How to Set SMART Goals and Add More Strategic Thinking to Your Business.

For most business owners setting goals is common practice. These usually take the form of sales targets, cost reductions, staff training etc.

Most of you will recognise these – they are considered tactical goals, but they are not strategic goals. What’s the difference? Strategy takes a look at the big picture. It relates to what the business must be or do within their sector or location in a given period of time. Tactical goals are set in order to achieve the strategic outcome. This may sound confusing so let’s use an example…

The strategic goal may be to grow by 15% in the next quarter. This goal has to be broken down into smaller tactical goals which may include increasing sales of each product or service you offer by a certain percentage within 60 days. As you can see, this goal is SMART:


Tactical goals break down the big picture into bite-size chunks. The most important element of tactical goals is that they answer the question – How may strategic goal be achieved? A strategic goal answers the question – What must be achieved and by when?

Let’s return to the beginning…

Strategic objectives must be worked out and have a greater meaning to the business. They are the drivers that make the difference between a mediocre and a great business. A strategic objective begins with a powerful target-driven question which will generate many answers. Here’s a great example:

  • What would make customers buy faster from us?
  • What products/services should we be adding to our existing range/portfolio that will provide either more value to customers or be highly regarded as a welcome addition?
  • Here’s another one…what would we like customers to be saying about us?

These are powerful questions. You should ask your team to answer them and jot down all of the answers. As you can imagine, this is the beginning of a powerful process to uncover what the business should be focusing on to achieve even greater success.  When you have the answers, then you need to consider how to implement. For this you need a system.

Introducing a powerful system for change

To drive change through your business you have to lead from the top. All of your team must be on board and you must make time to engage with your team and implement the changes. Here’s how you can do this.

Team Business PlanningLet’s use one of the above questions as an example…

You arrange a team meeting. The rules are simple, everyone has a voice and there are no bad answers. So all ideas are welcome and must be recorded. You ask the question and allow everybody to write as many ideas as they can. Each person is then invited to read out their ideas. From these the group selects a top three for discussion.

By discussing the ideas, you should be able to select one idea. This idea is then implemented the following day, or within a few days depending what is agreed and the actions required to make it happen. This idea is introduced into the business and results are monitored. It is important to continue implementing and adjusting along the way. Eventually the idea becomes part of the way you do business.

As you are running with the first idea, you may also add a second idea, following the same procedure.

Each idea should be recorded in a file along with all of the steps to implement it. This becomes a great tool to review exactly what has happened over a given period of time. It’s also a great part of any induction program by showing new members of the team that you are pro-actively working on the business every week to improve in all areas.

By now I hope it’s clear that this process drives change into any business in a positive manner. The more you practice this approach, the more strategic your business becomes. As a business owner you are then leading from the front, driving change and sharing in the success with your team. Of course, not all of the ideas will work. However, there will be times when one idea built on another and then another has such a compound effect that the results for the business are huge.

This type of management takes discipline. It would be easy to skip a week or two when it suits, however it should be consider compulsory to attend these meetings and follow up. It’s also important to recognise and reward your team for their efforts and ideas.

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Summing up…

Transforming your business from a tactical thinking, slow growth/no growth machine into a strategic powerhouse takes time, energy, drive and commitment. However, the results are worth it. Expect to struggle with this process at first and understand that mistakes will be made. When you get it right, and witness the positive changes, it’s worth it.

It’s important to be clear about the “what” first. What needs to change for the business to achieve a specific result? When you know the what, you should be pretty sure why this is important to the business. How will it change the business? What perception of the business will change as a result (both from within and from customers and the industry itself)? How will you know when this is achieved?

All of these key factors play a major part in the development of any business. Working strategically moves the business in so many more ways than purely tactical. Take a good hard look at your business and make a decision today to become more strategic. Begin by asking the BIG questions. As a business owner, it’s not your role to answer all of the questions. Your team may astound you and provide better quality answers than you. Give them the space and reward on results.

Enjoy the process and feel free to ask questions or comment…