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8 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Business Goals This Year

Are you a small business owner looking for ways to stay on top of your business goals this year? You’re in the right place! We are here to help guide you in setting business goals and inspire you to stay motivated to reach them.

The goal-setting process is an important part of your strategic planning and a tool for achieving business success. You will be setting business goals again and again as you maintain and grow your organisation. From modest short-term business goals to audacious goals, setting business goals is how business leaders like you move their entire organisation forward.

There are many types of business goals, and they touch on all important aspects of your company’s operations, from processes to finances.

Business goals provide direction for your organisation in everything from day-to-day activities and how to build a positive company culture, to resource allocation and tracking progress against your organisation’s mission statement.

Some short-term business goals are meant to be achieved within a few months, while long-term goals may be years away. A good business strategy sets goals at many points and of various durations to help an organisation keep moving along the road to success.

If all this talk of goal setting is stressing you out, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Every entrepreneur experiences times when it is difficult to stick with the tasks that will help them reach their business objectives.

That’s why we’ll discuss eight effective strategies for ensuring that you remain focused and proactive in achieving your business goals. Ready to jump in? Let’s take a look at some practical tactics that can have an enormous impact on your progress!

1. Set Challenging, Realistic Business Goals and Objectives

Goal setting is an art and a science. When establishing business objectives, it is important that you set attainable goals that are also measurable.

Setting business goals that are realistic is essential. Achievable goals can be used to measure progress, keep motivation high, and maintain focus. But if the goal is too high and feels overwhelming, you and your team members are liable to become frustrated. And that progress, motivation, and focus you hoped to measure and support? It may well take a downward turn.

For goals to be helpful, they must be measurable. You can use key performance indicators (KPIs) and benchmarking to track your progress toward your business goals.

Goals that are challenging but achievable will encourage growth and development within the business. When business goals are overly ambitious, it can be easy to become discouraged. With realistic and measurable business goals, it is easier to stay on track and continue working toward success.

Establish Clear Business Objectives

For your business goals to inform decision making, provide a smart framework for your organisation’s growth, and allow you to accurately measure progress, they should be crystal clear and very specific. You can always break down your overarching business goal into as many smaller goals as necessary to achieve the clarity and specificity you need to make it achievable and measurable.

Keep your objectives clear and well-defined

If your business goals are broad and vague, it will make it harder to track success. Remember, the quality of your key results is closely related to the quality of the goal you are trying to measure. So, when it comes to setting your goals, make them as straightforward and easy to measure as you can.

Incorporate SMART goals

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. These characteristics are used to guide the setting of objectives, making them clearer and easier to track. When you are goal setting for your organisation, remember this acronym. The best business goals are those that follow the SMART format.

  • Specific: Your business goals should be clear, concise and well-defined, not broad or ambiguous.
  • Measurable: It is essential to have tangible criteria for measuring progress and knowing when the goal is accomplished.
  • Achievable: Your business goals should be realistic and attainable, not impossible to reach. They should stretch your abilities but still remain possible.
  • Relevant: The goal should align with other related goals and fit into your immediate and long-term plans.
  • Time-bound: Your business goal should have a deadline or time frame to create a greater sense of urgency and importance.

When goal setting, use the SMART acronym as your guide for creating your own smart business goals and you will have a clear, organised plan for measuring your progress. This will also help you stay motivated to continue making and achieving goals.

Embrace Flexibility

As you invest time and effort in creating short-term and long-term goals, as well as shaping your overall business objective, remember that the nature of business is fluid. 

Whether through gradual evolution or unexpected events, business goals may evolve and change.

Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that your goals remain clear, attainable, and measurable, while embracing flexibility for adaptability.

So embrace flexibility, and be prepared to adjust your goals when and as needed.

2. Analyze Current Progress to Determine Room for Improvement

You should never just set it and forget it when it comes to your business goals. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal: to grow your business. And to do that means to be constantly analysing the status quo and looking for ways to improve.

Goal setting and monitoring help you find the areas in your business that you need to focus on.

So, to maintain accountability, check key results regularly to ensure that you are on course and on schedule to meet your goals and objectives.

Review Past Performance

To set business goals for the future, you must have a clear picture of your organisation’s performance in the past and present. Consider asking yourself the following questions: 

  • How have you done in areas such as customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction?
  • How successful have you been in reaching your target audience?
  • Have you broken into any new markets?
  • How confident are you about your brand reputation?
  • What are your profit margins?
  • Did you increase sales?
  • Boost revenue?
  • Increase profitability?

