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Small Business Tips

What are SMART Goals and How Can They Help Your Business?

Rebecca Rustin
SMART goal setting chart

It's no secret that setting goals can help you realize your business objectives. However, the key to meeting those goals doesn't just involve figuring out what you want to achieve. Enter SMART goals.

What are SMART goals?

The consensus is that the smart goals concept originated from a man named George T. Doran in 1981. The acronym, S.M.A.R.T. is somewhat variable, but conventionally it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Here's how this set of criteria can help you structure your business goals and objectives, bringing them closer to reality.


Well written goals are easier to manage and can outline a clear path towards success. Here's an example of a poorly written goal:  "I'm going to grow my business."  If you don't reach this goal, it will most likely be because it's not specific enough. It doesn't provide any information as far as how the business is going to grow, or by how much, or how you're going to do it.


When setting a business goal, you need to make sure your success is measurable.  Avoid vague goals like "make more money" or "get more Instagram followers." How much or how many more? Make sure you can recognize that you've reached your goal once you get there.

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How are you planning to reach your goal? Do you have the skills and resources to get there? If not, how can you develop them?  The clearer you are on the steps you need to take to achieve your goal, the more successful you will be.  In situations where there are many steps involved in acquiring the skills or resources, you need to meet your goal by breaking everything down into actionable steps. In other words, before you reach your goal, you may need to accomplish smaller milestones.


Although it is natural to work towards many goals at the same time, having too many goals or pursuing goals that won't serve you can hinder your success. One way to avoid this is to track your goals to make sure they are realistic.  So how do you make sure of this? Evaluate the resources you need to invest in an operation against the value you are likely to get out of it. Low effort, high-value goals are more desirable than work intensive, low-value goals.  Commonly known as the 80/20 rule, it is also known as the Pareto principle. Ideally, 20 percent of your input should provide you with 80 percent of your output.


Establish a deadline for you and your team. Try to set a realistic timeframe that's not too far in the future.  Avoid schedules that involve concepts like "ASAP" or "at the end of the year." Instead, set a specific date six months from now, or at the end of the next quarter.  Keep the timeline realistic and flexible. If your goal is to make an extra $10K in the next 12 months, then aim to make an additional $833 per month from business sales.  If at the end of 6 months, you haven't reached the halfway point towards achieving your goal, you can revise your strategy.  Being too stringent on the timely aspect of your goal setting can have the perverse effect of making the learning path of achieving your goals and objectives into a hellish race against time - which is most likely not how you want to achieve anything.

How to write SMART goals

A well-written goal might look something like this:  "I'm going to increase my business income by 50 percent before the end of October by getting two new clients."  This goal is written well because it's specific.  It's measurable because the goal is to increase your business income by a set percentage.  It's actionable because you know that you should be able to achieve your goal if you acquire at least two new clients.  If you already have four clients, it should be realistic for you to grow your income by 50 percent by finding two new clients.  And finally, it is time-based, because aiming to attain your goal by the end of October will motivate you to start taking steps towards making your goal today.  Have you ever implemented SMART goals for your business? If the answer to this question is no, give it a try! Creating a guide to your goal setting is a great way to remind you to clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving what you want in life.

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