January is generally considered the official start of a new year, but September gives the same feeling of a clean slate. Summer is coming to a close, kids are back to school, new exercise routines fall into place and there is a sense of renewal in the air. September is a good time to take stock of your business and set your goals as you move into the next calendar year.
Making the time to think about and articulate authentic business goals involves realistic reflection. You have to decide what the future of your business looks like—your vision—and consider how you have built your business up to this point. Do you want to continue in this direction, try new markets or products, and offer more or different services? Do you have the resources available to get you there?
A logical place to start is with your long- and short-term goals, often referred to as your “roadmap.” First decide what your long-term goals are and the timeline that works best for you and your business. Determine the actual time you need to achieve your goals. Do you think one-year goals are reasonable? Or maybe three years is a more practical timeline. Whatever the case may be, keep in mind that changes in the business environment can affect your business. You may need to modify your goals to address challenges or capitalize on opportunities. Put short-term objectives in place after you establish your long-term goals. Specific, carefully thought-out goals and objectives ensure that you are headed on a well-defined and accurate course. It is much easier to see if you are lost and correct your course if you know where you are headed.
To help you start developing long-term goals that will position your business for growth, here are some questions you can consider.
- Do you want to improve your overall customer service satisfaction levels?
- Do you want to improve your employee retention levels?
- Do you want to introduce an employee mental health program?
- Do you want to increase revenues?
- Do you want to improve your productivity?
- Do you want to sell in new geographic markets?
- Do you want to diversify your product line?
- Do you need to develop and implement a new marketing strategy?
- Do you want to create a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Program?
Once you decide what you want in the long term, you need to identify strategies to get there. This can be accomplished through your short-term objectives, which will have a narrower focus. Attach your short-term objectives to specific long-term goals. Review your plan: does it make sense, will it get you to where you want to go in the end? If one of your long-term goals is to increase sales by 12 per cent for one year, then one of your short-term objectives could be to increase sales by 3 per cent each quarter and then identify how you would accomplish this increase each quarter.
Remember to share your vision with and engage the people who are vital to helping you meet your goals and objectives. Get everyone on the same page! Create opportunities to get feedback from your staff. If you don’t already have regular staff meetings, now is the time to think about implementing them. It’s important to get buy-in from your employees.
As important as it is to set goals, it’s also essential to review your goals on a regular basis. Reviewing goals allows you to check your progress and reflect on what you did to get there, or, if you are not there, to determine why. Were the goals realistic and achievable, or do they need to be revised? A review also gives you an opportunity to celebrate the small wins—the attainment of those short-term objectives. This could be a good time to reward and recognize the hard work of your staff. Reaching your goals or even just your short-term objectives might just provide the motivation and confidence you need to continue to make your business grow.