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Setting Goals and Objectives for Your Business...

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Setting goals and objectives for you online business is an important task whether you are starting a new online business or if you have an existing business that you want to grow and develop.

objectives and goals

Your goals and objectives for the business, regardless of which type of business plan format you go with, are significant drivers for all of your business activities.  

Once you have determined what your goals are, each and everything you do in the business should contribute in some way to the achievement of those goals.

Generally, business objectives or goals focus on things like; profitability, market share, productivity, customer service, employee relationships, the core values of the business, and any ambitions you have for business growth.

Developing your business objectives involves looking at where you are now, where you want to be at the end of the planning period and working out what you need to do or have to get there.    

So, What Exactly are Goals and Objectives?

The two terms are often used interchangeably and most people assume that they have the same or similar meanings.  but you can use the two terms to indicate the relative scale.

Dictionary.com defines a goal as:

the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

Whereas, they define an objective as:

something that one's efforts or actions are intended to attain or  accomplish; purpose; goal; target:

So perhaps (at least here on this site) we could decide that a goal defines or outlines the desired end result and our objectives are the individual action plans we put in place to achieve our desired result.   

Another word you will come across when you are working on setting your goals and objectives is strategy.  Dictionary.com defines a strategy as

a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result:

For our purposes a strategy is an objective or group of objectives (a series of action plans) that are similar in nature and that all contribute to the achievement of a specific goal.  Examples might be a customer focused strategy consisting of action plans designed to improve or enhance the customer experience when interacting with members of your staff.

Tips on Setting Goals and Objectives for Your Online Business

This is one of those areas of your business where the information on bricks and mortar businesses do still apply, albeit in a slightly modified way for some online home businesses.  

Setting goals and objectives is one of the areas where new business owners tend to wing it, they open their doors with a general idea of what they are hoping to achieve and hope for the best.  Not the best strategy if you want your investment in your new business to pay off!

With an online business, your investment is going to involve some cash and a lot of time and unless you develop a very clear idea of who you are as a business owner and what the business should be (and do) and where you want to be in a few years time, setting your goals and objectives is going to be very difficult.  So if you haven't already done it, go back and revisit the pages on your business values and the mission and vision of your business.  

They are not just academic exercises, they are the thought processes that will define your business and inform every single activity you undertake within the business.  To quote Tony Robbins, "where focus goes energy flows", so in practical terms the focus you create with your goals, strategies and objectives will determine what your business will become.

Areas to Focus On...

As I indicated above, most business goals and objectives will fall into one of the following categories:

  • profitability, 
  • market share, 
  • productivity, 
  • customer service, and or
  • employee relationships.

For example, your overall goal might relate to:

"improving the lives of middle aged single mothers through online education and support that helps them transition from dependence on a partner to a state of self-confidence and resilient independence."  

An implicit goal is that you can generate your desired income by doing it, and achieving your stated business goal will enable your to achieve a number of personal goals around service to others and making a significant contribution.  But these implicit goals will not be fully developed or addressed until you develop the individual strategies and objectives (action plans) that will enable you to work towards achieving your primary goal.

So, you have articulated what you want to achieve, now you need to work out how you are going to do it.  And to do that it pays to ask yourself a few questions (many of which you may have already investigated during the business model development phase or by doing some market research). 

How big is the market, how big a slice do you reasonably expect to be able to win over to your business?  Is the target population within the broader market currently being served by any other business or are they struggling with their changed circumstances alone?

If they are being served by other businesses, how does your offering differ from the services they are already receiving (in terms of delivery, quality, content, price etc.), does your target population actually know that they have a problem that can be fixed?  If not, how can you convince them that you are the solution? 

If you can convince them that you have a solution to a real problem, can they afford to pay for it?

How much income does the business need to generate to break even? How much to provide you (the business owner) with a decent income?  What are your production methods and how much will it cost?  Is there any other way of producing your goods or services that would be more cost effective and or efficient?

How will the business interact with customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders?  What policies and procedures will you put into place and are they consistent with your values, mission and vision and your primary goals?  

The answer to these kind of questions will help you to work out what actions you might take (action plans / objectives) to help your business meet the needs of the target population and achieve your primary business goals. Gather all the information you can along these lines before you begin setting your goals and objectives.

Setting your Objectives...

You have a goal defined.  In our example you want to improve the lives of middle aged single mothers through online education and support that helps them transition from dependence on a partner to a state of self-confidence and resilient independence.

The next question is:  how?

Your first answer might be through online education and support.  And the next question would be:  how?

The answer might be by building an online site that provides information and training in a webinar format on selected life skills topics with a forum to build a supportive community for the members.  You guessed it, the next question would be: how?

And you keep asking that question until you have a clear set of actions that you plan to take to achieve your productivity objective(s) of providing online education and support to middle aged single mothers.

Then you might look at the market and ask who and how will you find them?  Once you have an answer you ask how again and again until you (again) you have a clear set of actions that you plan to take to achieve your market objective(s).

You go through the list above and address all of the issues like this, ask an initial high level question and then drill down until you have a clearly defined plan of action.  

Write them all down, and take a look at your list of objectives.  It might also pay to revisit your SWOT Analysis to see if you have the internal capabilities you need to complete your objectives, if not you need to work out how you will acquire them.

Are there any opportunities in the external environment that could help you to move closer to achieving your goals?  Again, start with a high level question and drill down until you know exactly what you plan to do to take advantage of it.

Next Steps...

When you have finished setting your goals and objectives it is vitally important that you track your progress against the actions you have chosen.  Regularly monitoring your performance needs to focus on two things: did you complete the tasks satisfactorily and did completion of the tasks actually move you closer to achieving your primary goal(s)?

I say that because it is entirely possible to achieve all of your objectives but fail to reach your goals if the objectives do not achieve the outcomes that you expected them to! If that does happen to you, all you need to do is to revisit your goal and go through the process again to determine new objectives and action plans.  It might seem like you are taking a step back, but by selecting the wrong objectives the first time you have added to your knowledge about what works and what does not in your business and that can never be a bad thing.

So pick yourself up, dust yourself off and armed with your expanded business knowledge start setting goals and objectives that will work!

Also See...

SMART is an acronym that describes the important characteristics of good business goals.

Your goals and objectives for the business, regardless of which type of business plan format you go with, are significant drivers for all of your business activities.  

Once you have determined what your goals are, each and everything you do in the business should contribute in some way to the achievement of those goals, and it really pays to be smart about it!

 Developing your goals and objectives using the SMART methodology will not only allow you to consider the important aspects of each of your goals, but it will enable you to measure your progress towards achieving the goals. 

Related articles you may be interested in reading:

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