Setting Business Goals for Long-Term Success

setting business goals on paper near a coffee mug

It’s been said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” But what if you don’t even have a goal?  Well, perhaps at best, it’s just a dream. At worst, you might find yourself on the hamster wheel, just engaging in activity with no real purpose. 

In business, business goals are important. They provide direction and focus, prioritization, a basis for measurement, and even motivation. Let’s take a look at the importance of setting business goals for your company.

What Is a Business Goal?

A business goal is a specific, measurable objective that a company wants to achieve within a certain period of time. It’s a target that the business wants to hit, and it provides a roadmap for the company to follow to achieve success. Business goals can be financial or non-financial, and they can be short-term or long-term.

Business goals are important for a variety of reasons. First, they provide direction and focus for the company. Without clear goals, a business can easily get sidetracked and lose sight of what it’s trying to achieve. Business goals also help to motivate employees by giving them a sense of purpose and a reason to work hard. They can help to measure progress and determine whether the company is on track to achieve its objectives.

Every business should have goals, regardless of its size or industry. Goals are essential for success, and without them, a business is likely to struggle. Even small businesses and startups should have goals, as they provide a roadmap for growth and can help to ensure that the company is moving in the right direction.

Examples of Effective Business Goals

Here are a few examples of effective business goals and why they work:

  • Increase revenue by 20% in the next year: An effective goal that many businesses set is to increase their revenue by a specific percentage within a defined timeframe. For example, a small business may set a goal to increase its revenue by 20% in the next year. Other financial goals can be tied to margin, volume, etc. 
  • Reduce employee turnover by 50%: Another effective business goal could be to reduce employee turnover by 50%. High employee turnover can be costly for businesses due to the time and resources required to recruit and train new employees. Focusing on this goal will help the organization drill down into people development and employee engagement.
  • Increase social media engagement by 30%: If social media is an essential part of your business marketing strategy, an effective goal could be to increase social media engagement. By increasing engagement, businesses can improve brand awareness, build customer loyalty, and drive more traffic to their website, which ultimately will increase revenue. To achieve this goal, there would be a focus on developing engaging content, building a strong social media presence, and using social media analytics tools to track progress.
  • Launch a new product or service within six months: Many businesses set goals to launch a new product or service within a specific timeframe. Attention here would be on developing a new product or service that meets the needs of their target audience, conducting market research, and developing a marketing and sales plan.

These are just a few examples of effective business goals. Ultimately, the key to setting effective business goals is to ensure that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, otherwise known as SMART goals.

How to Set a Business Goal

The process of creating a business goal involves several steps, including:

  1. Define the objective: The first step in creating a business goal is to clearly define the objective. This involves identifying the specific outcome that the business wants to achieve—for example, increasing revenue, reducing costs, improving customer satisfaction, or expanding into new markets.
  2. Identify key performance indicators (KPIs): Once the objective is defined, the next step is to skip to the end and identify the KPIs that will be used to measure progress toward the goal. These KPIs should be specific, measurable, and relevant to the objective. For example, if the goal is to increase revenue, the KPIs could include sales revenue, customer lifetime value, or average order value.
  3. Set a time frame: The next step is to set a time frame for achieving the goal. This time frame should be realistic and take into account any external factors that could impact progress toward the goal. For example, if the goal is to launch a new product, the time frame should take into account the time required for research and development, marketing, and distribution.
  4. Allocate resources: Once the time frame is set, the business needs to allocate the necessary resources to achieve the goal. This includes identifying the budget, personnel, and technology required to achieve the objective.
  5. Monitor progress: Finally, the business needs to regularly monitor progress toward the goal. This involves tracking the KPIs and making any necessary adjustments to the strategy to ensure that the goal is achieved.

Business goals should be set on a regular basis, typically annually or quarterly, depending on the nature of the goal and the industry in which the business operates. Managers should prepare for setting goals by gathering relevant data and information, including financial statements, market research, customer feedback, and industry reports. They should also consider the current business environment, competitive landscape, and any external factors that could impact progress toward the goal.

Creating Short- and Long-Term Business Goals

Striking a balance between long- and short-term business goals will be dependent on the circumstances and objectives of the company. Short-term goals typically focus on the immediate needs of the business, such as generating revenue, reducing costs, and improving customer satisfaction. 

For example, suppose a company is experiencing financial difficulties due to a decline in sales. In that case, short-term goals might include reducing costs and increasing sales through targeted marketing campaigns. However, to ensure long-term sustainability, the organization may need to invest in developing new products or expanding into new markets.

Who Should Be Involved?

Setting business goals is a complex process that involves different stakeholders at various stages. Initially, senior executives and managers should be involved in defining the overall strategy and objectives of the organization. Next, middle managers and department heads should provide input on how to operationalize these goals within their respective areas. Finally, front-line employees should be engaged in discussing how their work can support the achievement of these goals.

To generate positive and constructive input and discussion, managers should foster an open and inclusive environment where everyone’s ideas and feedback are valued. This can be achieved by encouraging active listening, promoting respectful dialogue, and recognizing and rewarding contributions. Using a variety of techniques, such as brainstorming sessions, surveys, and one-on-one meetings, can also help generate creative and diverse ideas.

Once the goals are set, they should be cascaded down to the team in a clear and actionable manner. This can involve breaking down the goals into smaller, achievable objectives, assigning responsibility and accountability for each goal, and establishing timelines and performance metrics to track progress. Communication and feedback should be ongoing, with regular check-ins to ensure everyone is aligned and on track to meet the goals. By involving the team in the goal-setting process and cascading the goals effectively, managers can help ensure that everyone is invested in achieving success and that the organization is aligned toward a common purpose.

Reviewing and Evaluating

Reviewing progress on business goals is a critical step in ensuring that the organization is moving towards its objectives effectively. Regular review of progress can help identify areas where goals are being met, areas that require improvement, and areas that require a change in strategy. The frequency of progress reviews depends on the specific circumstances and goals of the business. Some goals may require daily or weekly tracking, while others may require monthly, quarterly, or annual reviews.

If goals fall short of expectations, it is crucial to identify the reasons for the shortfall and take corrective action. This could involve revising the goals, changing the strategy, or adjusting the resources allocated to achieve the goals. In contrast, if goals are far exceeded, it may be an opportunity to set more ambitious goals, expand the scope of the objectives, or recognize and reward the team’s achievements.

Goal Setting Techniques for Businesses

One thing to keep in mind when setting business goals is to first, seek to gain perspective. Tom Paterson, founder of StratOp, said, “Perspective before planning.” There are two tools I use to help teams gain perspective:

Using a Business Goal-Setting Template

One more simple planning tool that may help: This business goal-setting template tool will help you quickly determine where you are, where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there.

Need Help Setting Business Goals?

As always, if I can be of help to you, your team, or your company, especially in the area of goal setting, feel free to connect with me.