The new year signifies a fresh start and has traditionally been the time to set new goals or resolutions. For small businesses, the beginning of a new calendar year is the perfect time to set business goals that will drive progress throughout the year. But as anyone who’s ever set a New Year’s Resolution will know, coming up with the goal is the easy part. Sticking to it, however, is a whole different ball game.
Before we dive into how to set realistic business goals and go over some examples, let’s look at why you should set small business goals in the first place.
Setting business goals —whether it's annually, quarterly, monthly, or even weekly— is important because it gives your company direction. Business goals provide clear targets that everyone within the organization can work towards, providing motivation and boosting productivity. (Assuming that you haven’t set such lofty goals that they’re unattainable, which can have the opposite effect on productivity!)
Not only do they give employees something to aim for, but setting business goals makes it easier to track your company’s progress across different areas of the business. And, if you set them correctly, small business goals can ensure you stay aligned with your company values and stay competitive in a changing marketplace.
Speaking of setting goals…
Before you start rattling off a list of business goals you want to achieve in 2024, it’s vital you take some time to understand your business. Questions that can help with this include:
Once you’ve completed this exercise, conduct a SWOT analysis to help you find which areas to focus on for your primary goals. Standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, a SWOT analysis enables you to build a clearer picture of how your business stands internally and in the context of the wider market (eg. against competitors). If you’ve never done one before, Hubspot has a great beginner’s guide to help you get started.
Once you’ve done your business homework, it’s time to get SMART. A popular framework for setting achievable goals, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. (Who knew there were so many acronyms in goal setting?)
Essentially, it’s about attaching clearly defined parameters to a goal so you have a framework for getting started and a way to measure whether you’re on track. Luckily, it’s easier to set SMART goals than you think. Just follow this framework and fill in the brackets:
(I or the business) will (action word/s) (object of the goal) by (time) to (relevance/results).
So, for example, instead of your goal being “boost revenue,” it would be “fictitious company A" will grow revenue to $200k ARR by December 31, 2024, to invest more money into product development.
Tip: Businesses that set quarterly goals (or annual goals split into quarterly targets) have a 31% higher ROI than companies that just set yearly goals.
The “M” in SMART goals is important not to overlook. After all, setting measurable goals is the only way to know if you’ve achieved them. Our example business goal above is easy to measure because on December 31st, if revenue is anything over $200k, then the goal was reached. However, other less tangible goals require more nuanced measures.
KPIs (or key performance indicators) are measurable values that can demonstrate how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. In other words, they’re the data points/metrics you track to determine whether a goal is complete.
KPIs will vary depending on the goal, but examples include the following:
Once you’ve identified relevant KPIs for your different goals, build a goal review process into your schedule to help you stay on track and identify goals that are falling behind the target. Depending on the scale of your goal and its timeline, this review could happen monthly or quarterly.
If you’re stuck for a starting point, here are some goal ideas for different areas of your business
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