Once you’ve identified answers to those questions– and more, if you come up with any questions specific to your business – then you can assess which of the time intervals of recurring reporting and performance would work best for your business.

Quarter over quarter

In every area that you wish to include in your business goals, look at how that area has performed from quarter to quarter.

This information will serve as a baseline when setting your new quarterly goals. Use what you know from having reviewed past performance to set smart goals that you and your team members will feel are achievable, not overly ambitious.

Year over year

Examining year-over-year performance offers a comprehensive, long-term perspective on your business’s activity. It serves as a foundation to gauge progress towards overarching goals.

These annual objectives may involve expanding market reach, boosting market share, increasing revenue, or enhancing shareholder value. Consider these questions if you plan to do year-over-year reviews: 

  • Did profit margins improve?
  • Was customer satisfaction enhanced?
  • Did employee turnover decrease or employee satisfaction rise? 

By analysing these factors, you gain invaluable insights into your business’s growth trajectory.

This is also an appropriate time to revisit your vision statement, so you don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Month to month

Progress on a monthly basis is also great to keep track of so you can make course corrections as needed before the end of the quarter. Monthly check-ins could help identify how individual teams are performing against short-term goals you’ve set for them, as well as checking in on employee retention.

It’s also good to check in on your social media platforms to ensure your content is up to date and that you’re tracking with the target audience you need to engage in order to reach your business goals.

Checking in on a monthly basis could also help prevent initiatives from falling through the cracks and allow your business to achieve the key results you need to meet goals.

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

In your progress reviews, it’s good to see where you’re tracking well and excelling, but it is also critical to keep track of any holes or weaknesses you’re noticing.

Don’t shy away from these areas. Now that you are becoming familiar with the goal setting process, you know that if you want to improve aspects of your business, it’s just a matter of setting the appropriate business goal or business goals.

So, again, you want to acquire the information needed to create strategic business goals.

Draw comparisons to industry standards

A good way to benchmark strengths and weaknesses is to compare what you’re doing to industry standards. This will help you determine the areas you need to focus on and the types of business goals you need to set for your own company.

While comparing your business’s performance to the industry shouldn’t be the only way you measure success, it is a good way to ensure you’re on track when setting your business goals.

So, look around. You are bound to discover a business model you might like to emulate or discover a helpful business goal example that will help you in setting your own business goals.

Employ Data-Driven Decision Making

When making business decisions, especially big ones, you should never rely solely on feelings. Keep track of data and make decisions based on that data, as well as on your instincts as a business professional and expert in your field.

Setting and monitoring progress toward your business goals will provide you with the data you need to make the decisions that will not just help grow your business, but help to grow it according to the principles outlined in your vision statement.

3. Create a Budget and Track Expenses Regularly

One of your goals every year is likely – or should be– to stay on some form of a budget. In order to do that, a budget must be created and tracked regularly.

There are many considerations when making and monitoring a budget, including the importance of understanding your operational costs, planning for future investments, and regularly updating your budget, along with your business goals.

Understand Your Operational Costs

It almost goes without saying that knowing what your operational costs are is fundamental to maintaining a healthy business. And if you want to grow your business, you have to have a thorough grasp of this information when setting your business goals.

Have a good understanding of how much it costs to run your business

When it comes to setting budgets and understanding costs, consider beginning by answering these questions: 

  • How much do you spend on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis? 
  • What do you spend it on?
  • How much is spent on recurring expenditures like insurance or wages, versus one-off costs like capital improvements?

Collect and organise this information in a format that makes it easy to access and understand. You will want to refer to it frequently as you create your budget. Your expenditures are one of the most significant factors in determining how much you need to take in.

Identify how much you need to take in regularly to be profitable

Knowing what your expenditures are is fundamentally important, as it is only after those are paid that your business shows a profit.

Furthermore, knowing your expenses and knowing when they are due will help you know not just how much income your business needs but also when those funds need to be available.

Having this information clearly set out in your budget will help make sure your business expenses get paid and that they get paid on time. Late fees should be avoided as they will cut into your profit margins.

Figure out how much to charge for your business’s product or service offering

Your business has a product or service that you provide to your customers for a price or fee. How high or low should that price or fee be?

To answer that question, take a look at your expenses data, your business goals, and how much you need to make to be profitable. This will help inform your price structure so that you stay on track to meet your business objectives.

You will want to price your product or service so that it both covers your expenses and creates a profit at a rate in accordance with a timeline that you established with your business goals. This is another point at which it is important to be realistic—about what you need, and about what the market will bear.

Plan for Future Investments

One of the most useful things about business goals is that they can help you and your business prepare for the future.

