If you’re a fan of Vegan Mainstream, you’ve probably read an article or two from me about the importance of goal-setting, and if you have, hopefully you’re convinced that it’s an important thing to do. But it’s one thing to know that something is important, and another to know how to do it right. One of the keys to success is setting goals based on the current stage of your business. It may go without saying, but new entrepreneurs should be setting goals in a different way than seasoned CEOs are. Your process should reflect your experience level and the length of time you’ve been in business. Goals are meant to help push your business to the next level, not strain you and your team to the point that all motivation is lost. So before you start with your goal-setting and planning, consider where your business is at, and that will help you determine which approach to take. Most people are in one of three stages in the life of their business, so I’ve organized my advice according to those stages.

Pick your stage, and let’s get started!

Newbie

If this is your first year in business, or if you have been in business longer, but you’re struggling – meaning things have not been happening the way you want – I’d like to recommend the Newbie approach.

This approach is really about getting started with setting goals. If this is you, start by creating one goal per quarter for the coming year. This can be done no matter what time of year you are starting this process in. I love to see people doing three-to-five year planning, but if you’re new, don’t stretch yourself. It’s more important to have some success, and to get good at setting and accomplishing goals. Because once you master that process, you will do better at planning and achieving longer-term and bigger goals.

Keep in mind that if you have already been successful with planning in these early months and years of your business, you can jump up to Average or Advanced at any time. Once you start to set goals and see success, it’s going to be very easy for you to add more goals. Having said that, I’ll caution you about biting off more than you can chew. Make sure you start with something manageable, and focus on actually accomplish that goal before moving forward and adding more goals. You know that old adage “success breeds success”? That applies to goal-setting and achieving too, so make sure you give yourself a chance to succeed.
If you start by picking one goal per quarter, that means each goal is going to be on a 90-day plan, so you’ll be taking your goals and action plans and making them very tight. That’s going to allow you to have a clearer vision of where you want to be at the end of that 90 days, which will help you stay focused, and that is very important in the early stages of a business. It should take you about 2 hours to determine your 90-day goal. This is a great thing to do as weekend work – an hour on a Saturday, and an hour on a Sunday and you should have your goals.

How do you determine goals if you’ve never been through this process before? I would recommend starting with a simple sales or financial goal. In the early stages of a business or when a business is off-course, often it’s beneficial to go back to the basics and confirm that there is a need for, and an interest in, your products/services. If you are able to get the sales, then the next step is to set a profitability goal. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will be making enough money to quit your full-time job, but if you can find a way to offer your services at a profitable level while it is small, then you will know you have a winning formula. It is easier to scale a profitable business (no matter how small the profit) then to fix a business that doesn’t make money.

Average

The Average bucket is for anyone who’s been in business for a year or two. At this point you’ve probably been through the process of setting and achieving goals a few times. Now I want you to challenge yourself to look at things on a longer-term basis. A good place to start is to look at your goals in 3-, 6- and 12-month increments. This gives you practice in understanding what type of goals are bigger, longer-term, and take some time to build, versus shorter-term goals that are achievable in the coming months. Here you strike a balance between a short-term approach and a long-term approach, getting some experience in building your business using both of these processes. The other thing you need to make sure you are doing at this point is recording monthly milestones. Because you should be assessing your progress on a monthly basis, which will help you ensure that everything stays on target, and that no project is left on the sidelines.

At the Average stage, planning should be about a four-hour process. You could take longer, but it’s most important that you get your goals down on paper, and then you can continue to refine your plan over the coming year. I don’t recommend doing all four hours in one sitting – it’s just too much. Come back to it, break it up. Often people in this bucket have a couple of people on their team, so it may be the case that you are brainstorming on your own, coming up with ideas, reviewing it with your team, and then going back and refining your plan.

Advanced

The Advanced Bucket is for people who have been in business for more than two, three or four years. You’re in a place where you’ve got the basics of goal setting and accomplishing down, but what you’re really looking for are game changers in your business. You’re looking for things that will take your business to a completely new level. If that’s the case I want you to dream bigger. I want you to brainstorm bigger. I want you to think of goal-setting in terms of a three-year path, as opposed to a monthly basis.

This means looking at what you need to do this year and next year to build for the plans you have in year three. A lot of times when businesses get bigger and stronger, or as a business’s growth plans and goals become heftier, there are external factors that are required to ensure success. It’s important to consider the building blocks – maybe it’s a tool that you’ll need to put in place, maybe it’s data you’re going to have to collect, maybe it’s a platform you’re going to have to build, maybe it’s a product you’re going to be launching, but you have to get the manufacturing in place first. So, what are the building blocks that have to happen to get you where you want to be a year from now, two years from now, three years from now?

In the Advanced stage, you’re going to start to monitor your goals on a quarterly basis. Keep in mind, you’re still going to have some short-term goals, and you need to make sure that you have a standard rhythm around this while you’re simultaneously looking much further out. This is the point at which things become much more strategic. As you might expect the process at this stage takes a bit longer – you’re looking at six to eight hours. You could spend a week on this, but remember, it’s most important to start to accomplish something, and not to get caught up in the process.

No matter where you’re at in your business, goal-setting is a crucial process to put in place. Looking to the future, short- and long-term, helps us to see a clearer path ahead, avoiding potholes and keeping us on the track bound for success.

TAKE ACTION

Where are you at with your goal setting? Determine your stage, and make your plan to set out the appropriate goals for your business.

This article is part of the Vegan Mainstream Essentials Guide, Building Your Biz’s Best Asset…You. Download all the articles in this collection, here:

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