The New Year brings a sense of inspiration and excitement, and as a result, people feel compelled to create a list of ‘resolutions’ to help them make changes in their lives. While not every resolution is based on making changes, many are the result of hoping for a new reality in the New Year. For entrepreneurs, the New Year is a perfect time to evaluate the state of their business and make any necessary adjustments. Rather than making generalized resolutions that are ambiguous and difficult to keep, use your New Year resolutions as an opportunity to enact real change that will make a genuine difference in the direction of your company.
Begin with the end in mind.
To craft effective resolutions, begin by envisioning what you want the end of the New Year to look like. Will you have increased your sales? Expanded your territory? Added a new product line? Whatever your vision for the end of the year includes, create goals that will help make your dream a reality. Rather than an exhaustive list, compile a short but manageable list of 3–5 items on which you can focus your attention.
Develop an action plan.
To ensure that your end of the year vision becomes a reality, you need to develop an action plan. Your action plan must include realistic, measurable steps that provide both objectives and the means to accomplish them. An effective goal-setting system that many entrepreneurs employ is the SMART plan. The SMART analogy redefines goals into a step-by-step plan that shows exactly what must be done to reach success.
S = Specific
Generalized goals such as “Increase sales” or “Expand customer base” are ambiguous and difficult to track. Setting a specific target helps you know which direction to go during the coming year.
M = Measurable
Embed into your goal a means of measuring your success. Whether you compare revenue figures from last year, are seeking to improve quarterly sales, or want to increase the number of clients you have, include a quantifiable component in your goal. This allows you to quickly and easily determine the success of your plan.
A = Achievable
Entrepreneurs are dreamers. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, Inc., once famously said, “Dream big by setting yourself seemingly impossible challenges. You then have to catch up with them.” Setting ambitious goals can be both inspiring and motivating as you work towards what seems impossible—but they can be paralyzing when you contemplate how to achieve them. Have a ‘seems impossible’ goal? Break it down into achievable milestones and focus on the first one. Then work on the next one, and so on, until you’ve accomplished your ‘impossible’ goal.
R = Realistic
Even though your long-term goal may be ambitious, your short-term goals should be realistic. If you want to triple your sales revenue, but are a company of one, is it realistic for you to handle that type of increase by yourself? Modify your goal by implementing strategies that enable you to achieve them.
T = Timely
Deadlines are effective. They help create energy, build incentive and give you a fixed amount of time to work on a goal. By building a deadline into your goal, you can focus your attention to working on that specific goal for the duration.
Using the SMART guideline.
Instead of saying, “I want to make more money in 2017,” your SMART goal should say, “I want to increase revenues by 5 percent in the first quarter of the year.” Once you have a target, it becomes easier to develop an action plan designed to accomplish it.
With your SMART goal, you can create measurable steps. You can easily determine the progress you’ve made toward your goal when you define it clearly. It is easy to see with a monthly review of sales revenue if you are on track or if you will need to make adjustments. To increase revenue, how many more sales must you make? Will it require adding new sales personnel? Can you expand into new territories? These ideas all help support your SMART goal and provide guidance toward reaching your target.
Write down your goals.
Put your goals down on paper and post them in a prominent place. Add your goal deadlines to your calendar. Schedule frequent progress checks and adjust as needed.
Share your goals.
Social pressure can be a powerful force. Use it to your advantage by sharing your goals with trusted friends, business associates, or mentors. You don’t have to share the specifics with everyone, but ask for accountability in working toward your goal. Harness social media to celebrate your victories and struggles.
Don’t find yourself at the end of 2017 full of regret, wishing you had done things differently. Decide today how the year should end, and then set goals to get there. It is possible to make this your best year yet.