Strategies for creating and fulfilling ambitious business goals

David McCrae | 1st June 2017

The ability to effectively goal-set is vitally important in the business world. To set a goal, you need to know where you are in your business right now and what needs to be done so you can progress to the next leg of your journey.

Let’s use a GPS analogy to help emphasise this point. When you want to plot out a route to help you fulfil your organisation goals, the GPS needs to triangulate where you are now. If it doesn’t know where you are, it can’t tell you how to get to your end point (desired goals).

By setting a goal that is arbitrary and vague e.g. “I want greater profits” or “I want more growth.” This is like telling your GPS that you want to go to the other side of the world – there will be too many different routes. If you’re miles away, it might guide you a little bit of the way. It is key to be specific and clear on what you want to achieve. Where exactly on the map do you want to go? Why do you want to go there?

When you have your start point and end point determined, you need to find the best route between the two – taking your workforce, time constraints and resources into account. This is rarely a definite course and there will be lots of alternative ways to achieve your goals. All with their own limitations and obstacles.

Let’s examine the most effective ways to set achievable goals:

Start Point

Consider the current state of your business. Are your numbers going up? Are your people engaged? Are you ahead of the competition?

When I work with individual clients, I ask them to rate their work on three criteria. This technique can be directly applied to help you and your organisation grow through targeted goal-setting too.

Consider your three most important business factors, e.g. your product, people and finances. After you have chosen them, break down the elements that make up each of these categories:

  • Product: (Is it market-leading? Is it visually appealing? Is it user-friendly?)
  • People: (Are they engaged? Do they align with the company culture? Are they happy?)
  • Finances: (Are the numbers going up? Have you improved since last quarter? Are you achieving your forecasted sales figures?)

Consider them all in detail and rate each one on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest.

You should now have scores for these three categories, and perhaps you may want to score the individual components too. There will likely be some obvious high and low scores.

You can approach this in one of two ways. The most obvious is to focus on the weak points, and set goals that will improve this area of business. However, perhaps this score was low because it is not a priority or driver in the business. To create goals based on something that isn’t important right now isn’t the best use of resources.

The not so obvious approach, therefore, is to seek greatness in an aspect of the business that is already high. Do you have high standards of job satisfaction? Seek to provide your workers with extra autonomy or benefits. Are you giving great value to your customers in your business? Then work out how to give them jaw-dropping service. Are you achieving great results with pro bono work? Then extend and expand your voluntary programmes.

Both choices are effective and will generate a return that will benefit your bottom line.

So now we’ve worked out our start point. The next step is to work out where we want to go:

End Point

Where are you and your business going? You need to form a clear idea of where you want to be. This is when you might hear some practitioners start shouting SMART goals at you. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. These form important guidelines for setting goals, but it is not the most effective approach.

Why’s that? First of all, because of that middle word “achievable”. I think this makes people and businesses think small. If we only did things that we thought were achievable, we wouldn’t get ahead in life. With the word achievable, there is no room for dreaming. Dreaming allowed us to put a man on the moon. Dreaming created the iPhone. The speech was “I have a dream”, not “I have a SMART goal”. Scrap that binding word “achievable”, and dream big.

As well as not encouraging dreaming, the SMART goals do not prepare you for failure. The road to your goals is not a perfect one. There will likely be delay, distraction and defeat. I developed my own framework to combat these flaws and help everyone create goals more effectively. It’s called the S.S. D.O.P.E. framework:

S.S. D.O.P.E

Specific: What do you want exactly? For example, if your goal is to increase profits, it might become “Increase revenue by 10% this quarter”, “Open 10 new locations in the next 12 months” or “Cut expenses by 20% before the start of the next financial year.”

Steps: Break down the goal into steps. These steps should be challenging and stretch you just out of your comfort zone. To continue the example, If you feel comfortable with 2.5% growth, how could you stretch that to 5%?

Dates: Set a starting date and completion date for your goal. Setting a time frame gives you a sense of urgency and commitment. I find setting 30-day challenges for myself is a useful increment to focus on.

Obstacles: What is likely to stop you from achieving your goal? What human variables (e.g. fear, willpower) and non-human variables (e.g. weather, markets) are there?

Preparations: When you’ve preempted the potential roadblocks, how can you plan ahead to avoid or minimise them?

Exciting: Why is your goal important to you? Where does your passion for this goal come from? What is going to make you want to stick with this goal when the going gets tough?

When you’ve built your goals into this framework, you then have the end point in the GPS. However, you still have the biggest step to make…the journey.

In the next section, I will outline a few tips and strategies that will help you achieve your goals quicker and more easily:

The Journey

After planning out your end point using the S.S. D.O.P.E. framework, as well as some of the potential checkpoints and roadblocks along the way, it’s time to get detailed on your mechanism of travel. What strategies are you going to use to fuel your journey towards your goal? Below I’ve listed my two favourites:

The Three Things

The three things task involves identifying three things you can do every single day to advance you towards your goals. These three things do not have to be big, and in fact, I encourage them not to be. The smaller they are, the more likely you are to engage in them and build momentum.

If you have a sales goal, that might be to contact five new prospects every day. If you have a team-building goal, that might be to check in with five people each day. If you have a growth goal, then you might want to scout five new locations each day. These three things might be consistent every day, or they may vary slightly, but the key is to identify what these three things are at the start of each day, using a journal or an app on your phone.

You see three things each day might not feel like much, but if you do three things every day, for 365 days, after a year you will have taken over 1000 steps towards your goal (assuming you haven’t completed it already). That kind of progress will start to show results, but it begins with the three things.

Accountability Partner

When it comes to goals, building in accountability is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. Accountability is having somebody to report to on the progress of your goals, and whether you are achieving/not achieving them. Research has found that having accountability increases the likelihood of achieving your goals by 91%. No other strategy can boast that kind of enhancement.

There are a number of ways you can set up accountability. You might have a coach who sets you weekly or monthly goals, and you report to them on a frequent basis on how you are progressing. You might have a team member who calls you daily or weekly to check up on the progress. You might want to advertise your goal to your customer, setting in a stone a promise to them.

An important factor to remember when it comes to accountability is not to be scared of telling your partner/s that you haven’t done it, or you’re not progressing as you’d like. An effective accountability partner will be able to work with you and find out what roadblocks or issues might have held you back, and help you work through them.

An accountability partner is not just someone who gives you a bit of urgency to get on with your goals, but can also help you when you’re struggling.

In business, goals are hugely important, however, the strategy behind how to set and achieve them is often poorly defined. With the information in this post, you will be able to determine where you are in your business, where you want to be, and how to get there.