Reflecting On The Previous Year And Setting Goals For The New Year

As we bring 2012 to an end and leap right into 2013 it’s time for us to reflect on the past 365 days of our life.  I’m sure that 2012 had it’s ups and downs for all of you, and hopefully you had a lot more ups than you did downs.  Reflection is an important step in improving ourselves and preparing for a bigger and better new year as well as for seeing how 2012 measured up to the dreams we had for it.  While this is a time for reflection, it’s not a time for beating yourself up.  It’s quite possible that you set many goals and had a much different vision for 2012 than what reality brought you.  The key is to learn from your reflection, not to dwell on the fact that you may not have hit all of your goals.

It’s also possibly that you’ve knocked 2012 out of the park and you can’t wait to do it again next year.  Personally I’m very excited for what I’ve accomplished in 2012 and I look forward to doing even more in 2013.  I’ve laid a solid foundation for both my personal and business lives and I’m ready to reap the rewards of that foundation is 2013.  As I reflect on all of the times I’ve had in 2012 I realize just how lucky I am, and how lucky the majority of us are for being able to chase our dreams and be entrepreneurs in this era.  The evolution of technology and the internet has made it easier than ever to make your own decisions and do what you love.  If you’re reading this blog and still sitting on the sidelines of Entrepreneurship looking in enviously it’s time for you to dive in.  If you are truly dedicated to building your passion into a real business and providing value for your customers than there is nothing that can stop you.

Now that you’ve resolved to take action it’s time to start setting some concrete goals and plans in place.  You’ll find that the majority of successful people all have goals and a plan in place to complete those goals.  Most people do create some type of goal (or resolution) as the new year begins but very few ever actually stick to them.  In fact the majority of people quickly forget all about the goals that they’ve come up with in the first place.  Make a change this year and resolve to actually follow through on your goals.  In order to do that you’ll need to change the way you typically set your goals unless you’re already setting them properly.

Most people who set goals for the new year, or anytime really only dive into the first step of goal setting.  The first thing you need to do is actually sit down and think about what you want to accomplish.  I recommend having at least one personal and at least one professional goal that you want to achieve.  I personally have a lot more goals both personally and professionally but if you’re not used to setting and sticking to goals you may be best suited to start off with one.  Take some time to yourself to really reflect on what you accomplished this year and decide on what you want to accomplish next year.

Once you’ve come up with a few goals that you want to hit – it’s time to get started on making those goals become a reality.  The first thing you need to do is write everything down so that you have something to hold yourself accountable to.  Once you write your major goals down, open up your favorite Project Management system and make each main goal a project.  You can’t just look at the overall goal and expect to get there through sheer luck. You have to break the goal down into manageable sub tasks so that you can mark each item off your list as the year progresses.  With proper planning and task management you should be getting at least a little bit closer to your goal each and every day.

Now that you have all of your plans in place it’s time to follow them exactly and complete your goals right?  Unfortunately that’s not always going to be the case.  You’re bound to run into problems, and you will have to be able to adapt to whatever life throws your way in order to get past the problems and onto completing your goals.  Realize that everyone runs into problems at one point or another and the successful people simply know how to adapt to them better than those that give up on their hopes and aspirations.

I hope that I’ve motivated you to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and plan for the new year using the basic outline I’ve provided.  Keep in mind that you should have multiple goals at any given time and the major goals tend to revolve around Health, Wealth and Relationships.  There are plenty of goals outside those but you always want to be focused on improving yourself in some way.  As an Entrepreneur you’re expected to juggle a lot of tasks on a daily basis and having an overall goal that you are working towards will help you accomplish a lot more in less time.  Keep your goal(s) in your focus at all times and make sure that you are moving closer to them each and every day.

Remember, the only thing that can stop you is you.

Setting Strategic Business Goals

Most people know the old adage, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and many understand that effective business goals must conform to the SMART principles. That is, they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely, but few take the next step and develop those various objectives into an effective long-term strategy. Like life, like taxes, business exists as a series of cycles and goals should be set as milestones to mark those cycles to let an entrepreneur plan and evaluate progress on strategic and tactical levels. Smart strategic goals allow a business to target objectives over a long period of perhaps a year or two and the same technique works for shorter-term or ‘tactical’ efforts. Successful planning is based on a structure of good strategic planning (long-term goals) supported by solid tactical planning (short-term goals). After all, it makes little sense to hope to achieve a one-year goal by aiming at a series of flimsy, ad-hoc monthly targets. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from an effective combination of carefully crafted strategic and tactical goals, although the timeframes and complexity involved will be different for each business.

