You have your Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats, and Opportunities all plotted out, right?  It wasn’t just an exercise in creating charts.  Now you have to do something with it.  It is time to start your strategic plan.  If you don’t point your boat towards the water, you aren’t going to get there.

Take a good look at the SWOT analysis.  They need to be prioritized.  Look at what things need to be addressed.  Not want, need; these are likely under Threats or Weaknesses.  If you don’t tackle them, your business will be harmed.  That’s where you start.

Next, what will give you the biggest bang for your buck?  What can you do that will give you the best return on your investment?  These are likely under Opportunities or Strengths.  Maybe they are low hanging fruit; maybe they are big, fat, hairy goals.  Whatever they are, they can bring your business back more than they cost.  That may include money, time, culture or community.  It is what will your business returns in the way that you count them.

Once you have identified your top priorities from your SWOT analysis, now you get to formulate your goals.  Finally.  I know that you have been thinking of about them.  It’s finally time to put them down.  But not every goal is equal.  A goal must be clear, direct and easily understood.  A vague goal or one without a direction is not a goal; it is an idea, a platitude.  A goal a destination.  You can see it, explain it, and head towards it.

Put “SMART Goal” in your search engine of choice, and you’ll get oodles of sites telling all about them.  But the short version is that you must be Specific.  There must be a way to Measure your progress.  You must be able to attain them. They must be Attainable or possible and Relevant to your business.   Finally, make them Timely.  Put a deadline on them.

So what is specific?  The goal should answer the 5 W’s as is relevant: What is to be achieved, by Whom, Where and When it is to be achieved and Why that goal is important. Not all of these W questions will apply to every goal, but it is important to at least ask each of the questions in order to make the goal as clear and specific as possible.

Next, get your metrics straight so you can measure your progress.  You know where you are going, but how do you know when you get there and if you are on the correct path?  Figure out your deadline as well as your milestones.  If things are going off the rails, you want to know much sooner rather than later.

Creating attainable goals are not permission to aim low.  It is recognizing that you are going big and taking the appropriate steps.  You eat the elephant one bite at a time.  That means your short-term goals need to be attainable – what can you do with the time and resources you have – then map out what can boost those to the next level.  No one says that you can’t create the next level goal that can be strived for once the baseline goal is achieved.  Just make sure the first step is one you can take.  Then make the next goal built on that.

Relevancy may be the most important.  So what if you have a specific, measurable, attainable, and timely goal, but if it isn’t relevant, what’s the point?  Now this seems very obvious, but it is amazing how often the shiny, sparkly thing distracts you.  Check in with your mission and vision.  These are your touchstones.  If the goal doesn’t serve those, why are you striving for it?  You want your time, money and effort going towards bettering your business so why spend it on a tangent?  Of course, you don’t.  That’s why you need to double, heck, triple-check this.

Finally, put some time frames on this.  Maybe it is one year, maybe it is one month.  It’s whatever you need it to be.  Things to look out for include making every goal have the same deadline.  This is both lazy and dangerous.  Not every goal is the same so it shouldn’t be timed the same.  Which take a year?  Which take a month?  Another thing to keep an eye on are continuously delayed deadlines.  Does one keep getting postponed?  If so, something is wrong with that goal.  Maybe it isn’t relevant.  Or maybe it is unclear so those supposedly addressing it don’t know what they are supposed to be doing.  Or perhaps your metrics aren’t giving you good measurements.  Or, even worse, you are simply not pursuing it.  Then it isn’t really your goal, is it?  Get rid of it and put in something that makes sense or actually do it.  It does no one good to have a sentence that just get pushed to every next meeting.  You are wasting time and ink if nothing else.

Hooray!  You now have goals.  Realize that you can only address so many in a given time frame.  If your goal list is sprawling, you need to go back and prioritize.  Which ones will you actually do?  Cut the fluff, the feel-good, and the “have to’s.”  If you know you aren’t going to act on them, get rid of them.  They are deadweight that will pull you down.  The next step is creating action steps for these goals.  If you can’t think of a single action to go towards that goal, that is a sign that goal has got to go.  It sounds like you need an intermediate goal if nothing else.

Now show off those goals.  And listen to the feedback. Your employees, board of directors or advisors, and partners all need to buy in if you are going to achieve these goals.  When everyone is pulling in one direction, you move the stone.  When you are pulling in different directions, you have a game of tug of war.  Revise some goals; cajole some people.  But get them all on your side.  And get them ready to create and follow through on some action steps.  More on those next week!


Need some help creating these goals, join us on Jan. 23.


DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general informational purposes only. Posts and other information may not be updated to account for changes in the law and should not be considered tax or legal advice. None of the articles or posts on this website are intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.