Do you want to know the secret to business success? You aren’t alone. According to Google Trends, topics related to business success receive upwards of 1.2 million searches per month in the United States alone.
But, the fact of the matter is, there is no sure-fire, quick trick to ensure your business will be successful. Success is an iterative process that requires thoughtful and meticulous effort of monitoring and evaluating your goals. Luckily, this is not as intimidating as it may sound. With a little focus, you can set up a simple monitoring system, which will allow you to make smarter business decisions and achieve your goals more efficiently. Follow these simple steps below to get started!
Step 1: Create SMART Goals
Every business has goals. From increasing profit margins to capturing a larger share of the market, or providing superior customer service, you probably know what it is that you are looking to achieve. To properly assess your progress toward these goals, however, you need to ensure these goals meet five quality standards…your goals need to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). Take a look at the following example:
Not So Smart Goal: Increase profit margins.
Smart Goal: Use a new customer acquisition plan to increase my net profit by 10% by the end
The second example provides a focused goal, which will allow you to track success more efficiently. For more tips about creating SMART Goals, as well as examples, check out this article from Business.com.
Step 2: Create a Plan and Stick To It
Now that you have a good set of goals, it is time to create a plan to achieve them. Plans can come in a variety of formats, and they will provide a blueprint for realizing your objectives (I love this guide). Creating this blueprint will allow you to assess your daily activities to ensure everything you do falls in line with your target goals. Whatever template you use, make sure you stick to your plan. This will be key when you evaluate progress toward your success because you cannot appraise systems that have not been uniformly implemented.
Step 3: Change That Plan
Yes, you read that correctly. Now that you have put hours (maybe even days or weeks) into creating the best business plan and executing it perfectly, it is time to see how you did. Assessment of your business plan should come in two forms: (1) regular monitoring and (2) comprehensive assessments.
The first should occur on a regular basis, usually once a month or once per quarter. This monitoring should consider your daily activities and short-term goals. Evaluate progression toward your goals and make small tweaks to fine tune your processes to stay on track. This is not the time to make large, overarching changes to your business plan.
On the other hand, a comprehensive assessment provides the opportunity to make larger changes. During this annual evaluation, you will compare your expected versus actual results, as well as your year over year outcomes. You can then modify your intermediate goals and processes in order to more efficiently achieve your intended outcomes. Use both quantitative results and qualitative commentary from key stakeholders to make the appropriate changes.
Creating sustainable business plans and processes is a key element of ethical leadership. Once you get into the habit of going through these three iterative steps, your business will be more responsive, efficient and ultimately, successful.
— Sydney Shearer
Development & Student Programs Specialist, NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT)