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Strategies for Setting Business Goals

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to setting business goals, or any type of goals for that matter, lies in tying a goal to a result that is beyond your control.

How often do you choose results-based goals when planning your objectives and targets for your business? Have you ever said to yourself something like:

  • I will increase sales by 20 percent this quarter.
  • I will make ten times my booth fees in sales at the next craft show I attend.
  • I will double the traffic to my website in the next two months.
  • I will lose ten pounds this month. (Okay, this one is not a business goal, but it's a common enough goal nonetheless.)

What's wrong with these objectives?

They are results-based targets that are ultimately out of your control.

What is a Results-Based Goal?
And While We're on the Subject, what's Wrong with Results-Based Goals?

A results-based goal is any goal that is expressed in terms of the results you want to achieve. Making ten times your booth fees is a result. Doubling traffic to your website is a result.

The problem with hanging your hopes on this type of goal is that although you can perform actions that have a good chance of leading you to those results; you do not have reasonable control over whether you achieve results-based goals or not.

Pause for a moment and think about that last statement so you don't gloss over it.

You do not have reasonable control over whether you achieve results-based goals or not.

We are so accustomed to creating results-based goals, we do it without realizing that we are creating targets that we ultimately don't control, and at the same time, hanging our own feelings of success or failure on those targets that lie outside of our control. If we don't hit a target, we automatically feel demoralized. We don't stop to think whether we did everything in our power to try to hit the target.

What if the craft show you attend happens to be an outdoor show and it's rained out? You may have done everything in your power to have a great show, but despite your best efforts, you may not meet your goal of making ten times your booth fee. The bad weather, and people's decision to skip the show because of the bad weather is completely out of your control.

The problem with results-based business goal setting is that you can easily set yourself up for failure. When the goal is not reasonably within your control, there's always a chance that you will not reach that goal through no fault of your own. So, if your goal was to make ten times your booth fee, and the show is rained out, although your sales may be good in light of the weather conditions, you'll still end up feeling like you failed because you didn't meet your goal.

Is There a Better Alternative For Setting Business Goals Effectively?

Goal setting is supposed to be helpful, right? You've probably heard that you're supposed to write down and share your goals with others in order to increase the likelihood of achieving them.

I'm not suggesting you avoid setting goals for yourself (although some thoughtful authors, like Leo Babauta at zenhabits.net, do suggest it might not be a bad idea to let go of goal setting). I am suggesting you tie your goals to actions that are within your control.

For example:

  • I will research and implement two new strategies for selling crafts this quarter.
  • I will plan and create an effective craft show booth over the next three months.
  • I will write five new articles for my website this month.
  • I will walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes, four times this week.
Setting effective business goals

While some are more ambitious than others, all of these goals are well within your control. You may need to seek out help in achieving some of them, and you may discover some challenges that make it more difficult than you initially expected to achieve those goals, but whether they get accomplished or not is almost completely up to you.

Setting business goals that are action-based and within your control helps you to maintain motivation and provides effective guidelines for your day to day work. Instead of focusing on targets that you can't fully control, when you create action-based goals, you turn your focus toward creating positive habits and action steps that are well within your control and that you can reasonably expect will lead to the results you want.

As I mentioned earlier, Leo Babauta is a thoughtful author on this topic. He doesn't talk so much about setting goals but instead focuses on developing habits that will lead you to shape your life (and also your business) in ways that are positive and fulfilling. His book Zen To Done has some excellent insights into creating the habits that will help you achieve your business goals.

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Strategies for Setting Business Goals

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