I’m not a natural goal setter. In fact, I was once asked in a job interview to describe a time I set and achieved a goal. I muddled my way through a very weak answer about a team project I had worked on, then sat in awkward silence knowing that I certainly hadn’t nailed the answer. I didn’t get the job, but a few months later, they offered me a more senior position in the team, with better pay, reinforcing my unscientific belief that we all don’t have to be natural goal setters to succeed.
I’m not sure whether my aversion to goal setting is because I’m worried about committing to something and failing, or due to the fact that I’m simply not someone who plans a lot in advance. When it comes to my freelance copywriting and e-commerce business, I’ve generally been a ‘learn-and-improve-as-you-go’ business owner. I’ve had a general idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each business, and how I want to develop and grow each one. But have I sat down and written out a set of goals that are S(pecific) + M(easurable) + A(ttainable) + R(elevant) + T(imely)? Nope.
On paper, SMART goals make sense. By definition, SMART goals clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and achieve what you want in life. It does sound useful – particularly for new business owners who can sometimes feel they are working a lot but seeing little progress. So, as 2019 hits its final weeks, I thought I would take a deep breath and set some goals for 2020 that are less scary and more SMART. My approach? Keep it simple. Think of some things you want to change about your business, and then identify roughly how to get there. Write it down, tell someone who is at least mildly interested, or commit it to memory. Whatever you decide to do, it doesn’t have to be a scary, formal process complete with a PowerPoint slide and spreadsheet.
To give you some goal-setting inspiration, here are four of my business goals for 2020:
1. Reduce expenses
I know where most of my money is going, and it’s paid advertising for my e-commerce business. Advertising, such as Google or Facebook Ads, is necessary to get customers to your website (the saying ‘If you build it, they will come’ is certainly not true in the online business world), but I need to make sure that the spend is as optimal as possible. This means that there’s very little wastage in terms of costly clicks that don’t turn into a sale, and ad copy and keyword lists are as effective and relevant as possible.
How am I going to achieve this? By setting aside some time to really scrutinise advertising performance over the past 12 months, consider changing how much I’m spending and where I’m spending it, and reviewing and optimising ad copy and keywords. The measure? More sales at a lower Cost Per Acquisition (CPA).
2. Learn something new
Ever since I started in the business world, I’ve been saying to myself, “I need to do a small business course”. It makes sense, right? After all, you don’t get taught how to run a business at school (I wish!). As time has passed, I’ve done a huge amount of learning just by running into issues and working out how to resolve them – whether through online research, listening to business podcasts or speaking to people with far more experience than me.
The motivation to do a general small business course is lessening, but that doesn’t mean I won’t sign up for some training – it just might be more specific to what I’m struggling with now that I’m a few years in. It might also take the format of something that I can complete online in my own time, which is important when you need to be around during the day to keep your business running. I’m not sure which aspect of business I want to learn more about yet – but I’m committed to completing at least one course in 2020.
3. Get on top of numbers
Accounting software, like Xero, makes it really easy to track your income, expenses and profit. But that doesn’t mean that I’m across my numbers, because what these tools don’t take care of is the sinking feeling I get whenever I open a report. There are just some things I don’t want to know about because it’s not going to be pretty. Having said that, I also know that it’s important to stay on top of your numbers so you can spot any problems straight away and make the necessary changes to ensure your business continues to thrive.
My plan for tackling this is to simply look at some basic reporting so I can understand what’s coming in, what’s going out, and the areas I need to review. Hell, I might even book a session in with my accountant. Measuring this is simple. If someone was to ask me about my financials, I’d love to be able to bore them with an accurate and coherent summary.
4. Simplify the business
This one’s a little more ambiguous, but I want to keep my businesses simple so that they are less stressful and taxing on the brain (who needs that?). For example, my e-commerce business has LOTS of different products and suppliers, including products that are selling well, and some that aren’t. I also went a bit overboard in the beginning in regards to packaging design and collateral, so even though lots of options are great, it also overcomplicates the process unnecessarily and adds to the cost.
Over the past year or so, I’ve become clearer on what’s working and what’s not working. So, in 2020, I plan to strip things back a little, and refine my inventory and offering down to the bare essentials. I can’t wait to Marie Kondo my business, and I’m sure I’ll measure the success of this goal by how much lighter I feel and, hopefully, reduced stress levels.
I hope I’ve helped you feel a little less daunted about goal setting. Although I’m not an expert, I don’t think that setting goals has to be a formal, intimidating process. Just keep it simple and we’ll both head into the new year with a little bit of excitement about what’s to come.
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