How to set and pursue business goals as a small business

As businesses, we all strive to increase our customer base, increase revenue, create better products and services. The general direction for our business is clear in our minds. We know where we want to go. We may even have ideas in the back of our minds on how we think we will get there. But when it comes to defining formal business goals and setting your company on course to achieve them, small businesses often struggle to find the right approach.

This article aims to act as a general roadmap describing a top-level approach to business goals, highlighting a few common pitfalls along the way.

Goals are not always about growth and expansion

When we talk about business goals we often think growth and expansion. But depending on your industry and current situation your immediate challenge might be around stopping or reversing loss of market share. For example, if you are Taxi operator in 2017, dealing with the disruption that Uber is causing on a global scale, business growth might simply not be an option right now. In this case it might be time to step back and re-evaluate your position in the market.

Sometimes your goals have to focus around regaining profitability, or even just slowing down and an ongoing decline. Regardless of your starting position, the general rules for setting goals are the.

Push for new heights, but don’t reach for the stars

Keep your goals realistic. If you are an established business, maybe operating in a highly saturated and exploited market, doubling your revenue over 12 months simply might not be possible.

Finding the sweet-spot where you challenge your business to reach new heights, while keeping the bar at a height that you can still reach, is maybe the hardest part of this process. As a business owner or key stakeholder, your insight and experience will be the most valuable resource to get this task right.

Achieving your goals with measurable objectives

A business objective is a specific measurable step you take to reach your defined goal. They buzzword here is ‘measurable’. And that is often easier said than done.

For example, if your goal is to increase your bottom line by 15% over 12 months, the following objectives could form the basis for your approach:

  • Improve your marketing performance with better communication

    Your customers’ needs should always be front and centre of your communication. Changing your language to more accurately address how your product meets their needs can unlock a previously uncharted segment. Measuring the impact of your communication on your bottom line can be tricky, especially when operating in retail. You may need help from a third party to find ways of measuring success in this area. In the online world it is a lot easier to get conclusive results. Here responses and actions can be tracked almost in real time.

  • Invest in new product development

    A new product range increases your offering in the marketplace and can cater to customers that your existing products don’t cater to.Product development is a long-term process. You might not be able to develop and activate a new product in only twelve months. And if you do, you might not obtain reliable sales results from your new product in that time frame.To overcome this, targeted product testing in the development stage is one way of measuring the likely performance of your new product in the market place.

  • Optimise your internal processes

    A leaner business structure can reduce cost and contribute to the boost in your bottom line.This might again be a task that takes longer than twelve months to implement, depending on your business model and business size.Implementing changes step-by-step allows you to measure how each step effects your bottom line and allows you to more accurately predict the general impact of your measures.

Set the right time-frame for your goals

Goals need an end date, where you can look back and check on the difference you have made. The broad examples above highlight that you may have to go back and revise the timeline of your goals once you get into the details.

In the given example two of the objectives could most likely not be completed in the given timeframe. In this case you can either revise the timeline of your original goal or branch it out into multiple goals for short-term and long-term outcomes

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Small businesses are known offenders when it comes to a DIY approach. Don’t be afraid to ask for help where you need it. You will get better results faster.

  • Ask a business consultant if you are struggling with setting your goals
  • Use research companies to gain insights into what your customers need
  • Use a business analyst to optimise your processes
  • Use specialised agencies like us for creative tasks

If you need assistance to achieve your goals we can help.

Get free marketing advice with our newsletter

Receive articles like this one straight to your inbox.