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Why Goal Setting is Important to your Strategic Business Planning

It’s something every business owner knows they need to do but very few put aside the time for it. Not surprisingly, it’s those who do that tend to be the most successful. Strategic planning is essential to the development and growth of your business. So why is it like pulling teeth to get business owners to sit down and focus on it? The answer is clear. You’re too busy working IN your business to take a step back and work ON your business. Strategy and planning is put on the backburner while you deal with more pressing issues.

If you’re planning a new journey, you don’t just jump in the car and hope for the best. You follow a map (or GPS) to point you in the right direction, show you where to turn and let you know when you’ve reached your destination. Implementing your strategic plan should be as simple and easy as following a GPS. But first you need to input the information.

Goal setting is the GPS for your business. Setting goals shows you where you’re going and how to get there and alerts you to potential hazards along the way. There are some important factors to consider when setting your goals. The S.M.A.R.T acronym provides a reminder of the key elements of goal setting for success.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed.


Begin the goal setting process by defining your vision. What do you want to achieve in business? Is it to reach a financial goal? Do you want to create a certain impact in your industry? Perhaps your vision is more philanthropic one to leave a legacy or make a difference.

Once your vision is clear, then you can start breaking it down into specific goals. It’s like the old saying; how do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time. If you break down your big goals into clearly defined, bite-sized pieces they will be much easier to accomplish.

Your overall goal might be to run the best café in town, but can you see how vague that is? What does being ‘the best’ mean for your business? Attracting the most customers, making the best coffee (and how do you measure that), getting the highest reviews or being the most profitable?

Start by selecting a specific area you want to improve then create a goal in as much detail as possible. Using the ‘best coffee’ example, how will you know when you’re making the best coffee? Instead your goal could be to aim for 100% customer satisfaction instead.


To create tangible, achievable goals, you need to be able to measure them. By measuring your business goals you can keep track of how you’re going and make adjustments along the way until you achieve them. It also encourages accountability so your goals become real and not just pie-in-the-sky dreams.

Remember to keep it specific. Success or improvement is difficult to measure. Define what success means to your business. Is it profit, productivity, staff retention or training and education?

So, how do you measure whether you’re making the best coffee in town? Sales may be one indicator, but even more specifically you can ask your customers! Customer surveys, feedback and reviews are a great measure to see how you’re doing and where you can improve.


Now you have set out your specific goals, created a way to measure them, it’s time for a reality check! It’s great to have stretch goals, or as some refer to them – great, big, hairy, audacious goals! You also need to know that you CAN achieve them. The great big, hairy ones may refer more to your vision; that ‘ultimate’ goal that you keep striving for. When it comes to your everyday business type goals, keep them smaller so they become easier to achieve.

You may have milestone goals. Think about that café example again. The owner has decided that making the best coffee in town is the goal and that the measurement will be 100% customer satisfaction ratings on Facebook over a period of one month. That’s pretty achievable. To achieve this they might involve customers by asking for feedback on different coffees, up-skill their baristas with additional training and change their brand of coffee and milk. All these steps contribute to helping create the best coffee.

Imagine if instead the café owner had set their goal as making the best coffee… in the world! How would you measure that? You might claim it, but you wouldn’t be able to prove it so it’s not an achievable goal. When setting goals, ensure the targets you have are realistic and that you have the resources and capabilities to achieve them.


It’s important to make sure your goals are based on the current conditions and realities of the business climate. Your goal may be to increase your turnover by 50%, but if a recession is looming and a big, new competitor has opened in your town, then your goals aren’t relevant to the realities of the current market.

Your goals also need to be relevant ‘internally’ so they align with your vision, mission and purpose and the values of you and your team… and the desires of your customers.


Now you have your goals set, when do you want to achieve them? Set your start and finish date. If the goal is not timed, there will be no sense of urgency and motivation to achieve it.  Make sure each goal has a deadline so you have something to aim for and celebrate on the day you get there.

Without an end date, it’s easy to put things off and lose focus. Your ‘best coffee’ goal then turns back into being that pie-in-the-sky dream. Keep your timing realistic too, but make it a stretch if that works for you. Some people like the pressure of working hard to achieve their goal while others prefer to play it safe and steadily progress towards it.

Having a time constraint on your goal also allows you to measure your progress along the way. You can keep track of how you’re going and adjust your strategy as you go to ensure you reach it.

Remember too, that goal setting is important not just for the business owner, but for the staff too. They will be more committed to projects (and your business) if they have something to strive towards every day. Individual goals and team goals are both great ways to motivate staff, especially if you involve them in the process from the start. With the right encouragement, you will be amazed at how performance, morale, and loyalty improve.

The last step

Write down your goals. Don’t keep them in your head. Add photos to bring them life and place them front and centre where you will see them throughout the day. Having your goals visible brings them to life for everyone in the team making them more real, tangible and inspiring.

If you need help to achieve your goals, reach out and ask. Let your peers, mentors, family, staff, even your customers know what you’re aiming for. They will become your fan club, cheering you on to success!

For more top tips to help with your business planning contact Bartercard.



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