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Using SMART Goals to Build a Better BC Business

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The success of your business depends on your ability to set and achieve goals. Without goals, business (and life) becomes chaotic and unfocused, or worse, stagnant and unproductive.

Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation, SMART goals can help your chances of success and take your company vision from hazy to crystal clear.

The SMART goal approach is a popular productivity system that has been around for decades. If you haven’t made it part of your regular business process, consider how SMART goals can keep your business moving forward, especially if you’re one of the small businesses that employ over a million people in British Columbia.

Setting SMART goals can help small business teams achieve big results by improving clarity, focus, motivation and teamwork. And SMART works for everyone, whether you’re an Okanagan winery, a Vancouver-based tech startup or a solo entrepreneur in the growing digital media sector. Try the tips below to write better SMART goals for your business.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. These five buckets make the system so effective in helping you set effective objectives. It brings structure and traceability to your actions and provides clear milestones to let you know you’re on the right track.

How to write SMART Goals

It’s easy to get started with your SMART goals. Grab a pen and paper, or use one of the many online resources like this free SMART Goals template from Hubspot. You should also consider the “5 W’s”: Who needs to be involved in order to achieve this goal? What are the requirements and restraints? When will the goal be completed? Where will the work take place? Why is it important for my company?

Here’s how your goal should look:

Specific – You can’t get what you want without being clear about what you want. That’s why you need to state EXACTLY what you plan to do. Instead of “increase company visibility,” try “increase search engine traffic by 20% in the next six months.”

Tip: Use action words. An action statement will help you inspire yourself and your team to follow through. So instead of “I want people to notice my company” (passive), it’s “I want to increase awareness among lawyers and legal assistants by 15% as measured by the number of engaged followers.”

Measurable – You need a way to track your progress and know when you’ve reached your goal. Decide in advance what specific metric(s) you’ll use. It could be the number of leads generated, new clients signed, dollars raised, etc. And choose a metric you’re comfortable using. If you’re not social media savvy, don’t make “number of ‘quality engagements’ on Facebook versus Twitter” a metric. Stick to what you know.

Tip: Find a way to visually track your progress. This is a great way to stay motivated. Digital platform. White board. Whatever works best for you.

Achievable – Goals are dreams within reach. They should be big, exciting, ambitious and realistic. Does your company have the resources to achieve your goal? If not, how can you get what you’re missing? Your goal should make you feel stretched and challenged. And remember: if you’re not failing, you’re not trying. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Tip: If you’re not sure if your goal is achievable, ask yourself “has anyone else done this before?” If the answer is yes, analyze how. If the answer is no, ask yourself how your company can be first.

Relevant – Every short-term goal should ladder up to your end goal. And you should be able to chart the path from one to the other.

For example:

  • End goal: Sell your client list to a bigger player for max money. 
  • Year-over-year goal: Increase profits by 10% for the next 5.5 years to be in the position to meet the end goal.
  • This year’s goal: Earn an extra $270,000 in revenue to meet the YOY goal.
  • This month’s goal: Bill an additional 250 hours this month to stay on track to meet this year’s goal.
  • This week’s goal: Get a meeting with one new lead and reach out to five existing but dormant clients to stay on track for this month’s goal.
  • Today’s goal: Reach out to one existing client and make three comments on LinkedIn to stay on track for this week’s goal.

Tip: Take a closer look at your overall business objectives from the top. Have they changed since the last time you thought about it? If so, how does/should that impact your goals?

Time-bound – A key part of any SMART goal is stating when you’ll get it done. Set a realistic target date and be honest with yourself as you do it. It doesn’t matter how long something “should” take. Be realistic about how long it’ll take you. And remember, every goal should have a clear beginning and endpoints.

Tip: Define what should be complete at the halfway mark. This will help create a sense of urgency and keep timelines on track.

What to avoid when setting your SMART Goals

  • Negative framing. We work better when we treat ourselves kindly. So, don’t look for ways to “stop losing clients,” but instead “generate X new business leads.”
  • Getting stuck in “one-track thinking.” You should be prepared to fine-tune your strategy over time and ask your team — and yourself — a lot of questions. Make sure you’re reviewing and adjusting as necessary.
  • Giving up control. Make sure YOU are the person with the power to achieve your goal. If achieving it depends exclusively on someone else’s decision, you aren’t setting yourself up for success.

Small business is big business in British Columbia, and the SMART Goal system is a great way to help this critical economic engine thrive. So be smart about your SMART goals and evaluate your process on a regular basis.

Your map to the pot of gold is a connected set of goals. Use this time-tested system to get there.