Businesses need goals and objectives to move ahead. Company goals define a course of action and establish the parameters of business success. “SMART” goals also provide insights that can enable you to track your progress and adjust your processes as you work to reach them.

SMART goals have five key characteristics:

Specific: SMART goals aren’t vague notions or pie-in-the-sky-keep-your-fingers-crossed ideas. SMART business objectives are specific, and the more specific the better.

Measurable: To determine the success, or lack thereof, in achieving a business objective, you must first define success (for example, a 20% increase in gross sales within the next 12 months). Then, you need to collect the numbers for analysis – where the outgo went and how much that expense moved the company further toward the achievement of its objectives. If you can’t define and measure success, you won’t know it when you achieve it.

Attainable: Sure, you could set a goal of opening a satellite restaurant, but do you have the capital? Investors? Location? A detailed expense analysis? It’s one thing to set goals, but if the goals aren’t reasonable, don’t bother. You’ve set your company up to fail by setting business goals that simply aren’t attainable under any circumstances.

Relevant: A SMART goal fits your business model. When setting business goals, go back to your original business plan. Don’t try to be all things to all prospects. Improve relevant systems that simplify customer or client engagement. In other words, stay on point!

Time-based: How do you know when to start work on business objectives? How much time will each phase take? Can you construct a work calendar? Vague business objectives with no time limits are useless in most cases. Time measurement is an important aspect of the “measureable” characteristic above. If it takes too long, it might not work.

Get SMART about setting goals. SMART is more than a catchy acronym. It’s a goal-setting strategy that’s flexible, quantifiable, fixable, and well-considered.

It’s a strategy with limits – time limits, success milestones, quarterly numbers – and for small and growing companies, SMART goals become stepping stones to a more robust bottom line and more options for setting future SMART goals.

SMART goal setting is highly adaptable. As you monitor company movement toward the achievement of a goal, you can adjust for setbacks or take advantage of a profitable option that just appeared.

Gather data. Talk to your managers to determine what’s actually attainable and what’s completely unrealistic given current circumstances. You’ll need input to avoid setting the team up to fall short and fail.

Before you set a SMART goal, gather stakeholders to provide the data and inside view of what is and is not reasonably attainable. If you determine arbitrary goals that can’t or won’t be attained, it could also be a major morale buster. The team worked its hardest but still didn’t attain the goal. Not very inspiring, is it?

Maintain management discipline. Don’t go bouncing around like a ping pong ball from one new objective to another. Start by reviewing the company’s mission statement and business plan.

Stick with what you know, even if you’re pulled in a new direction. If you sell gift cards and specialty gifts, what makes you think you can run the shoe store that’s for sale next door? Focus on core competencies. If you don’t know how to sell shoes, don’t set a goal of buying a shoe store.

Finally, recognize that goal achievement has a start and end point. As the small business owner, you set the goals with input from your team. You schedule the due dates for reports. And you set the limits – the date when the goal achievement strategy is analyzed for success.

Long-term goals may seem less urgent. Setting interim goals provides incentive to keep pushing forward as you enjoy each success along the way.

Don’t have any long-term goals for the company? Than how do you measure success? How do you add value to the business? How do you know what to do when you get to work?

Business goals and objectives provide the road map to success. Get SMART and set SMART goals to keep your company moving forward toward ultimate success.  


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC