In my lectures, the importance of setting goals is often discussed. Recently, I was on a four-day tour in the Northwestern region of the United States. One of the participants posed a set of questions on goal-setting. He asked, “For a business that has never formally set goals, what suggestions can you offer? How is best for us to prepare, and how can we facilitate the process to be successful now as well as in the future?” These are great questions, and pertinent both for the time of year and economic environment.
First, in any process of setting goals, it is important that all business stakeholders participate. Each stakeholder should detail business, family and personal goals in a written format. The best approach is to do two sets; one for short-term goals and another for long-term. Remember to follow the S.M.A.R.T. principle: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. This standard requires each individual to think through the goals he or she presents.
Next, the requirement of written goals serves multiple purposes. It minimizes the risk that one family member’s desires or demands will supersede those of others. Unfortunately, this happens often in family businesses. A helpful exercise is to place all the written goals on individual pieces of paper and put them together in a basket, or the in the middle of the table. Randomly choose goals. Then, compare and contrast for commonalities and differences. If a facilitator is included, they can provide a neutral perspective on the individual goals, which can be extremely helpful.
Last, establish a date each year to update your goals. Actually, it can be quite fun to review the goals to determine whether they were met or exceeded. From my experience with those that have committed to this process, approximately 80 percent of goals are exceeded. For the repeat process, many businesses hire a facilitator or include their team of advisors. This brings accountability to the process, and also invites fresh thinking.
Goal-setting is simple, but also an extremely powerful tool in maintaining direction and focus. Many people say setting goals is one of the most difficult mental exercises in the business. That may say something about its overall worth.
Some individuals also list physical, mental and spiritual goals. I know a producer that set a goal to lose 130 pounds. Three years later, he is 170 pounds lighter with improved health, a better attitude, and a stronger family and business!
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