How to Set and Achieve Goals for Your Business

By Devin Morrissey

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The new year brings with it resolutions and goal setting in both your personal and your business life. However, setting goals is often tough if you don’t take some other steps first. To be effective, you need both short- and long-term goals, and they need to be reasonably achievable. Otherwise, you can be left with a sense of despair and discouragement: It might seem like your business is not getting anywhere.

Without setting goals, it is difficult to know where you are headed. How can you know if your business is growing in the direction you want it to if you have no plan for what that might look like? Measurable goals are the only real way to gauge your progress. What is the best way to set better goals you can actually achieve?

The most important thing is to make sure you set aside some time to set your goals. Sit down with either pen and paper or your computer open. Use whatever is comfortable for you, from a mind-mapping program to diagrams or outlining. Be sure you also have your goals you might have set last year and any business data that might be related to the goals you want to set for next year.

Now you are ready to set achievable goals for your business.

Where Are You Now?

Before you can set goals regarding where you want to go, you need to understand where you are now. If you want to increase your conversion rate from your website next year, what is your conversion rate now? Want to double your sales numbers or profits year over year? What are they now? When it comes to business goals though, there may be things to consider that will impact these numbers that simple reports do not show.

For instance, you can use employee performance review feedback to create personalized goals that also relate to the overall company ones. The key is to not only keep these goals realistic, but to implement a system to track progress and use rewards to incentivize that progress.

Also, employee input on where they think the company should go next is also invaluable. “Our greatest resource is our people,” Steve Jobs, late founder of Apple said. The best ideas will come from within, and those who deal with your customers or your product every day will likely have the best insights about what is going well and what could be improved.

Finally, things like employee satisfaction and retention are vital to your company success and profits, along with your personal satisfaction. What is your recidivism rate and why? What benefits or incentives can you offer to change that? Keep these at the forefront of your goal setting, and success in other areas will follow.

Once you have established where you are in different areas, you need to move on to see how you performed in relation to the goals you set the previous year.

What Worked This Year?

It’s really a simple question, but one that businesses have a hard time answering. Sometimes the hard numbers are sobering, but they do provide insight into setting realistic and achievable goals.

First of all, you should have been tracking progress throughout the year and adjusting on a regular basis if you were not meeting benchmarks necessary to meet your overall objective. But if you fell short, there may be a variety of reasons:

  • The goal was unrealistic. Maybe you set your sights too high.
  • The market changed. Often industries move fast, and perhaps the market in your niche changed in such a way that the goal was unachievable.
  • Acts of God happened. If you were supplying a restaurant in Northern California with certain items, and that restaurant was consumed by wildfire, you will have to find another customer to sell that inventory too. Or if your business was affected by fire or other loss, the time needed to rebuild may have disrupted your goals.
  • Internal company issues came up. Maybe your CEO left or became ill. Maybe you lost a number of employees for some reason or a large client was stolen away by your competition. You’ll have to find ways to adjust to those things.

You know your company circumstances better than anyone, but it is vital at this point that you be brutally honest with yourself.

It is also important that you not let yourself get discouraged. While there is a lot of hype around retail businesses, mom-and-pop shops and small physical businesses are still thriving, many by offering a unique experience or a product that is not available online. Understand that setting goals may be centered around changing the things you are doing now to meet changes happening in your industry.

At this point make a list with a few parts. What goals did you achieve last year? What goals did you fall short of? What goals did you exceed and by how much?

What’s New?

Your industry has probably changed over the last year, and will probably change in the coming year as well. Along with the industry changes, there may be changes in legal policies like GDPR and other privacy laws. Public opinion is evolving on this front as well, and you will need to revisit your company strategies.

You’ll also need to determine the kind of marketing you want to do. There are two basic types: interruption and permission marketing. Interruption marketing is like a television commercial or an internet popup. It interrupts the user experience to deliver a pretty general message. Permission marketing is more like inbound or content marketing. The user finds you through a search or you get their permission to add them to your email list.

Permission marketing generally takes longer to manifest leads, but it has a higher conversion rate and is less costly. It also is less annoying to users. Many people stream television using Netflix, Amazon, and other apps to avoid commercials, and they will bounce from sites with full-page popup ads or paginated stories that are interrupted by ads. Using a larger percentage of permission marketing eliminates these things, but it also means your goals will need more time to mature.

New technology like the internet of things (IoT) and big data can also have a huge impact on your business. As you look back on the previous year, you need to look ahead at what is new and what will be new this year, and try to prepare for it with your goal setting.

Once you have all of these things in front of you, you are ready to set achievable goals for the next year. Keep these things in mind:

  • Make sure goals are achievable.
  • Set milestones and track progress.
  • Reset goals throughout the year as changes happen.


Goal setting is not an exact science. But if you sit down and look at where you are now, what has worked in the past, and what’s new in your industry, you can set better goals, increasing your chances of achieving them this year.

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