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Published on April 15, 2019

10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year

10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year

We often times think of goal setting as something done when we first start a business or a new job. But the reality is, we need to be regularly setting new goals as well as monitoring the progress of past goals.

I personally like to assess and establish business goals during the first quarter of the new year. This allows for both you and your employees to have a clear understanding of what the expectations are over the coming year.

View the Forest, Not the Trees

When deciding on what goals you will have for the year, don’t get bogged down in the minutia of figuring out every last detail of how you plan to get there. This is big picture stuff, your vision for what the organization should look like in a year.

This long term goal setting will serve as an overall framework for your short term planning. That short term planning is where you will lay out the individual steps necessary for achieving the goals.

That’s a long winded way of saying that you first need to figure out where you want to go before you plan the trip.

10 Powerful Business Goals to Set for This Year

While no one list could apply to all businesses or all situations, these 10 goals have been a part of every successful business that I’ve been involved in.

1. Maintain a Healthy Budget

This trips up a lot of entrepreneurs. I’ve seen so many people start businesses without a financial plan.

Academics have coined a new technical term for this type of financial plan, they are calling it a “budget”. And if you don’t have one, then that’s your number one goal for the year.

Having a budget not only helps with tracking where your money is being spent, but it also allows your to analyze things like what type of advertising is working best for you.

How do your payroll expenses compare to the industry average? Are you spending too much or too little in commissions and bonuses? And God help you if you decide you need to get funding.

Going anywhere for funding (Bank, Investors, VC firms) without a professional budget will get you booted out of the office without a second look.

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2. Hire a Certain Number of Employees

If you don’t have any employees, maybe now is the time to consider hiring some. Trying to do everything yourself is the curse of the entrepreneur. We all try being the “Jack of all trades”, but we forget the rest of that saying, “but master of none”.

You can start by hiring someone to do all of the little tasks that have to get done but don’t contribute to the bottom line. These tasks take your attention away from growing the business.

One caveat here, don’t put anyone else in charge of marketing! You should always do the marketing and be the face of your business. Turning that part over to someone else is just asking for trouble.

3. Reduce Expenses

Running a lean business should be the goal of every entrepreneur. After all, every dollar saved in business expense is an extra dollar in your pocket. The problems arise when you begin to cut into areas that affect the bottom line.

For example, it’s always tempting to look at payroll first because it’s such a big expense in most businesses. But will cutting sales staff hurt sales? What about the shipping department or customer care? You might not feel the effects of those cuts right away, but if your not giving the customer the experience they expect, you will feel it down the road.

Try looking for other ways to reduce expenses. Try new software, change the implementation of your processes, and most of all, reduce debt!

4. Refocus on Your Customer

You should always be re-evaluating your relationship with your customer. You need to know what areas are working right and what areas need improvement.

Look at the entire customer experience. Are your customers happy with the product or service? Is your refund / exchange process easy to understand and use? If they have questions or need help is it easily accessible? Are you delivering your products in a timely manner?

No matter how good you currently are, vow to make the customer experience even better.

5. Get More Traffic to Your Website

There is never a reason you shouldn’t want more traffic going to your website. Even if you’re not generating sales from a website, increasing traffic is great for brand awareness.

If you haven’t updated your website in a while, now’s the time. Make sure it’s pleasing to the eye with all the latest information and helpful hints.

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6. Evaluate and Refine Your Social Media Marketing

This dove-tails nicely with the previous suggestion. Social media marketing, when done right, will generate traffic, leads and sales for your company.

Notice I said “when done right”. I see a lot of companies (especially smaller ones) using a shotgun approach to their social media marketing. They end up throwing a bunch of stuff up on their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and hope that something works.

You need to have a strategy for social media. Your posts need to be consistent and on-message. It can be a lot to handle all at once. If you are not sure what you are doing, there are companies and individuals that will set up and manage your social media marketing for you.

7. Conduct a Marketing Audit

Marketing along with payroll and rent are the biggest expenses most businesses have. You want to make sure you are getting the most bang for your marketing buck.

Analyze and evaluate every aspect of your marketing budget. Eliminate the worst performing (in terms of ROI) 20% of your marketing effort’s and use that money to expand your top 10% of your best performing assets.

8. Develop or Improve Your Employee Incentive Program

Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. Employees are the ones implementing the company’s policies and procedures. They are (usually) the ones interacting directly with the customer.

