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Q & A

What goals should you set for your business?

Small-business consultant and coach Mark Dyble explains why you should set goals for your business and how to go about it

Where do small businesses go wrong when it comes to goals?

MD: “Some don’t set any, while others set too many or set the wrong goals, where there’s no compelling reason for achieving them. Another mistake is setting overly ambitious goals, where failure is inevitable.”

Why are goals so important in business?

MD: “Goals give you something to aim for; they give you direction, they motivate and stretch you and your team. They also enable you to measure your progress. Without goals – what are you trying to achieve? How well are you performing and progressing? If you set appropriate, SMART goals, then, yes, I firmly believe you’re more likely to be successful.”

Should objectives be SMART?

MD: “Yes, making your objectives SMART [specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound] makes it easier to know exactly what you’re trying to achieve and to judge whether you have achieved it. I also think the goals you pick should be inspiring and energising for you and your staff. Your goals should excite you, while being able to come up with many good reasons why you want to achieve them.”

How should I go about setting goals?

MD: “Make it part of a wider planning process. That might mean updating your business plan or writing one from scratch. Your goals should relate to things that will bring significant benefits that enable your business to progress. Business goals are usually related to sales, winning new customers, selling into new territories or to new types of customer, developing or introducing new products, etc. They vary from business to business, but they should be expressed in specific terms.”

And once I’ve set my goals?

MD: “There’s no point in setting goals without knowing how you’re going to achieve them. You need to develop a strategy or strategies. At the very least, you should have a one-page action plan, showing what you’re going to do, when and how. There’s no point in setting goals if you don’t create a plan, whether it’s a business plan or marketing plan, which you need to act on if you’re to achieve your goals.”

How can I judge whether I’m on course to achieve my goals?

MD: “Your plan should have identified key activity and measures to allow you to judge your progress. An example might be the number of new sales leads you need to convert to reach a new sales target. These can be daily, weekly or monthly. I also believe in creating monthly milestones when setting big annual goals. They enable you to judge as early as possible whether you’re on course to succeed or fail.”

Do you believe in setting personal goals?

MD: “Absolutely. If you haven’t set goals previously or you’ve consistently failed to achieve them, start by setting easier goals week to week. Before long, you’ll prove to yourself that you can achieve the goals you set. Then you’ll gain confidence and start setting goals that stretch you a bit more.”

  • Mark Dyble set up his Manchester-based consultancy SME Business Solutions to help small-business owners to fulfil their potential and create vibrant and successful businesses. “My career has taken me from Manchester to Malaysia and back again,” he says. “I’ve worked in engineering, manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing and consultancy. For the past 10 years, I’ve used my commercial experience to help SMEs in Greater Manchester to grow.”

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Next step:

Use the HSBC online business plan tool to create your own business plan