Business Goal Setting

Business Owners: Use These Best Practices for Goal Setting

Subconsciously, we all know that goals are an essential tool for running a business.

Without goals to keep us focused and give us a direction to work towards, a company is aimless.

But setting good business goals isn’t as simple as knowing you need them. Set them too high, and morale takes a hit as employees get frustrated; too low, and the goals aren’t useful. Most importantly, setting the wrong goals will send your company in an unintended direction — or even down the wrong path.

In short, goal-setting shouldn’t be done on a whim. Investing the time to really hone in on what your goals should be is worth it.

During our own goal setting, the team at The Receptionist has picked up some helpful tips on the best way to go about it. Here’s a rundown:

Start With Your Values

Your company’s values are incredibly crucial. They help lay the foundation of your workplace culture and your customer-facing brand. On top of that, they’re also an essential tool for setting your business goals, because they inform the direction your company should be heading.

In one of our recent podcasts, The Receptionist President and CEO Andy Alsop explained how he and the team used Gino Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to get everyone on the same page about our own values.

Once you’ve nailed down your values (at The Receptionist, ours are Fun, Authentic, Bold, Respectful, Innovative, and Collaborative, or FABRIC) you then use them to clarify the company’s vision that guides long-term plans and then break those plans down into shorter-term goals.

business goal setting

We’ll discuss those steps in more detail later in this article, but it’s safe to say that establishing values is a significant first step of goal setting.

Of course, it’s relatively easy to come up with a list of company values that sound nice after a few brainstorming sessions. You can certainly plaster a set of values all over the office in posters or murals and list them prominently on your web site. But none of that is likely to affect the culture at your workplace or the behavior of your employees without further action. The only values that actually matter are the ones that factor into the decision-making processes at your company.

Make Your Goals SMART

The acronym SMART has been used to guide corporate business goals since the early 1980s, and it’s surprisingly still relevant and effective almost 40 years later.

We make sure that each goal we set at The Receptionist is SMART, which stands for:

  • Specific – This step is something like your goal’s mission statement. MindTools suggests answering the following questions about the goal:
     – What do I want to accomplish?
     – Why is this goal important?
     – Who is involved?
     – Where is it located?
     – Which resources or limits are involved?
  • Measurable – You should be able to measure your success, or you won’t know whether or not you’ve reached your goal.
  • Attainable – Making sure that the goal is realistic will help you avoid unnecessary disappointment. In this step, you identify the tools and resources you’ll need to achieve the goal, and then make sure that any key players have access to these foundational elements.
  • Relevant – Is this goal aligned with your big-picture goals, as we mentioned above?
  • Time-Bound – Goals aren’t very effective if they don’t establish a timeframe or a deadline. Otherwise, they can be postponed indefinitely and easily forgotten about.

Make Your Goals Collaborative

Goals that affect the entire business should not be made unilaterally by a single decision-maker. You need to get key team members on board early in the process, for many reasons.

First of all, your employees are the ones who will have the best handle on whether or not goals are realistic, with on-the-job insight into any resources needed to meet proposed goals.

But more importantly, if your employees don’t feel personally invested in the company’s goals, they aren’t as likely to put their best effort into meeting them. Put another way, they just aren’t going to feel energized about meeting goals that have been simply handed down from on high.

Employees can lend invaluable insights into which goals make the most sense for your company based on your values and history. Don’t miss the opportunity to leverage their knowledge.

Make Big Goals, Then Break Them Down

You need both big and small goals to keep making progress in the right direction. At The Receptionist, we use the EOS framework we mentioned earlier to help us set our goals, with a few little additions of our own.

Here’s how we break our goals down:

  • 10-year goal – This is our “big hairy audacious goal” — the one that will help us realize our company’s vision and values.
  • 3-year picture – This takes the B-HAG and asks how much progress we can reasonably make toward that goal in the next three years. It helps to visualize in detail exactly what success would look like.
  • 1-year goal – For us, the annual goal ties into the larger goals, but is often about getting a number of new locations and revenue targets.
  • Quarterly theme – Each quarter we select one general area to focus on. For example, when we noticed that a lot of our clients were requesting a feature that our software already included, we decided to make one quarter’s theme “education” to focus on letting our customers know about the full power of our software.
  • 90-day goals – These are smaller goals with achievable results that tie into the quarterly theme. They can be for a personal project or for a team. We limit them to about 5 to 7 goals so that we don’t get overwhelmed or lose focus.

Share Your Progress

Goals can easily fall by the wayside if you don’t meet regularly to discuss progress toward them.

The EOS system calls for a specific weekly meeting framework that provides a minute-by-minute agenda so you can make sure nothing gets missed and everyone’s time is respected.

At The Receptionist, we schedule what we call “cascades” every two weeks where departments “cascade” their info to the rest of the company.

At our meetings, we ask questions like these:

  • What were you working on yesterday, and what are you doing today?
  • What is preventing progress on the goals we’ve established, and how can we remove those obstacles?
  • Are we on track with the process and schedule that’s necessary to meet our quarterly goals?

Review, Reflect, Celebrate

One thing that’s a little bit different about our approach toward goals at The Receptionist is how we react when we fail to reach those goals: neutrally.

Of course, we’d all like to hit our goals every single time. But we also know how to adapt when things don’t work out as planned.

Failing to accomplish our goals provides a valuable opportunity to figure out what went wrong and better understand how we can prevent those problems from happening again. This kind of retroactive analysis also keeps everyone from feeling defeated about what they didn’t accomplish and stay energized moving forward.

Of course, we’d all like to hit our goals every single time. But we also know how to adapt when things don’t work out as planned. Click To Tweet

That said, when you do meet your goals, don’t just check the box and keep moving forward. Celebrate your wins!

You don’t need to throw a huge party each time you meet a small goal. However, remembering to at least acknowledge and congratulate everyone who helped meet a goal can go a long way.

These simple celebrations keep everyone feeling inspired and ready to tackle the next hurdle.

If you want to learn more about how we use the EOS system to build culture and set goals at The Receptionist, here are a few great episodes of our podcast to start with.

Share this Post