Keeping happy and motivated employees is the only way your business can thrive. Unfortunately, too many small businesses neglect this issue because of the perceived expense involved.

And while money is certainly a motivating factor for your employees, most people will respond to other types of incentives as well. Things like public recognition, lunch with the boss, flexible time off can all be used as incentives. Check out this article for 17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees.

9. Evaluate Your Company’s Mission Statement

This should be done on a yearly basis. Depending on how long your company has been around you may have not have even looked at your mission statement in years (if you even have one)!

Take the time to get it out, dust it off and make sure that it’s still relevant. I’ve consulted with companies that, when asked to do this, discover that the original mission statement described a completely different organization!

Over the course of years, as the business climate evolves and technology changes, there’s a good chance that your mission statement needs to be updated. If you want to know why a mission statement is important, see this article: How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

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10. Strive to Create a Better “Work Life Balance”

Being a successful entrepreneur means making sacrifices. You sacrifice the stability of a regular paycheck, time with your family, sleep and more, and while the rewards can be great, just make sure the costs aren’t too high.

Things like stress and anxiety will take a toll on your physical and mental health. Time away from spouses and family can cause tension that only adds to the stress level. You need to take evasive action before it can cause irreparable damage. If your not eating right and exercising start taking an hour out of your day. That hour won’t kill you but a heart attack will.

Carve out “family time” whether it’s one day a week, or an hour a night, your family needs to know that they are a priority. Have a scheduled “date night” with your spouse. Chances are you’re not the greatest company after working a 12-14 hour day, and making your spouse a priority is just part of the deal.

Making a conscious decision to prioritize your home life is like brushing your teeth. If you do it, they stay strong and healthy, if you ignore it, they go away. See these tips for maintaining a good work life balance: 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life

Set S.M.A.R.T. Business Goals

When setting goals, we always recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. technique as it’s a very efficient way to both communicate and monitor your organization’s progress in achieving the goals you set. S.M.A.R.T. goal setting stands for:

Specific

What exactly do you want to achieve? The more precise you can be, the better. When answering this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the end goal?
  • How will achieving that goal translate into higher profits, increased market share, a better customer experience?
  • What resources will it take to achieve the goal? Money, Staff, Time, Training.
  • What is the specific number (or percent) that I want to increase sales, market share, profit, productivity?

Measurable

You should be able to break down your goals into individual steps or milestones that are easily qualified. There should be a way to concretely measure the success or failure of the goal.

  • Goal – Increase sales in Q-2 by 10%
  • Goal – Decrease year end expenses by 5%
  • Goal – All employees will have completed training in “X” by June 30th

Attainable

Having unrealistic or unattainable goals is just setting yourself and your employees up for failure. Now, if you are a one person operation, then by all means go ahead and set a goal to double last years sales. If you only increase sales 1.5 times, that’s still pretty good.

But putting unrealistic expectations on employees will only do one of two things. Either it will crush morale when goals can’t be met, or if you do this too often, your employees won’t take you seriously.

So think twice about setting a goal to double sales every month for a year.

Relevant

Is the goal something that you really want? Will attaining the goal actually help your business? Is it really a good idea to double your business if you’re already struggling to service the clients you have, or would you be actually hurting the business?

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And don’t forget about your personal life. Will attaining a goal mean more time away from family? Are your relationships already strained?

Know what’s important to your life as a whole.

Timely

Deadlines are important to motivation. I know from experience that if I’m not under a deadline to get something done, then I’m just going put it off as long as I can.

Setting deadlines solidifies the goal, after all, a goal without a deadline is just a wish.

Setting deadlines is really the only way to measure the success or failure of a goal. With that being said, deadlines must be reasonable otherwise you’ll run into the same problems we see when goals are not attainable.

The Bottom Line

Setting, evaluating and reassessing goals is a constant theme in business. Knowing the right places to allocate the right resources will keep your business thriving in an ever changing world.

Lou Holtz, the famous football player and coach said

“In this world, you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow.”

That statement is certainly true in today’s business climate. You need to be constantly on your toes looking for new and better ways of doing things.

Technology is moving a light speed, bringing new, better and faster ways to deliver products and services to the consumer. If you’re not innovating, you can be sure your competition is.

More Practical Tips for Entrepreneurs

Featured photo credit: Ruthson Zimmerman via unsplash.com

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business The Surefire Method to Set Long Term Goals and Reach Success 10 Ways to Improve Team Management Skills and Boost Performance 12 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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