Published May 1, 2006

Setting Short-term Business Goals: Tips on Setting Business Goals

Your business plan has outlined the things you need to accomplish: the products or services you sell, how you will market them, and the income you expect to receive from them. In a sense, that business plan is a map that helps you make good decisions every step of the way. You should be updating and reviewing your business plan each quarter - at the very least.

After you've reviewed your business plan at the beginning of the quarter, then it's time to sit down and create some goals for yourself and your business to last you through the next three months.

Here's how to create those goals.

First, ask yourself if you met the expectations you'd outlined for yourself in your business plan. If you are constantly falling short, for example, in the number of units sold or your income isn't what you were expecting it to be (according to your plan) then you may not want to adjust your plan; you may want to create specific goals to deal with that shortfall.

You might want to brainstorm 5 ways you can get more visitors onto your website, for example. Or, you may want to think about something you can do to offer previous customers a great deal on slow-moving merchandise. Once you have created these ideas, turn them into goals with measurable tasks and "due by" dates. Like this:

1. Increase Google AdWords budget by $15.00 per day (due by May 1st)

2. Advertise in XYZ print magazine (due by May 15th)

3. Create monthly e-zine for distribution (due by June 15th)

Write those goals into your planning calendar and start implementing them.

Aside from addressing shortfalls on your business plan, here are some other ways you might consider creating plan-inspired goals.

1. Get to know your competition a little better. If you've been in business for a while, it's possible that the last time you investigated how your competition does business was quite some time ago. Perhaps create some goals to do business with them periodically. Avoid forgetting about it by planning this on a regular basis (once every six months). One business did this and discovered that their competition had lowered their prices and had picked up several customers looking for the low cost provider.

2. Revitalize your market analysis. Offer a few clients a substantial discount if you can spend some of their time interviewing them. Ask them questions about the market and specifically about how they spend time with others just like them. (Your goal here is to find new ways to market to your niche). A business owner tried this and discovered that his target audience spent a lot of their recreational time watching baseball at a local ball diamond; so he sponsored the team.

3. Look for a way to reduce expenses. Create a goal for yourself to find the best possible wholesale price on the product you're selling. Drive down your cost by finding a supplier who cando it for less than your current supplier. Or, now that you have some years of business behind you, you may be able to negotiate a better price based on proven volume. When one entrepreneur looked at her wholesale prices she found that buying her two piece product separately and easily assembling it before it left her store saved her a substantial discount over buying it pre-assembled.

Most people already agree that setting goals are helpful. But to truly succeed in business, you should consider looking to your business plan and drawing your goal-setting inspiration from there.