What are your goals for your business and how are you going to get there? Goal setting might sound like something for corporates and larger businesses, but sole traders and micro business owners also need to think about them. Without goals your business can become directionless, and instead of running a business you may find that you’re ‘just doing a job’ with no focus other than to get from one day to the next.

Many sole traders and micro business owners don’t really have any set goals. You may want to ‘grow your business’, ‘increase sales and revenue’ or ‘gain a larger market share’, but these aren’t really proper goals unless you clearly define what they mean. Without clear goals that state exactly what you want to achieve, it’s very difficult to know what steps you need to take to get there.

Here we provide a quick guide for getting started with goal setting.

Getting started with goal setting

Define your exit plan

Most enterprises and large companies set strategic goals for 3 or 5 years, 10 years and more. Their founders and owners will also have exit plans – how they will leave the business when they’ve achieved what they want out of it. For sole traders and micro business owners, your exit plan represents the culmination of all your hard work – the ultimate reward for all those long hours and sleepless nights. So if you haven’t got one, it’s time to work out what your exit plan is. For most business owners that means selling ownership of your company to an investor or another company, and in return making a profit.

Your exit plan needs to be realistic both in terms of the amount of money your business may be worth, and the amount of time it will take to achieve this value. If you haven’t got 30 years to build the business so it’s worth tens of millions, you need to revise your expectations!

Set strategic goals

With your exit plan in mind and a realistic target for growing the business in a specific timeframe, you can now see what needs to be in place to make it happen. Perhaps you need a team of 5 sales consultants to bring in enough business; or have become a recognisable and trusted brand / company in your local area; or have twenty clients on retainer to be an attractive proposition to an investor or competitor.

Working back from your exit plan you can start to see what you need to achieve at specific points in your business, to get the growth desired. These should be your strategic goals based on a timeline, for example ‘generate £x profit to employ 2 sale consultants in 12 months’, ‘double the team by 18 months to bring £x amount of sales’ etc. etc.

Break down your goals into steps

Next you need to understand what steps are involved in achieving your strategic goals. For example, to be in a position to employ just one sales consultant you need sufficient revenue, and that means marketing your products or services, growing your customer base, upselling to existing customers, and a host of other activities. Break down each goal into achievable baby steps.

Track your progress

Each step that helps you achieve your goals should be trackable. This way you can measure your progress and take action if you’re not getting the outcome you want. Define a metric for each step, such as number of new customers per month, value of sales etc. and keep a close eye on what steps contribute most to the best results. You need to know if you’re getting more sales from leads on digital channels or from when you meet customers face-to-face. Or whether getting press coverage in your local newspaper generates more leads than posting flyers through letterboxes, or vice versa.

Be flexible and keep tweaking the process

Don’t forget this is your business and so you’re free to rip up your business plan and start again if you want! If something isn’t working and something else is, invest more resources in the activities that are directly helping you achieve your goals. So if you get better results from selling online, use the time you might have spent attending a trade show or retail event, on driving more digital traffic to your website or e-commerce shop. You can always revise your plan and work on other revenue avenues at a later date – perhaps when you’ve achieved your 12 month or 3 year goals.

Get support

If you’re a sole trader or have a very small team, you may not have anyone you can talk to about your business or people who can offer sound business advice and support. Try to build a network of trusted people around you that you can call on when needed. You might consider the services of a business mentor or coach to help you stay focused and track. Or join a local business networking and training group that offers expert support as well as friendship and collaborative opportunities.

Here at SiGNAL our focus is on helping micro and small businesses succeed in the Bordon area by providing a supportive environment, business skills and education, and opportunities to connect with other business owners and entrepreneurs.

One way we do this is through the Bordon Hub – this is a membership group for local business owners that meets once a week for business training and support. Sessions are designed to give members essential business skills to enable them to grow their business and achieve their goals. We also introduce a level of accountability; ensuring that those members that want to commit to achieving specific goals keep on track and also get the support they need.

You can find out more about the Bordon Hub here, or sign up below for our weekly newsletter to find out more about more about forthcoming events.