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January 3, 2013

3 Key Steps To Setting Successful Business Goals

3 key steps to successful business goals(This was the #1 most viewed article last year so I figured it was worth repeating!) Happy New Year!   In case you haven’t noticed, all around us people are making their new year’s resolutions and vowing to stick with them (if you belong to a gym you know that it’s darn near impossible to get on a treadmill these days!).  The new year is also a great time to spend some time thinking about your business goals and where you want your business to go in 2012 2013.  

While I always advocate that this is the perfect opportunity to revisit and rework your business plan, many people simply don’t have the time or energy to rewrite their business plan.  At the very least, every food entrepreneur should spend some time creating goals for their business.  In some cases, this may be that you want to get closer to actually starting that business you’ve been dreaming about.  Or you may have an established business and want to grow your sales.

There’s any number of goals you can make for your business but the following three steps will help you make sure that anything you set down on paper on January 1st actually makes a difference (again, if you belong to a gym you also know that come President’s Day weekend the gym is back to just you and the ‘regulars’):

 1. Create specific goals

First things first, take out a piece of paper or open up a new Word document and take notes.  You want something you can come back and look at in the future that will help you hold yourself accountable to.  No matter how smart you are, with everything else you face in running your business (and the rest of your life) it’s possible those well-thought-out goals of your will actually slip your mind come March if you don’t write them down!

Secondly, don’t just focus on blanket statements like “Increase sales” but put a tangible figure to it.  Again, it’s all about accountability and you want to remind your future self that you actually wanted to “Increase sales 14% over 2011 figures.”

Don’t forget that it’s not all just sales.  Most business books tell you that you have to increase sales at all costs but the truth of the matter is that there are any number of goals you may decide are better for your business at this point in its life. This may include winning industry or local awards, lowering your costs, getting into a  certain number of new stores or farmers’ markets, or doing a better job of engaging with your customers via Facebook or Twitter.  Again, just make sure that the goals you put down are specific so that down the road you can accurately tell if you achieved what you wanted to.

 2. Detail the actionable steps you will take

Now that you’ve decided to “Increase sales 14% over 2011 figures” how do you actually do that?  Think through some of the steps that you’re going to take to help you achieve your goals and write those down as well.  Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box either.  The beauty of being a small food entrepreneur is that we have more flexibility to try things that it takes the Big Boys 200 days just to get approved through all their corporate red tape.  If you think something might work go ahead and list it in your actionable items.  The worst thing that can happen is that you try it, it fails, and then you just chalk that up to a lesson learned.

 3. Review your goals frequently

In both the Starting A Part-Time Food Business and Food On Wheels books I mention how important it is that your business plan be a living document and not something you simply stuff into a drawer and never look at again.  These goals (or a fully reworked business plan) are supposed to help guide you through the coming year so you want to take time to look at them frequently to evaluate if you are making progress towards achieving those goals and, if not, how you might want to change course while you still have time to make a difference.  Many small food entrepreneurs I’ve talked with actually schedule time in their calendars on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis to review their annual goals so that it isn’t something that’s forgotten until 2013.

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