Small businesses need small goals; that sounds trite, right? While it may sound ‘cute’, it’s actually quite true for businesses of any size. Small goals are not a reflection of the ambition or overarching strategy of a business, but rather speak to the strategic way a business approaches its long-term goals. Small goals enable businesses to chip away at large objectives and celebrate their wins along the way. It takes time and effort to get a business up and running in a sustainable way, so taking time to note accomplishments of any size bolsters morale and helps you refocus on the bigger business goals. Jack Nickell, the owner of Threadless.com, perfectly summarizes what it takes to start a company:
“Patience, drive, and very little fear.”
His understanding of the gusto and drive necessary to get a company off the ground is spot-on and align with how small goals feed into building a bigger business. It takes time for a business to come to fruition, but when small goals are achieved, they are an indicator that the business is moving in the right direction and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Consider these four strategies when developing and implementing small goals into your small business:
Design a blueprint for all of your goals (big and small)
As you review your larger business goals and one-, five-, and ten-year plans, develop milestone goals (i.e. small goals) that are in line with these bigger objectives. If you have the desire to be the top dry cleaning service in the Greater Philadelphia Metro area within five years, it will serve you to have milestones between now and then so you can track your progress toward that long-term goal. Milestones can be monthly, quarterly or even annual goals, and they should be SMART. SMART goals encompass the following five factors:
Ensuring that your milestones meet the SMART criteria will allow you to easily determine if the goal has been met. Due to the scope and deadline of each milestone, it is either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ when it comes time to evaluate your progress. Having a tangible and measurable milestone signifies how the business is advancing toward the larger five-year goal, which is more of a moving target and may be revised before it is achieved. As Jason Fried, founder of 37 signals, said,
“Unless you are a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy.”
Small goals permit you to measure the present and estimate where you’re going in the future.
Make sprint goals part of your strategy
Sprint goals are similar to SMART milestones as they break down your strategic business pillars into bite-sized goals that are concrete, measurable and have discrete deadlines. However, they vary from milestones because they are designed for quick execution and completion. Sprint goals enable businesses to hyper-focus on a specific outcome for a designated period of time, typically a month. It’s like putting blinders on a horse before a race. The horse can only see what’s in front of him: the track and the finish line. That’s what sprint goals give businesses: a clear path to a short-term goal. Establishing sprint goals in your small business gives you the ability to complete tasks and projects in a chosen period of time, all while having your entire team onboard. Having everyone understand what the top priority is for the week or month provides increased productivity and a level of satisfaction once the sprint goal is achieved in the assigned amount of time.
Track your progress and keep moving forward
Monitoring your progress toward goals is almost as important as having goals. Checking in and seeing how close you are to achieving a goal is a wonderful feeling and can be the push needed to complete an objective. By closely watching where your business is in relation to any milestone, sprint, or long-term goal, it is a reminder of how much you’ve accomplished and how close you are to the next phase of your business’s development. Small and sprint goals are easier to track because they are usually completed in a short amount of time and everyone likes checking a task or project off their to-do list. They are also reminders of the numerous steps your business has taken toward your overarching goals.
Sometimes deadlines are missed or goals aren’t achieved, and that’s okay. When you miss the target, analyze what happened, learn from it, and keep moving forward. One small bump in the road shouldn’t throw you off course; it’s bound to happen when you’re building a small business. Refocus on why you’ve set these small goals and course-correct so your next sprint is a success.
Celebrate your achievements!
Celebrations are usually reserved for large-scale achievements, but taking time to recognize small successes is important, too. Whenever a milestone or sprint goal is achieved, take note! If you work on a small team, treat them to lunch or have a party. Working alone? Give yourself a day off. Celebrating wins is enjoyable, fun, and keeps you and your team motivated toward reaching the next milestone or sprint goal. It also makes the end long-term goals seem slightly closer to being achieved. Rob Kalin, co-founder of Etsy, said,
“The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90%.”
As you can glean from Kalin’s quote, you need to maintain high levels of enthusiasm and productivity throughout your business’s lifecycle, and what better way to push through the inevitable challenges than to take a few hours to congratulate yourself on meeting your goals?
Goals and goal setting for small businesses can be confronting, but hopefully these tips make your planning process more manageable and gratifying.