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Set specific goals for your business

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I don’t feel like I’m very good at quantifying goals, or following through with people on those that I’ve set – to get their buy-in or to know they’re delivering. How can you help me get a good start to the new year?

Thoughts of the Day: Goals are like picking a destination on a roadmap. Specifics are essential. To increase buy-in, ask people to create their goals. Make sure the goals add up. Set up visible reporting systems to keep goals present.

The clearer everyone is about where your organization is headed, the more likely they can support that vision. Set a destination. Then give your organization purpose by working steadily towards it.

Consider the roadmap analogy. Let’s say you set a goal to travel from New York to California next year. Compare that to a declaration that you’re going to pick the fastest, shortest route and means of transportation to get you from Buffalo to San Diego, so that you arrive by 3 p.m. on Jan. 10.

The former could lead someone to think you’re planning a leisurely drive across the great Midwest, ending somewhere on the West Coast south of Oregon anytime in the coming year. The latter goal puts you on a direct flight, landing in the southernmost major city in the continental United States at or before a specific time and date.

Many owners start and end with declaring they intend to pursue a growth strategy in the upcoming year. Unfortunately that statement leaves a lot of room for interpretation. What growth? More revenue? More people? More customers – which ones? More profits? More equipment? More expenses? What is it that is supposed to grow? By when?

Make sure everyone recognizes what you expect the organization to tackle in the upcoming year. For example, if you’re thinking about revenue growth, you might not be happy if the company sold only $1 more than last year. But you’d be thrilled if it sold twice as much as last year — although you’re doubtful that would happen. So somewhere between $1 more and twice as much as last year is the right answer. Narrow the gap.

Add to buy-in by getting people in the organization involved in setting goals. Ask managers and employees what they want to accomplish. Challenge them to do better, achieve more and learn about new things. Ask for specifics about what would cause them to say they had a great year.

As individuals and departments work on goal setting, make sure things add up. Will the growth goals of the sales department plus the retention goals from customer service hit the company’s overall revenue target? Will operations improvements plus human resource training plans lead to higher profit ratios? Will finance’s improved ability to report on results, matched with marketing’s ramped up efforts in lead generation insure that your company knows if it’s on track with new business development?

If there are areas of shortfall, pull people in and explain the problem. Ask them to close the gap. Let them debate and propose solutions. Working out the details of how to hit the overall goals will help everyone get clear on what needs to happen.

Goals have limited value without a reporting system. Regular meetings, reports that track facts and analysis of key indicators are all essential. Many business owners lose out on their goals because they lack a routine for following through.

Set up weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings, with specific agenda, attendance list and reporting assignments. Ask people who are responsible for departmental goals to meet with their staff regularly and then meet with you to provide updates.

If there are problems, don’t let things slide. Challenge everyone to demonstrate progress towards their goals. Post reports where they are visible. The more people can see, the more they can get involved.

Looking for a good book? Try “Key Performance Indicators: Developing, Implementing and Using Winning KPIs” by David Parmenter.

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., strategyleaders.com, a business—consulting firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurial firms grow. She can be reached by phone at (877) 238-3535. Do you have a question for Andi? Please email AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com or mail to Andi Gray, Strategy Leaders Inc., 5 Crossways, Chappaqua, NY 10514. Visit AskAndi.com for an entire library of Ask Andi articles.

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