In this section we suggest a number of areas where you might need to consider planning for the future. The key to successful business planning is to set SMART business goals and make a SMART business plan for achieving them:
Goals should be straightforward and emphasise what you want to happen. Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do. WHAT are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organise, coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build etc. Ensure the goals you set are very specific, clear and easy. Instead of setting a goal to improve sales, set a specific goal to improve sales by 20 percent within 12 months.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, there is a success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal. Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. How will you know when you reach your goal? Be specific! When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to the continued effort required to reach your goals.
A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. The feeling of success which this brings helps you to remain motivated. Running a business can sometimes seem like a thankless task and achieving regular milestones can help make the challenge a little more bearable.
This does not mean “easy.” It means that the path is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the organisation. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn’t break them. Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren’t very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!
Set a timeframe for the goal: next week, three months, by year end. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards. If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now. Time must be measurable, attainable and realistic.
Everyone will benefit from goals and objectives if they are SMART. Use this smart goals planning sheet to get started.