Creating Better Business Goals in 2011

We’re just about halfway through the first work week of the New Year. I hope it’s treating you well and that you’re on track for a great 2011. Many small business owners use the New Year as a time to take a look at the state of their business and list goals they want to accomplish over the next 12 months.

Having clear, defined goals is a great way to keep moving your business forward and ensure you’re on the path to success. However, sometimes it’s difficult to create solid goals for your business, and it can be even harder to actually attain them. Below are some tips for creating better business goals in 2011. You owe it to your business to do it right.

Evaluate your business: Before you can go forward, do yourself a favor and take a minute to really look back. What did your 2010 look like? Where did your business succeed, and where did you struggle? What experiences did you have that you enjoyed, and which do you want to make sure you never repeat? Doing a quick audit of the prior year can help you make useful resolutions for the one coming. If you know you struggled in one area, are there steps you can take to improve? Or perhaps you want to double-invest in an area where you found success? Ultimately, you need to know where you want to go before you can plot the course.

Set goals that excite you: For the past few years I’ve had the same goal every January – to finally get my finances in order. I’m at the point in my life and career where I need to start making smarter decisions about my money and where I’m investing it. However, at the close of 2010, I still hadn’t acted upon this goal. Why? Because it’s not exactly exciting. I don’t jump out of bed with anticipation of opening up that IRA. You want to be excited about the goals you set for your business. Sure, not every step in achieving the goal will be over-the-moon sexy, but the direction should be. You should be excited about where you’re moving your business and what you’re looking to accomplish over the next year. If you can’t get excited about your business, why would anyone else? Why would you be moved to accomplish the goals you set out if they don’t move you?

Make it specific: The trouble with many goals business owners set is that they’re too vague. You vow to be more successful in 2011, to be more organized, or to be happier. That’s great, but what does any of that mean? What does “being more successful” look like to you or your business? How are you defining happiness? The more specific your goal, the better you’ll be able to see it, and the more likely you’ll be to make it a reality.

Make it attainable: It’s natural to have huge, long-term dreams for your business, but those are different from the goals you set each year (or quarter). Part of creating better business goals is focusing on things that are within your control. Picking attainable goals is important in helping business owners to remain motivated, confident and productive. You can’t control whether or not you land that new client; however, you can make sure you’re doing the things necessary to impress the prospect and earn the business. Focus on yourself, your own actions, and what you can do to change your fate.

Create milestone goals: If your ultimate goal is to create a new service offering for your business, create milestone goals to be worked in underneath it. Small steps will allow you to move closer and closer to your final end goal. For example, if you’re planning to add catering to your cupcake business by March, then perhaps by January you’ll need to have vendors in place and by February you’ll need to have your staff fully trained. Setting these milestone goals not only keeps you on track to ultimately reach your larger goal (which is important), but they also give you something tangible to celebrate in the interim to stay motivated and focused.

Create a plan for how you’ll get there: While the goal of wanting to increase your team from three to 15 employees in a year is great, it’s not totally helpful unless you also create a plan for how you’ll do that. How will you achieve that kind of growth? What kinds of clients will you have to take on? How much money do you need bring in to support that level of staff? For every business goal you create, you should also be creating a plan for how you’ll implement that goal in the coming year. More important than the goal itself are the steps you’ll take to get there. That’s where success is built – in the details.

It goes without saying that creating clear business goals is an important step in consistently moving your business forward and growing your brand. However, not all goals are created equal. The best goals are the ones that are specific, plotted and allow you to control the final outcome.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

18 Reactions
  1. Andy @ FirstFound

    You’ve started the year as you mean to go on, eh Lisa? Great post – and a timely reminder that you need to set achievable goals.

  2. When evaluating make sure to be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t sugar-coat failures or try to justify them with excuses. Only then can you move forward with your goals.

  3. Hi Lisa,

    Very nice tips! It’s so true that one must focus on more detailed goals rather than creating goals that you yourself become confused with. Having focused goals not only provide a distinct direction, it also makes them achievable. Here’s an article on “12 Business Skills that you should master”, someone might want to make acquiring one of those skills as their goal this year!

  4. When setting my goals this year, I made it a point to be as specific as possible. That way the goals were more attainable.

  5. We mixed it up this year and set our 2011 goal to:

    Of course we then set specific actionable goals to make us awesome, but in everything we do, our thoughts are on the simple goal of being awesome.

    It’s easy to remember, easy to identify what to do in order to wow clients, and the specifics will hopefully fall into place as we strive to be awesome.

    I wrote a blog post about it that goes into more detail:

  6. Excellent tips and ones that we often forget. Not all goals are fun or easy to achieve but the end result makes all of that hard work worth it!

  7. Good tips. I would also add not to have a long list of goals. Instead concentrate on a few that are the most important for your business. It helps you remain focussed and are easier to track.

  8. Tynnisha Hamilton

    These are great tips for the new year. Evaluating your business and setting goals each quarter are crucial for your long term success. Sometimes we forget that we have to look at our past and plan for our future.

  9. I agree completely with Lisa and think she has outline some great steps to getting your business goals in order for 2011. In order to be effective your goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. SMART is often used to describe effective goal setting and Lisa has definitely reiterated those points here. For more information on SMART and a down-loadable guide check out the posts on

  10. Great post Lisa. Your last point about achievability should probably have been in bold upper case. I know a lot of people who will set goals but have absolutely no idea of how to achieve them. Needless to say, they very rarely stay on target.

  11. Awesome information Lisa. I recently posted my “Top 7 Ways to Achieve Your 2011 Business Goals”. I will be including your post in my Blog post today.

  12. Kevin Aubrey,

    Have you studied the works by the pioneer of goal-setting, Edwin A. Locke?

  13. Thanks for the post and I believe that you are right on in your recommendations. One that I’d add that I don’t think people often discuss is the importance of creating goals that span a spectrum of diverse approaches or perspectives. The idea of cognitive diversity is key as it ensures that goals are not done in a vacuum based on the way a person would always think about a topic. For example, a goal may be very sound and measurable from a financial perspective but may not cover important aspects of the way it will affect people in the organization or the client. Looking at a goal from all sides of the issue is very important to setting solid business goals. We wrote a blog on the topic here, called “The Importance and Value of Setting Business Goals:” Would love to hear feedback.

    Mark Miller
    Emergenetics International

  14. Great article and I appreciate your efforts in bringing attention to this critical business topic. I expanded on this concept recently as well:


  15. I’ve learned that focusing on both short and long term goals is crucial in starting a private practice.