Improve Your Small Business by Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

That daunting goal may be more attainable for your business than you thought — if you have the right strategy.
Having trouble accomplishing the many goals you set for yourself? Try implementing S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting. (Photo: g-stockstudio/Shutterstock)

While most entrepreneurs have a general idea of what they want for their business, many times those ideas stay in their head and are never fully fleshed out. Accomplishing long-term goals can be quite a challenge, especially while you’re busy running your day-to-day operations. And if these goals aren’t concrete — written out and planned — they may never come to fruition.

You might want to try a strategy commonly used in executive coaching called S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. It’s an easy acronym to help you establish manageable tasks that keep you progressing toward your goals.

S.M.A.R.T. goal setting can help you accomplish your goals more frequently by creating more achievable end-goals. (Photo: SurfsUp/Shutterstock)

Rachel M. Berg, talent development consultant at Lifestyle Sandbox, has taught and implemented S.M.A.R.T. goal setting with many of her clients. Here’s how the method works and how it can help you create and and achieve your goals.

S: Specific

First, decide what you want to achieve, but make it specific. There’s no room for broad ideas here. Think details. Being specific when defining your end-goal will make it easier to set benchmarks for how you plan to accomplish those objectives.

For example, a broad goal would be, “I want to write a book.” This is not an easy task. Especially when you leave the timeline open-ended without setting any real milestones. A more specific goal has a clear purpose: “I want to write a 200-page cookbook that establishes me and my restaurant as an industry leader.”

M: Measurable

In order to know you’re on track as you move toward your goal, you must set clear benchmarks to measure your progress. Determine what your milestones are and assign dates to them so you can easily check off your list as you move forward.

Returning to the cookbook example, a measureable goal would be, “I will write for an hour every day, excluding weekends until I’ve hit 200 pages.” Pages per day or week would also work.

Related: Mind Your Metrics: 4 Must-Track Analytics for Small Businesses

A: Attainable


You’ll never reach your goals if they aren’t attainable. Before setting your mind to something, make sure you’re setting achievable milestones that you can accomplish. (Photo: EM Karuna/Shutterstock)

You want your goals to be realistic, said Berg. Don’t overshoot your time or capabilities. Instead, give yourself a reasonable amount of time to accomplish your goal. A daunting, time-consuming task will loom over you and can be demotivating. Setting clear, achievable milestones that are easier to accomplish will give you a sense of pride as each hurdle is cleared.

Setting aside an hour per weekday to work on your cookbook may be achievable, but being realistic and realizing that weekend work may not happen is important. Aiming to write seven days a week may set you up for disappointment if something comes up and you miss a day, so set marks you know you can hit.

Related: 8 Superpowers Every Small Business Owner Should Cultivate

R: Relevant

Consider if your goal makes sense with your business model, timeline, target audience and industry, Berg advised. In other words, if you don’t have a clear answer to “Why is this valuable to my business?” — don’t bother.

For a restaurant owner, writing a cookbook is a relevant goal that can give your business more credibility and increase your opportunity for profit.

T: Time-based

It’s easy to let goals slip away from us. Setting time-based tasks will you stay on track. If you have a task is that is due soon, embrace that sense of urgency and knock it out. Once you’ve set clear, measurable milestones, following a timeline should be easy.

For instance, by deciding to write undistracted for an hour each day, you should have enough material to take to an editor or publisher within the year.

“Different personalities excel at different aspects of goal setting,” noted Berg. “Some find it comforting to list specific, measurable and obtainable goals. But these same personalities may struggle to choose relevant and time-based ones.”

Related: 5 Personality Traits Every Small Business Owner Should Have

Her advice: “Partner with someone to nail down the part of goal setting that does not come naturally to you.” Having an “accountability partner” can do wonders when it comes to meeting deadlines and moving forward, she said.

Regardless of your personality type, anyone can succeed with the S.M.A.R.T. goals method, said Berg.

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