Holy Smokes!  March 31st is the end of the first quarter already!! What happened?

It seems like just last week we were solidifying our goals for the year; the New Year’s resolutions for our businesses if you will, and BAM!! The first quarter has shot by!

How are the small business goals you set in January coming along? Are you on track to make your yearly goals? Is your business moving down the right track? Are you moving down the right track —as a leader and a person?

If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, or worse don’t know where you should be by the end of Q1, take a deep breath. You still have a ways to go for your yearly goals, and spring is a great time to access your situation, and re-energize!

In this post, we want to discuss some goal setting strategies you might not have thought about. We also want to share Woyster’s handy “Small Business Quarterly Benchmark Checklist” with you so you can better track your progress as you work on your next quarter’s benchmarks and other “small goals“. In addition to critical goal tracking, it may be time to change up your thinking about goal setting in the first place:

Not S.M.A.R.T. Goals Again…

You’ve probably heard about SMART goals ad nauseam. You know the drill. You’ve followed the drill. You’ve written out lists of goals that were Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time based yet your forward progress in life and the life of your business still does not track along with your vision…

You’re not alone.  Based on the research, only about 8% of people actually manage to keep these goals.

There’s a reason S.M.A.R.T. goals don’t deliver results. The concept may be sound, but S.M.A.R.T. is only a system for DEFINING your goals not actually REACHING them! Though having well defined goals may be a good first step, much more is needed to manifest the action necessary to produce real results.

So, what is the secret formula to achieving your well-defined goals? What stands in the way, and how can you get it out of the way? What tools can we use to reach farther and achieve more?

It’s been my experience that three forces work both for and against us when reaching for our goals:

The Stick, The Carrot, and The Road Map

Fear can be both our greatest motivator and greatest obstacle.

If you fear going back into the mainstream workforce, you may work harder at growing your business. If, however you fear your product, service, or ideas will be rejected by your prospective clients, you may not push yourself as hard or network with other business owners as much, or be willing to show off your new products or services as quickly as may be necessary to achieve your goals.

Be careful about the “valid” excuses you use to avoid activities that will help you achieve these goals. There always seems to be some “valid” reason to skip a networking event, or hold-off on the launch of a new product. I’m sure you could list a dozen valid reasons to sleep for an extra hour in the morning, or skip your workout, or delay your [insert the goal-oriented activity you dread here].

Excuses like these are most often just our fear talking us out of reaching for our goals, because where we are seems… more comfortable. Deep down, we perceive the process of even good change as painful, and make these “valid excuses” in order to stay in our comfort zones as long as possible.

Change the way you use your fear. Take some time to think deeply about the negative consequences of not networking, getting up early enough to plan your day, or exercising regularly. Specifically, focus on where you’ll be in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years if you don’t do all you can to achieve your goals. Make those fears into the stick that drives you forward. Then stop focusing on them until you need to. You want your main focus to be in the direction you want to go.

Desire can also be a great motivator, or a debilitating handicap.

You may desire a healthy body. If you desire sitting in front of the TV, or web surfing more, you’re more likely to develop an unhealthy body.

You may desire to be wealthy. If you desire to spend money faster than you can make or invest it, your chances of growing your wealth will evaporate faster than you can max-out 4 credit cards.

Concentrate on WHY you want to achieve your goals.  Spend time on the pleasurable activity of envisioning what your life will be like 1 year, 5 years and 10 years from now because you’ve learned to consistently set and achieve the right goals.

Focus on the JOY of achieving your goals so much that you’d be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get there.

Let your desire be the carrot that draws you forward.

So, hold out the carrot and fuel your passion to achieve your goals with strong desire and positive visions of the future. Get excited and make it fun—live for it!
But, don’t spare the stick! When you find yourself slipping, and ONLY then, use your fear to drive you forward.

Mapping your way to success is vital!

Let’s say you want to go to Rio…

You jump in your car and just start driving. Before too long you end up in Santa Barbara…

Don’t get me wrong, Santa Barbara is nice, maybe even nicer than Rio, but it’s not your chosen destination.

The obvious problem is, you didn’t know HOW to get to Rio. You didn’t use a map so, you didn’t know what path to take or where to turn, and ended up in the wrong place. 

Let’s apply this same logic to your business goals.

Back in late December, you sat down by yourself or with your team and made a list of goals for your company. You (or Y’all) were properly motivated with yummy carrots and scary sticks.  You used the S.M.A.R.T. goal method and ended up with very specific, measurable goals that are attainable, realistic and trackable. Then you all patted yourselves on the back and went about business as usual with the one exception of having goals to track.

Now the end of Q1 is nigh and you have made no progress toward your goals… Why?

The biggest problem with S.M.A.R.T. goal planning lies in the “T”.  Though it’s great to track your progress on a daily, or weekly basis, that only covers the part of the problem that you have NO control over.

Reviewing last week’s sales numbers, is looking at the past. No matter what you do you cannot change last week’s numbers. It is completely ridiculous to think that you can redouble your efforts and do better last week!?!

It is equally ridiculous to try and review NEXT week’s sales numbers! How can you see what hasn’t happened?!?

The numbers your S.M.A.R.T. goals have you tracking every week are nothing but points on the map. If you aren’t engaging regularly in the activities necessary to CHANGE those numbers, you are doing nothing more than plotting points on a map that lead to a random destination like Santa Barbara!

So, what activities can you track that cause your sales numbers to increase? Do they increase when you answer the phone on the first ring? Do they increase when you greet every customer within the first 5 second of them entering your store? Do they increase when you have your specials prominently displayed, or have ads running, or engage on social media every day?

What about your other goals?  Are you just tracking the results or are you tracking the activities that lead to those results?

Along with your progress toward your goals, choose the activities that you know will influence those goals, and track them as well. Then you’ll be following a road map to success!

This same technique applies to your personal goals.

Studies show that people who track their weight frequently—once a week to even once a day—lose more weight than those who weigh in much less frequently.

In fact, researchers in a recent study found nearly one third of participants who weighed themselves daily lost a minimum of 5 percent of their body weight during a year.  In that same study, only 11% of the people who did NOT step on a scale every day, lost the same amount.

Furthermore, those who continued to weigh in frequently, even after reaching their healthy weight goal (or who set and tracked new goals for themselves), were better able to maintain their progress and not slip backwards than those who avoided those frequent, honest moments of weigh-in.

The Small Business Quarterly Benchmark Checklist

Use our Small Business Quarterly Benchmark Checklist to help you make those regular check-ins with your goals and the activities that help you achieve them.
You’ll notice that all the fields are customizable—your business goals are yours; not ours or anyone else’s. We have, however, created fields that have helped many of the businesses we’ve worked with, so you can use the spreadsheet as-is, or you can tweak until it fits your business just right. Feel free to share it with everyone in your organization and let us know how it’s working for you!