Ever set a new years fitness goal like “I’m going to get into shape”? You get a gym membership, buy a healthy cookbook, and get to work. A week later, you’re feeling great, more full of energy than ever (though possibly quite sore). A month later? If you’re still hitting the weights, you’re a better person than most!
What went wrong? Amongst other things, it could be that the goal wasn’t right. Getting in shape isn’t very specific, and it’s hard to know when it’s been achieved. If you can run 2 miles, are you in shape? If you have a good BMI, are you in shape? Are you supposed to eat all this healthy food forever, or can you have a hot dog every once in a while?
The same principle applies to your business. It can seem trivial, but the nature of your goals can make a big difference. We’ve certainly found that to be the case at abc and for the window cleaners with whom we’ve worked.
Your Goals and Your Business
In 2018 we surveyed and interviewed several hundred window cleaners and noticed something striking. We found that there was a strong correlation between how large their company was and what they set as the goals for their business. The larger and more financially successful a cleaner was, the more focused their goals.
Smaller companies listed goals like:
- Grow my company
- Retire happy
- Make money
- Improve website
- Improve my business
Larger companies tended to list goals like:
- Grow my revenue by 10% this year
- Create systems for my employees to follow
- Work 1 day per week in the field and have my crews handle the rest
- Increase web traffic by 15% this quarter
- Pay off my house
It’s interesting, when considering large companies, how their goals are more focused. They give you something specific to shoot for and provide a way to know if you are making progress. They also offer guidance if you are trying to make a short term decision. For example, should I offer gutter cleaning as an add on, should I hire a new crew, should I use an SEO company to increase web traffic, etc.?
There seems to be a connection between the aim of your goals and the success of your business. Does a good goal automatically make your business grow and improve? Does being the type of entrepreneur who knows how to grow a business mean that you also know how to set good goals? The exact relationship is hard to pin down, but it’s clear that having well-focused goals is an excellent step towards improving your business.
What makes for a good goal? A common method is called SMART goals.
SMART is an acronym which stands for:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Achievable
- R – Relevant
- T – Time-bound
Let’s break this down a bit.
Possibly the most significant improvement you can make to your goals is to make them specific. Let’s say your goal is to “improve my business”. That’s an admirable goal that we all share, but it’s pretty vague. If your revenue goes up 10% and you redesigned your website, but you had an on-the-job injury, and your average sale per job was down 5%, did your business improve? Hard to say, it depends what you mean by “improve”.
Instead, if your goal is to “improve my business by growing overall revenue,” it’s easy to see if you are making progress and to know your plan. It’s also easy to make decisions that help you accomplish this goal and stop doing things that aren’t helping. Does starting a YouTube channel for your business, for example, help you with your goal of growing revenue? If not, don’t do it!
(That’s not to say starting a YouTube channel is terrible, but the things you do need to support your goals. If your goal is to improve online visibility, maybe a YouTube channel is perfect.)
Specific is good, but it’s also helpful to make your goals measurable. Peter Drucker famously said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Measurements help you know if you’ve achieved your goals or if you are making good enough progress towards them. “Grow my revenue” is good but “grow my revenue by 10%” is better.
Don’t be afraid to set tiers. Maybe growing revenue 10% is your baseline goal, and 15% is your stretch goal. Think about this in the context of setting goals for your employees. For example, you need to get at least 5 new accounts this month. If you get 10 new clients, you get a bonus!
Nothing crushes motivation quite like a goal that isn’t achievable. It sure would be nice if you could grow your business revenue by 100%, but is that realistic? If you look over your numbers mid-year and you are up 10% (which is great, nice job!), will you feel hopeless and give up trying because you are so far from your goal? Don’t do that to yourself and definitely don’t do that to your employees.
Make sure the goals you are setting are important to you and your business. Is your goal to master the guitar? Great, but that doesn’t have anything to do with your business. Or, more on-point, is your goal to get 1,000 likes on your Facebook page? That might feel good, but does it matter for your business? Maybe, in which case that’s a great goal. However, if not, don’t make that a goal for your business, it’ll just be a waste of your time.
To finish off our SMART adventure, make your goals time-bound whenever possible. “Grow my revenue by 10%” is a great goal but “grow my revenue by 10% this quarter” is better. In general, you want not to set these dates too far out so that you can measure your progress regularly and adjust as needed. It’s also hard to stay motivated for a goal that’s 5 years out.
Improving your goals is an easy way to focus yourself and take your business to the next level. SMART goals is a simple framework to help you set reasonable goals for your business. Give it a try, you might be surprised, and what a difference this simple change can make.
Challenge: Set a goal for this month right now! If you’re new to this, make it something small and easy like “respond to every customer inquiry within one business day this month.” Bonus goal: Tell someone about your goal or leave a comment below with your goal. The simple act of telling something else your goal makes you much more likely to follow through.