And if you intend to grow or even just maintain your business, you will need to plan for future investments.

Having a budget doesn’t mean you need to spend it all.

As an example, think about making a huge, unexpected sale. Or you just won a big, lucrative contract that you didn’t think you had a chance for.

You’ve dutifully recorded the data in the “Income” column. And as you look at that windfall amount, you might be tempted to do something big.

Something you wanted but that had seemed too extravagant to include in your business goals. Or you might want to spend it all at once on a capital improvement that was one of your long-term goals, that you intended to work toward gradually. Why not do it right away?

Before making a decision, it might be a good idea to revisit your business goals. They will help you prioritise your long-term and short-term objectives to make the best use of your unexpected income.

Remember, though, to grow a business, you need to invest in your business, so set aside some room in your budget for any larger purchases you may make later on.

So what do you do when you haven’t gotten a big windfall as in the scenario above, but you know you need to amass some significant capital for future investments in your business?

Be sure to include in your budget a mechanism for setting aside income on a regular basis to build up this fund.

Regularly Monitor and Update Your Budget

Just like you do with your business goals, it is important that you monitor and update your budget on an ongoing cadence. Whether it happens slowly or quickly, change is inevitable, and it’s wise to keep an eye on your budget and ensure that it remains up to date.

Use budgeting software or spreadsheets

There are loads of options to choose from when it comes to budgeting software or spreadsheets.

Find a format that fits your business and suits your preferences. Remember, you want your information storage and management system to be seamless, so you can easily find and use the data you need when you need it.

Set time aside daily or weekly to track any expenses and adjust your budget

The best software in the world can’t help you, though, if you don’t use it.

Set aside time regularly to record and review your expenses, and make adjustments to your budget as needed.

4. Utilize Project Management Software

One of the best things you can do to keep your company moving forward toward your business goals might be to employ project management software. It can help you follow multiple lower-level activities and see how results there ladder up and merge at the next level, and so on as a project moves toward completion.

Keep things organized

Face it. In our data-driven lives and businesses, almost every step involved in every process involves a lot more information than you can jot down on a Post-It note.

Using a project management software can help keep processes and information safely organised with the project it belongs to, so there are no mix-ups that could throw a monkey wrench into your production or into the delivery of your service.

Have a backup system

One of the pitfalls of our data-driven world, is that if your system fails, you could lose vital information, and a lot of it. So be sure to have a backup system in place, and ensure that all your systems are regularly maintained.

Low cost organization options

Maybe the size or nature of your business doesn’t warrant project management or budgeting software. If so, consider using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

Put your mission statement in a cell. Have a column for every time bound business goal, financial goal, process goal, and one for each member of your sales team, with their own business goal. Have columns for customer retention and employee retention data.

The point is to collect the data you need and record it securely in a format you can use, so you can make informed business decisions and reach each business goal you set. Remember, the business goal is your friend.

Your goals need the best, most accurate, and most complete information you can gather so that it can most helpfully guide, motivate, and measure your business’s growth.

5. Research New Trends and Stay on Top of the Market

Staying on top of business trends is vitally important to the success of any business. It is critical to be aware of the current market conditions to create and adjust strategies to reach your desired business goal.

Companies that are aware of new trends and have a clear understanding of where the market is heading tend to have an advantage over their competitors. Additionally, tracking and analysing industry data can help in creating more informed decisions and plans.

Analyze Emerging Consumer Behaviors

Consumer behavior is among the most important things to monitor in your market analysis. Look out for new trends, and be prepared to adapt to meet consumer wants and needs.

People change their minds all the time, so their behavior changes, too.

The more aware you are of the rise—and fall—of trends in consumer behavior, the better chance you have of maximising opportunities for a timely meeting of their needs, and help you allocate resources wisely.

This will also help you stay on top of what the people want regularly so you can adjust your business goals accordingly.

Your market monitoring may also help you discover what your consumers are likely to want on a regular basis in the long run. You’ll want to make the appropriate adjustments to your product, service, or process to take advantage of this long-term opportunity.

Attend Industry Events and Webinars

We understand that, as a small business owner, your schedule is already jam-packed. Try to carve out some time for extracurricular, industry-related activities that could provide you with profitable information and opportunities.

Virtual or in-person

In-person industry events are great, but it may be easier for you to attend virtual events or webinars.

In either case, whether virtual or in-person, these business events and webinars provide great opportunities to learn from experts who have been staying on top of new and emerging trends and to network with your peers.

