This year, the theme of National Small Business Week is “Dream Big, Start Small.” Big small business dreams are the foundation of every new venture. However, once you’re actually in business, you sometimes get so busy with the small, day-to-day stuff that it’s hard to make the big things happen. Here’s how to lay out a plan for achieving your big goals—and how to hold yourself accountable for making it happen.
Step 1: Set aside a full day for thinking, reviewing, and planning.
Depending on your business, this could involve just you, you and your key partners, or your entire team. The goal is to assess where your business is now and identify those “big small business dreams” you want to accomplish. To avoid interruptions and improve focus, hold the event off-site. Before the event, gather all the information you need about your business’s past performance, including financials, sales figures, and projections.
Step 2: Conduct your review using a SWOT analysis.
Assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You can download a SWOT analysis form to help. What strengths and opportunities can your business take advantage of that you aren’t currently exploiting? What weaknesses and threats could put your business success at risk?
Step 3: Set business goals that are achievable and realistic, yet big enough to make you stretch to reach them.
In the past, companies would typically set five- and 10-year goals; today, however, the business environment is changing so rapidly that setting one-, two-, and five-year goals are more realistic. Avoid vague goals, such as “Improve our sales;” instead, make your goals specific and measurable, such as “Increase sales of X product by 25 percent by the end of this year.”
Step 4: Work backwards from your big goals to develop intermediate goals and action steps to help get you there.
For example, if you want to increase sales by 25 percent by the end of the year, you might have an intermediate goal of increasing sales five percent in the first quarter, 10 percent in the second quarter, and so on. In order to accomplish those goals, you may need to take certain actions, such as hiring an additional salesperson, adjusting sales quotas, or providing additional sales training.
Step 5: Develop a timeline to make your small business dreams come true.
You can’t do everything at once, so prioritize the goals you’ve set and assign calendar deadlines for accomplishing each action item. This will help hold you and your team accountable in the coming year.
Step 6: Assign roles and responsibilities.
If you have employees, give them ownership of various goals and assign the action items needed to reach those goals. Make sure your employees have the tools and resources they need to accomplish those goals. If you’re a one-person business, assess whether you can handle everything yourself or if you need to outsource or hire people to handle certain action items.
Step 7: Follow up.
Once a month (or more often if necessary), review your timeline, action items, and progress. A board of advisors—whether formal or informal— or a business mentor can help you keep your plans on course. They can not only offer advice and support, but will also hold you accountable. Regularly meeting with advisers to report on your progress will force you to take action.
Don’t get discouraged if you need to readjust your goals and deadlines along the way. By making a plan, following it diligently, and getting support from others, you’ll be able to achieve your business goals.