Every small business needs to have goals — it doesn’t matter if you’re a startup up or you’ve been operating for several years. Goals help you understand where you are today and where you would like to be in the future. Plus, they’re one of the best ways to ensure your small business is able to grow.
Many businesses like to set goals at the beginning of the year — like New Year’s resolutions. However, a lot can change in 12 months. A better strategy is to set new small business goals at regular intervals throughout the year to ensure you stay on track.
Moreover, it’s a good idea to divide your small business goals and objectives into short-term aims and longer-term targets. Like this, you are able to make progress in the near term while working toward larger, more meaningful ambitions.
Small Business Short-Term Goals
The most common small business short-term goals are popular for a reason: they’re suitable for practically every industry, business model, and company culture.
1. Reduce Business Costs
Everyone wants to spend less. Before you set this goal, though, you should decide if reducing costs is actually feasible and where it would be possible to cut spending. Some options include:
- Paying off more debt to reduce the amount you spend on interest payments
- Utilizing tech to streamline your processes
- Renegotiating contracts, such as with vendors from whom you are making larger purchases
- Adapting operations to become more productive
2. Improve Productivity
Increasing productivity can be a goal of its own. As well as reducing costs, better productivity means greater growth. Again, tech can help with productivity — in particular, small business tools that replace the need for email. In addition, try strategies like decreasing distractions in the workplace, motivating employees, and improving your calendar management.
To check if you’re reaching your productivity goals, measure different types of productivity, including capital, material, labor, and total factor productivity.
3. Find New Hires
If you have a startup, there may only be a couple of people at your company. A short-term goal could be to increase the staff on your team to reduce pressure on you and your other employees or to gain expertise in a particular area. If your budget won’t allow for another full-time worker, you always have the possibility of hiring a part-time employee or outsourcing an assistant.
Bear in mind that, if you do choose this goal, you’ll need to dedicate some time to defining the duties of the position, posting the job, and interviewing candidates. You’ll also need to train the new employee, set up payroll, and organize benefits. If this will be your very first employee, you should consult with a business attorney and an accountant to ensure you’re following the correct procedure.
4. Market Your Business Online
Marketing will help new customers become aware of your business and increase loyalty from current customers. A great place to start is with your website. At a minimum, your site should be optimized for search, be user friendly, and contain all the necessary information about your business. If your website already meets this criteria, a goal could be to expand into content marketing. Posting regularly to your blog will drive even more traffic to your website and keep your customers engaged.
Another marketing goal could be to better utilize social media. This could mean creating an account on another platform where your audience is active, posting more frequently, or dedicating time to responding to users’ comments.
Finally, consider using paid advertising. Ads can enhance both social media and search marketing.
5. Open Another Store
If you have a brick-and-mortar location and demand for your services is becoming too high for you to handle, it may be time to open a second location. Choose a place that will be convenient for current customers (according to where they live or work) and where you won’t face too much competition from similar businesses.
6. Avoid Burnout
When you started your small business, you expected hard work but also fun. If running the company is becoming all hard work and very little fun, set a goal this year to avoid becoming stressed. Schedule time off from work for a few days, perhaps even a week or two, to spend with your family or dedicate to your hobbies. You can always check in with your employees remotely a couple hours a day.
Even better, change your work schedule to include a couple hours each week that will be free from meetings, appointments, and routine tasks. Use this time to get your creative juices flowing. It’s a great way to remind yourself why you started a small business in the first place.
7. Increase Your Contacts
A goal of any small business owner should be to actively network. Building contacts with others in the industry can be the key to growth. Ideas to achieve this goal include participating in conversations in LinkedIn groups, attending webinars, and requesting to speak at small business events.
8. Assess Your Progress and Plan for the Future
When you started your business, you almost certainly created a business plan. If you haven’t done so for a while, it’s a good idea to go back and look at the objectives you set out to see how close you are to reaching them. Once you’ve done this, rewrite your business plan with your new goals. One objective to include should be to revisit your business plan periodically.
Long-Term Goals for a Small Business
Now let’s look at the most common long-term goals for a small business. You should implement strategies that will allow you to make progress on these small business goals in 2020, although you may not reach your objective until some time in the future.
9. Become More Employee Centric
You may decide to shift your company culture to focus more on employees. This needs to be a long-term goal, as it will likely involve many moving parts. However, it can certainly pay off, especially since employees who enjoy working at your company will be more productive. You’ll also see reduced turnover, which eliminates the need to keep searching for new workers and often leads to stronger bonds between employees.
To figure out how to make your business employee centric, talk to your workers. Find out about their professional ambitions and how you can support them in reaching these objectives. You may need to adapt duties, give employees the chance to learn leadership skills, or increase the responsibilities of certain workers.
In addition, think about how you can make changes to the working environment. This could involve changing the layout of the office, offering new team-building activities, or increasing benefits. For instance, employees may appreciate a weekly happy hour to socialize, flexible working hours, onsite childcare, or health insurance.
10. Provide Better Customer Service
It may be better for your company to focus on improving customer service. This is useful for businesses that frequently interact with their customers, whether in person, over the phone, through email, or via online chat.
Some ways of providing better customer service include:
- Responding to feedback in negative reviews by taking the appropriate action
- Answering messages faster
- Providing 24/7 customer support
- Offering customer service through social media
- Using a CRM
If you’re unsure what your customers would benefit from most, send them a survey and ask them about how you could improve.
11. Expand Your Product Range
If it’s been a while since you increased your offerings, it may be time to start developing a new product or service. This is an excellent long-term goal if talking to your customers revealed any shortcomings in your current offerings. You can even use their feedback for inspiration.
This goal is also worthwhile if your target customers have changed since you started your business or if you want to expand into new markets. Conduct some market research to discover where your top opportunities lie.
12. Become More Eco-Friendly
Even your small business can take steps to do its part for the environment. As well as being fulfilling for you and your employees, this is great for your brand image. You could start by going paperless — this will also reduce your expenses and may even improve productivity.
Other options include:
- Setting up a carpool with employees
- Using smart strips on devices to improve energy efficiency
- Installing motion detectors to activate lighting
- Switching from paper towels to hand dryers
- Investing in an eco-friendly fleet
All the above are great goals for a small business, but it’s important to pick just those that are right for you. Think about what problems you confront everyday, what challenges you’ll likely face in the future, and where you want to see your company in the next few years. Picking the small businesses goals that have meaning to you (and that you actually want to achieve) will increase your likelihood of success.
The SMART framework is the most popular way to set goals, but it can be hard to know where to start if you’ve never used the framework before. Download our SMART goals asset for advice and a template to create your small business goals.