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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.