In nearly all cases broad, strategic goals are what determine growth and long-range development. These long-term goals form the basis of a company’s mission. As such, strategic goals will be different for individual businesses. Each specific long-term target can then be divided into smaller achievements that act as a series of tactical milestones to reach the target. Since every goal must be measurable (the ‘M’ in the SMART acronym) milestone dates act as data points to chart progress. The method of following the milestones to reach longer, strategic goals helps keep the business on course, but allows for built-in flexibility necessary to keep competitive and react effectively to changes. Analysis of measurable data at each milestone lets managers evaluate performance and make adjustments to future milestones to do what is necessary to achieve the longer-term company goals.

Some general examples of strategic goals with their tactical components include revenue goals, customer service goals, goals based on public perception, as well as goals targeting web-site or store-front traffic. Consider these and see if any of them might be good additions to your company’s direction:

Revenue Goals

It is a given that most businesses set mid- or long-term revenue goals. These can be expressed in terms of overall dollar value or a percentage improvement over a previous period. For example, a 25% revenue increase over the next fiscal quarter could be a longer-term business goal. Provided it is a realistically attainable achievement it conforms to the SMART principles. In that case tactical goals related to the strategic revenue goal could include conducting market research to help improve advertising and testing and implementing changes to current advertising based on the market research. Of course, each of these tactical goals should be described in specific, measurable terms involving a deadline.

Customer Service Goals

Since business is about delivering satisfaction, customer service should be a paramount concern and monitoring and improving customer/client satisfaction is key. A simple example of a customer service goal is maintaining or improving customer satisfaction based on interview or questionnaire results. Supporting short-term goals might include implementing new help-desk software and addressing specific points from previous questionnaires and interviews. Another tactic to improve customer satisfaction is to run a contest to increase the profile of the customer service questionnaires and increase the volume of responses. Such a contest could be integrated with advertising plans and designed to have positive impact on revenue by actively promoting the company’s good customer relations.

You can see that tactical goals need not be rigorously connected to particular long-term goals, but may support several different strategic goals. In that case they should be evaluated based on how successfully they impact each other relevant goal.

Public Perception Goals

The importance of public perception varies from sector to sector. For example, the hospitality industry must be very concerned about broad public perception and adopt a goal based on strengthening brand-recognition, while most business-to-business enterprises may tend to focus only on a narrow demographic. A hotel chain might have a long-term goal to improve brand-penetration numbers by 10% within the year, while a small business like a local auto-repair shop might aim to increase the number of reference clients and mentions in local media. Branding and public perception can be tricky to evaluate in a scientifically measurable fashion, so a good short-term goal in this case may be to create or implement a reasonable standard for determining public perception in the first place. Press-releases, charitable activities and other types of outreach goals will all contribute to public perception.

Web Site Traffic Goals

Monitoring web site statistics and even brick & mortar storefront traffic is usually easy compared to evaluating public perception and such consumer behavior data can have an impact on several areas of your business and be related to other goals, such as public perception and advertising/revenue goals. To set worthwhile long-term goals for traffic, you will need to relate the statistics you want to affect to other goals. There may be no real benefit to some businesses from an increase in web site traffic. Some industries simply do not enjoy a large volume of web-based interest, while others will struggle to reap any benefit from more web site traffic. For example, large industrial or government civic material suppliers may do all their business via face-to-face meetings. Increasing web site traffic can have a serious cost impact for a business as well as important public perception implications, so be sure to develop sophisticated strategic and tactical goals in this case. ‘Increase our average monthly unique web site hits to 100,000 in six months’ might sound like a good objective, but it is critical to make the most of that traffic, so short-term supporting goals might include implementing various landing-page designs, including a split-testing system, and monitoring hosting and site performance to ensure the increased traffic does not cause service outages.

These example goal categories are worth considering for any type of business, but they are certainly not the only possible types of goals! Employee training and development is another important area that successful companies plan for and there are many others. Good company planning includes a clear set of effective long term goals supported by short-term tactics in all areas relevant to its central purpose.