6. Network with Other Professionals

Speaking of networking—it can be of significant help to you as you are working toward your business goals. Having a solid group of professionals in your circle can expand your perspective, keep you informed and help you grow as a business. In addition, a network of small business owners like you can not only be a great source of business goals examples but also provide support and motivation to help you reach your own business goals.

Build Meaningful Relationships

Make the most of opportunities to build meaningful relationships in your professional circle.

 A reputation as a trustworthy business peer is a valuable asset that will attract experts and other professionals in your field to confide in you.

Those same trusted relationships will give you someone to confide in when it comes to any hiccups or challenges you run into.

Leverage Social Media for Networking

In addition to industry events and webinars, where else might you find mentors or other professionals to network with?

Start with social media or a web search.

Search relevant business hashtags to find accounts and connect with individuals in your field whose purposes align with yours. Or search for terms or people in your industry to learn more about the space you’ve entered.

Consider Membership in Industry Associations

Research industry associations, clubs, or societies relevant to you and your business. 

From there, reach out to their representatives to find out more and determine if membership would be of interest to you and of practical use for your business.

7. Keep an Open Mind and Stay Educated

You’re never done learning, no matter how much you already know. In order to keep growing toward your goals, keep an open mind and stay on top of new educational material.

Update Your Skills Regularly

You may know your business inside and out and be an expert in your field, but change is always happening, and it seems to happen at an ever-increasing rate. So, it is important to stay current with the skills and tools related to conducting your business.

Take new certifications, courses, and tests

Jump on every educational opportunity related to your business that you can. Be sure to consider not just those courses and certifications that would be helpful to have now, but those that could be valuable in the future.

Maintain mastery

In reaching your current position, you may have done every task involved in the operation of your business. And thanks to your hard and able work, your business has grown, and you have delegated some of those tasks to others.

Don’t forget where you’ve been. Dig into each element of your business, even ones you don’t manage anymore, to maintain a thorough understanding of your business from top to bottom.

That way, if a problem arises, you’ll feel in control to handle it and move on with ease.

Attend Workshops and Seminars

Webinars, workshops and seminars provide great opportunities for you to learn new skills or polish up existing ones that will help you get closer to achieving your business goals. So take advantage of these educational and training programs whenever you can.

An additional benefit of attending such workshops? They’re great places to network and build meaningful relationships. Bonds can form quickly among people who are engaged in learning together.

Subscribe to Relevant Industry Publications

Industry publications relevant to your business are valuable sources of information that can help keep you apprised of the health of your industry, provide forecasts and point out trends, and make you aware of conferences and other industry-related events.

Try to keep up with magazines, email newsletters, podcasts, YouTube channels and other outlets relevant to your line of work to hear from experts on how to grow your business and reach your business goals.

8. Prioritize Work-Life Balance

Ah, the work-life balance, that elusive chimera of time-and-energy-challenged laborers everywhere, not the least of whom is the small business owner.

In our goal-oriented culture, life is what we do when we finish work. But is work ever really finished? Isn’t there always another goal to be set and pursued?

Besides, aren’t we supposed to be goal oriented? Isn’t this whole article about setting and achieving goals and objectives?

And if that’s the case, how are we supposed to manage—and maybe even enjoy—our non-work life?

The answer should not surprise you:

Make work-life balance another one of your business goals.

Yes. Make work-life balance a business goal.

Because all work and no play is the recipe for burnout. 

85% of small business owners still work in some capacity during vacation time they have scheduled.

If you’re a part of that 85%, consider taking an actual break. 

While staying on top of business is important, keeping a clear mind is also important. But the truth is, if you burn out, your business goals won’t get accomplished.

Similar to setting goals and making budgetary adjustments for various operational needs, you can prioritise work-life balance by setting goals and allocating resources accordingly. This often involves taking time off.

Schedule Time Off

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the idea of taking time away from work to truly reset, consider the following to help you feel more positive: 

1. Avoid taking time off haphazardly

Time off is important. But taking time off randomly can be detrimental to your business and prevent you from reaching your business goals.

2. Plan ahead

Reduce stress and improve your chances for success: plan ahead.

By planning ahead, you’ll be able to work your much-needed time off into your productivity schedule and keep your business goals on track.

3. Alert your customers when business will be closed

Be sure to let your customers know when you will be closed so they can adjust their own plans accordingly or can understand if there may be product shipment delays.

Letting your customers know when your business will be closed will help in maintaining their trust and support for your business.

Don’t Panic When Unplanned Time Off Is Needed—Have a Backup Plan

Emergencies happen. When you get sick or have an emergency situation, taking time off is unavoidable.

So, create a backup plan and have it in place for when emergency time off is needed. This will be better for your health and for the health of your business.

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