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Effective goal-setting for SMEs rely on a few simple principles

July is the mid-year mark at which many business owners spend time reflecting on the first six months of the year and plan for the months that lie ahead. It’s an ideal time to review goals and set new ones. Goal-setting is an important exercise because it helps businesses set tangible, reachable milestones that provide a shared vision and sense of direction for the team. It also provides a way to track progress and affirm whether the action taken today is making enough of an impact on what happens in the business tomorrow.

However, the process of setting new goals can be intimidating. It is normal to experience some hesitancy and the fear of failure can plague business owners at least once in their entrepreneurial journey. Even though goals can be powerful and useful, there are a few age-old myths that need to be debunked when it comes to setting goals for business. Many of these myths stem from outdated systems and ways of thinking about the world of work – and subscribing to them can cause a lot of undue anxiety.

Myth One: Goals Are Set in Stone

The world of business can be extremely volatile. No one expected just one year ago that a global pandemic would consume the world, disrupt the economy, and change the way we work; perhaps indelibly. Yet, in a very short space of time, business owners were catapulted into a new growth phase that required rapid change in order to survive. Even worse, not many people anticipated the civil unrest that we experienced in the last week would come this year and destroy so many businesses.

When setting goals, business owners tend to use their current reality as a reference point – but life is not predictable, and neither is business. Goals therefore need to reflect this same transience. When forced to change a goal or pivot in order to overcome a new set of challenges, that is not failure; it’s adaptation, a very necessary factor. For this reason, goal-setting shouldn’t begin and end with New Year’s resolutions. Goals need to be revisited, reconsidered and analysed at regular intervals throughout the year, and sense-checked for whether they are still congruent with what’s happening in the business and the world in which it operates.

Myth Two: Goals Are Destinations

We’ve heard it said many times that, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” and this axiom rings true in the business world too. It’s better to focus on how you get there and what happens along the way, rather than when you’re going to get there. If for any reason the business does not achieve the desired goal, there are still crucial lessons that can be learnt along the way, as well as a degree of professional and personal growth that may have resulted as part of the pursuit. Celebrity life coach and motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, is a big advocate for the importance of savouring the experience of moving towards a goal, as opposed to fixating on the actual goal, and says: “The purpose of a goal is not to get it. The purpose of a goal is who you become in pursuit of it.”

Myth Three: Goals Exist in the Mind

It’s fair to say that the majority of business owners do not keep adequate record of crucial detail such as the business mission, values, vision and goals. It is instead something that happens organically within their own head and might be assumed that the team is aligned with. While a big part of being driven is fixing your “eye on the prize,” there is evidence that writing goals down will derive some very real benefits. In one study conducted in 2012, children were asked to write, trace or type letters while having their brains scanned – which found that the act of physical writing activated more regions of the brain than typing. In another study, it was proven that a group of note-tasking students scored better when it came to the retention of factual knowledge than a group that did not take notes. Trust the science, put pen to paper and write the goals down in ink – that way they will become more tangible, more urgent and inspire a greater level of commitment.

About the Author: Ben Bierman

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Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.