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People like the idea of setting business goals. We enjoy the mental image of hanging a nicely printed goal over our desk and looking to it for motivation through the weeks. But when it comes to actually writing those goals, many suffer from goal-setters’ block.

If you resist penning annual business goals, you’re not alone. Quantum Workplace, an employee engagement software firm, reports that only 43.1% of companies have formal goal-setting and tracking programs.  According to the Staples National Business Survey, 80% of business owners don’t keep track of their goals. You can set and achieve your goals if you write them SMARTly.

Business goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable yet Rigorous, and Time-bound.

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Specific and Measurable Business Goals

How many businesses plan to “engage employees more,” “reduce burn out,” or “be active in the community”? There’s nothing wrong with these ideas, but they aren’t specific. Ask yourself What do I really want? Maybe you want your employees to show up to work on time. Perhaps you want to have a better attitude in the office. Think about what you want, then translate that into something you can define and count.

A business goal must be measurable or you’ll never know if it’s been reached. How do you measure a better attitude, you ask? Rate it on a scale from 1-10. (No, I’m not kidding. This is actually a good wellness practice.) Things like sales and profits are easier to quantify, but you still need to be specific in your wording.

In our early days, our goal-setting thought process went something like this:

What do we really want: To be able to pay our bills, on-time and in full.

What do we need to do that: Money.

How does our company get money: Booking projects, bigger projects, more projects.

Let’s set a project goal: No, they vary in size too much.

How about a simple sales goal: Makes sense.

Are there any terms we need to define in this business goal: “Gross sales” is all the money we collect before expenses and taxes.

SM Goal: We’ll increase sales and collect enough money to pay our bills.

Achievable yet Rigorous Business Goals

Goals should be reached. Don’t set a goal you’ll never reach. Though “stretch” goals are thought to be motivating, studies are now showing that setting goals that are out of reach generally makes people work less and feel less motivated. That said, your business goals should also push you, encourage you, and grow with you. They need to be rigorous. Like a good workout, your goals should leave you sweating and breathing a little heavier but not send you to the hospital.

We needed to triple our gross sales to make enough to pay our bills. That was rigorous. That was borderline nuts. But we knew we had the skills to do it. We looked at the number of hours we could work in a week and how much we could reasonably charge per hour to determine if the goal was achievable. With that data in hand, we concluded our goal was achievable yet rigorous.

SMAR Goal: We’ll triple our gross sales from last year.

Time-bound Business Goals

If you set annual goals, this one is easy. Most companies have natural seasons whether they’re quarters, semesters, or other milestones in the year. Don’t reinvent the wheel here. Just go with the most logical timing.

Our first business goal was for annual gross sales, broken down by quarter. Having milestones (call them benchmarks, objectives, whatever) made it easy to track our progress – a crucial element in meeting goals that’s worth a blog of its own. Some people break their business goals down all the way to the week or day. The further you’re willing to go, the more assurance you have every day that you’ve done your job well.

SMART Goal: By the end of the fiscal year, we’ll increase our gross sales to three times the previous year’s gross.

We met that goal, by the way. We tripled our sales in a year. The energy we gained from hitting that first major goal inspired to us dream bigger and goal SMARTer.

For public accountability and encouragement, here’s our business goal for 2017:

2017 SMART Goal: By the end of 2017, we’ll increase our gross sales by 50% over 2016.

Post your 2017 business goals below. We’d love to celebrate with you as you reach them.

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