Originally published October 4, 2011
Whenever I wanted to purchase some new techno-gizmo – phone, laptop, tablet – I’d use the very crude, unrefined method of printing pictures of it and posting them around my home and office. These were constant reminders of my current focus, or obsession, depending on how well you knew me. Every interaction and momentarily lull had to be turned into an action that moved me toward that goal as a result. Later I learned and developed more sophisticated methods of achieving my dreams. Setting realistic, attainable goals has become more meaningful to do and to teach as a result.
Achieving goals requires careful, thought-out planning, and setting them calls for equal attention and focus. When defining goals – whether personal, professional, or entrepreneurial – concentrate on what you wish to achieve, as well as how much of it, by when, and with whom. For instance, pasting the printouts of my latest obsession in places I’d always see them served to remind me of what I wanted, what kind or how much of it I was after, when I wanted it, and with whom.
In her book, “Eight Habits of Highly Successful People”, author Jean Marie Stine suggests these five qualities for sharpening the focus of your goal:
- A precisely defined target (specifying how many/much, what kind, which one)
- A precise start date
- A precise target deadline
- A precise method for getting there
- A precise outcome
Stine also cites sales guru Joe Girard’s “Get Real” Principle to determine whether a goal is unrealistic:
- Insufficient time for accomplishing the goal
- Impractical approaches to achieving it
- Lack of critical resources the task requires
There is plenty of printed and online help for learning ways to set realistic, attainable goals. Some resources are helpful for helping individuals crystallize their personal goals and clarify their life and work objectives. Others are geared toward goal-setting in a team setting, which requires group input and shared meaning. If this is a weak area for you, consider researching these materials thoroughly before trying to strike out in your own business venture.
Many small businesses fail due to poor planning, a direct result of subpar goal-setting skills. Think about this: To move from an idea to a plan, you MUST have some viable goals in mind. I ran a small business without a business plan for about three years. I made little money and focused heavily on doing spot work to fill in revenue gaps. Since I ran the company as a part-time venture for supplemental income and didn’t depend on the business as a livelihood, I paid little attention to the need to set some business goals and to construct (not draft, not write, not put together… CONSTRUCT) a business plan.
Working with a small team of administrative and promotional assistants, I constructed my first business plan for an online community and youth news magazine we started. There were a lot of obstacles and challenges because THIS plan for the magazine brought its own goals and objectives that relied heavily on its parent company’s planning tool. Oh, yeah, there WAS NO parent company planning tool in place! Lesson learned? Develop some goals linked to the core values of the parent company and THEN planning for its subsidiaries becomes that much clearer.
Once you’ve defined your goals and linked them to core values (topic for a coming blog posting; stay posted), you can begin planning (topic of my NEXT blog posting; again, stay posted). Does this mean your goals are fixed, set in stone, unmovable, immutable? Nah. Your goals will develop as your personal and professional needs shift, as they often do in troubling economic times like these.
What does this mean for you? As you learn the value of solid goal-setting skills, be prepared for shifts and changes – internal and external – that can affect the way you do business and thus, the way you set goals and plan to achieve them. Take a moment to assess your goal-setting acumen. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being expert and 1 being, well… there’s ALWAYS room for improvement anyway, right? Share your thoughts, experiences, insights, and questions in comments. We look forward to learning as much from you as you learn from assessing your own viability as a business owner!