The recession and economic uncertainty of recent years have presented challenges for many small businesses. As 2012 begins, economic recovery is tenuous and vulnerable to government debt and economic tension at home and abroad. In tough times like these, setting business goals and working diligently to achieve them is more important than ever, whether you own a large enterprise or run a home-based business.
As critical as it is to set and track your business goals, the beginning of any new year can be chaotic. Taking the time to analyze your business goals might seem overwhelming. But by following some simple guidelines, you can maximize the results as 2012 unfolds.
Visualize the Future
Look at the big picture and try to visualize where you want your business to go in 2012. Think big, dream big and strive for excellence, but be realistic. What sort of results would get you excited? What kind of lifestyle do you want to achieve? Which products or services were most successful in 2011? Do you need to introduce something different based on your market analysis?
Not all success is based on sales or income, although those things are obviously important. Consider other areas as well. What would you, personally, like to do more of or less of in 2012? How can your business help you do those things? Look back at the reasons you started your business in the first place. Are those reasons still valid? If not, what needs to change?
Think about how your business integrates with your family life and personal life. Do you want to spend more time with your kids? How does your business need to transform in order to achieve your ideal work/life balance?
Once you identify your vision and determine what needs to change, you can develop a strategy for taking your business to the next level. The strategy will consist of all the goals you need to accomplish and the actions required. Once the vision is in place, you can use it as a guide to keep you on track throughout the year.
Consult With Your Customers
Don’t forget that the customer is always right. Ask them what they would like to see from your business in the future. How did they rate your products, services, prices, customer service or quality last year? What can you do to give them what they want?
Write it Down
No matter what goals you set, if you don’t write them down and refer to them frequently, you are less likely to remember them or act upon them.
Start with a brainstorming session, listing every goal you can think of that will help get your business closer to the vision you identified in the first step. At this stage, be sure not to over think or judge your ideas. Jot down everything that pops into your mind. Use your imagination. You can analyze, prioritize and whittle the list down to a final, working list later.
Assess Your List
Once you have a loose list of goals that match your vision, it’s time to assess what you have brainstormed. In this step, use an analytical approach, eliminating entries that do not mesh with the overall vision of where you want your business to be by year’s end. Use your business sense. Is the goal realistic? Is it achievable? Make sure your goals are feasible.
Categorize your goals into buckets that make sense. Divide them into short-term and long-term goals. Long-term goals can then be broken into a series of short-term goals to help you stay on track and keep you motivated. As always, keep your overall vision in mind and set reasonable time limits for achieving each goal.
No goal is attainable without taking action to make it happen. For each one, identify an action or series of actions that you must take to achieve that goal. They are the engines that drive you toward your goals. They help you manage your daily business activities and make your efforts sustainable. By clearly identifying the actions you must take to reach them, you are less likely to be overwhelmed by a long-term goal; furthermore, you will gain confidence that comes from continually working toward them.
Support, Advice and Accountability
If yours is a large organization, support can come from within. But if you are a small business, a home-based business or a sole proprietorship, you might need to look outside for advice and support. Even if it’s someone in your own family, find a trusted person to get their opinions, share your ideas with and help hold you accountable. Tell them your vision and ask them to help keep you on track to achieve it. Just knowing that someone else is expecting you to achieve your goals can provide some motivation and some positive pressure to help keep you accountable and moving forward. And don’t forget to consult with your tax, legal or financial advisor for their expert advice.
By establishing a vision, identifying short- and long-term goals and actions, and then working hard to achieve each of them, you can make 2012 a better year for your business.