to stop them from escalating into a mess?
There are tools to help you track your progress over time, such as social media insights for tracking engagement, your budget spreadsheet for tracking expenses, etc. You can use these tools and consult them for empirical data.
LOOK BACK ON THE HABITS, SYSTEMS, OR ROUTINES YOU’VE DEVELOPED:
- Have you or your team started a routine lately?
- How much time or energy does it require?
- What effects does it have on you, your team, and your business?
- How can you make it better, more efficient, or more productive?
3. The power of SYSTEMS.
James Clear’s award-winning book, Atomic Habits, emphasizes how setting up systems is more important than focusing on goals. Why? Because your systems are the collections of habits, tools, or processes that help you make progress on the things you want to achieve.
If you followed along with our guide, review your list of baby steps and your list of progress and fallbacks. What habits, tools, or resources can help you make your baby steps easier to do, your wins more likely to happen, and your issues easier to avoid?
For example, if your goal is to post on social media 5 times a week, but you know you won’t have time to manually post at a consistent time every day, you can schedule all your posts using a scheduling platform, like Facebook Business Suite.
What other kinds of systems can you create to help you achieve your goals? Here are a few examples:
CONVENIENCE SYSTEM (Making it easier to do):
Automating a process (e.g. scheduling your social media posts to be more consistent), working with a business coach for guidance, hiring a VA to help you with tasks, etc.
MOTIVATION SYSTEM (Keeping yourself motivated):
Setting rewards for you or your team, joining a supportive network of like-minded people with similar goals, attending conventions or conferences, etc.
ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEMS (Keeping yourself accountable):
A business or an accountability partner, informing your assistant or team, joining a supportive community, setting up a Beeminder, etc.
SLOW DOWN SYSTEMS (Preparing for when you’re unmotivated, burned out, or unwell):
Setting rest days (if so, how many?), assigning tasks to someone you trust, etc.
BACKUP SYSTEMS (Preparing to handle possible issues):
Talking to a business partner or coach, reviewing data and revising your plan, meeting with your team to talk about the issue, etc.
As you go through each step and consider our tips, find a quiet space, and don’t be afraid to take your time. This process not only gives you a clearer picture of the next year to come, but it can also refresh your brain and clear up some mental clutter.
Achieving your goals: How to keep them relevant, easy, and actionable
If you’ve been following along with our guide, then you’ve already got a specific, broken-down action plan to achieve your business goals.
Planning and setting goals for your small business doesn’t stop at narrowing down baby steps and devising a system. Of course, it requires action too.
So how do you keep your plans and goals relevant, easy, and actionable throughout the year?
1. Start with a baby step
Here’s where being specific comes into play. From your list of goals, choose which one is the most important (a.k.a. the one that helps your small business more) and start with a baby step.
Depending on your schedule, you can plan to tackle a new baby step each day, each week, or even each month.
Remember: if you’re starting to get that “What now?” feeling, go back to narrowing down your baby steps. As long as you keep clarifying your next steps, it makes them easier to do and you know exactly what needs to be done next in order to make progress.
2 TRACK your progress and collect DATA
When you finally notice yourself losing weight, you’re more motivated to keep up a healthy lifestyle, right?
The same thing goes for your business goals. Being able to see your progress or your fallbacks helps you determine whether your plan or your systems are working.
So here are tools & resources to help you get feedback on your marketing strategies, finances, sales, etc:
Social media platforms and social media scheduling platforms usually provide in-depth insights about your engagement.
Toggl helps you track the time you spend on a project or task.
Quickbooks helps you track invoices, finances, etc.
With progress trackers, you’ll have something tangible to review and base your plans on, instead of just guessing.
3 Make time to REVIEW your progress, systems, and goals.
Now that you’ve set up progress trackers and collected feedback, it’s imperative that you review them on a regular basis. Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be weekly or monthly; you can schedule time for it on a quarterly basis too.
Without reviewing your actions, here’s what’s likely to happen:
It’s easier to become unmotivated because you don’t have a clear picture of your progress.
You’re not aware that you missed a crucial step or of the flaws in your system until you run into an issue (or make an existing issue worse!)
You’ll end up putting in more work, time, and resources to a system or task that’s not really helping you make real progress.
You’ll feel lost around the middle of the year and you’re not sure what you’re doing anymore.
Reviewing is a crucial step in making meaningful progress towards your business goals. Schedule a review with your business coach or team to help you pinpoint highlights, issues, and collect feedback.
If you’ve implemented a system with your team, ask them how they feel about it. Are they having a hard time using new software? Was it easier after you implemented the system or did it just complicate things?
If you work with a team or business partner, involve them as much as possible in the reviewing process. More brains are better than one, after all.
4 Don’t be afraid to TWEAK your goals or your plans.
Planning and setting goals for your small business doesn’t stop at the start of the year. Instead, it should be a continuous process of experimentation. Why?
Here’s an important reminder that most people tend to forget throughout the year:
Well, duh, right?
But here’s the thing. Sometimes, no matter how much you plan, it’s still impossible to plan for everything. Things just happen (like a pandemic, for example!) that will drastically or even just slightly change your priorities and situations. You may not be aware of it all the time, but you change throughout the year too.
Therefore, the goals and the plans you set before or at the start of the year, may not resonate with your business in April, August, or November anymore. That’s why it’s important to make sure your goals and plans stay relevant.
After reviewing your data (your progress, actions, and systems), don’t be afraid to tweak, change, or even let go of them if you feel like they don’t make any impact on your business anyway. Here are some helpful questions to guide you:
How can I tweak this goal to make it more impactful for my business? (For example, if you found out most of your customers don’t use Twitter, can the same goal apply to a different social media platform?)
Is this goal not yet realistic for my small business? (You can adjust your deadline, the target amount, your budget, etc.)
What changes do I need to make for my systems to be more convenient and efficient? (For example, if coming up with social media content takes too much of your time or stresses you out, you can hire your team or outsource a creative team to do them for you. Well, hey there, Biz Spa!)
Approach your goals like a scientist. You can set a trial period to test out your new plans and see how they work. As things change throughout the year, don’t be afraid to keep experimenting and tweaking your goals.
Planning and setting goals for your small business can start with a dream, but it also requires a good plan to set you up for success; consistent action (no matter how small) that helps you make real progress; and allowing yourself to refocus your goals and experiment along the way.
What’s your specific goal for the New Year? Or what was your favorite quote? Let us know in the comments!
What’s that? Is improving your content marketing a part of your goals? We can help you power through your milestones— creating a website, posting up to 5x a week, updating your logo, etc.— and achieve your marketing goals without the stress and hassle!
Send us an email at [email protected] and share your content marketing goals with us.