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Unleashing Your Business Potential: The Science and Art of Setting Targets

If I was to ask you right now to show me your list of goals, how would you respond?

Would you bring it straight out with a detailed vision of the future, showing me what you intend to be doing and what you have achieved in 1, 3 and 5 years? How much money you want to earn, the car you want to drive, the house you want to live in and the amazing family life you have set up for your loved ones?

Or would you fumble around looking for scraps of paper, mumble under your breath and finally admit that you have no list of goals at all.

If you’re the latter, you’re in the 97% majority of business owners who have no targets or goals set, living day-to-day with their fingers crossed waiting for something to happen.

In this article we’ll discuss the importance of target setting, why setting your own goals is crucial to your business success and how to set them and stick with them. We’ll explore the science and the art of setting targets and discuss how by using this simple tool will take your business to the next level.

Why Target Setting Is the Single Most Important Part of Your Business (and Personal) Success

Heavy start and I don’t use it lightly.

It’s always an interesting discussion to be had with any new business owner. The idea of goal or target setting is a foreign one and in the past it was for me too.

The importance, to be blunt, is if you have no idea of where you want to be how on earth are you going to get there?

Let’s imagine you’re going on a long road trip. What’s the first thing you do?

Decide on the destination! You don’t just drive in the hope that at some point you’ll find yourself somewhere half decent. You have a final destination in mind and then work out how you’re going to get there.

In very simple terms it’s exactly the same in your business. The 97% of businesses with no destination in mind (or target to aim for) live on the day-to-day hoping that at some point they’ll get somewhere good. Often as soon as they hit a dead end they get stuck with no idea of how to get out of it simply because they don’t know where they are going.

That was mee - years ago! It led to debt mounting up, frustration, arguments at home and a miserable life.

I would suggest that target setting is the single most important part of your business strategy. Without it you have no strategic planning, limited business growth, no sense of goal achievement…frankly you should have stayed in an employed job. At least that way you will have your goals given to you by the boss.

Without targets in a shooting range, how do you know what you’re aiming for?

The same is to be said in business. You need to have a clear idea of what it is you’re aiming to achieve.

The Power of Setting Big Targets

As a business owner it is the easiest thing ever to get dragged back down into the day-to-day stuff of your business. Everything needs doing and obviously you are the best man/woman for the job (we’ll discuss this flawed idea in a different article) so you get on and do it. But if you want to achieve amazing things in your life you have a very real requirement of thinking big.

Let’s say you have a target of turning over £1M over the next 5 years. This £1M turnover is going to revolutionise your life and the lives of your loved ones and so you have decided that it is a great target to set.

Well done!

Now, currently your turn over is at £150,000. Leaving £850,000 to be found over the next 5 years. So crude figures say we need a revenue increase of £170,000 each year.

Now we’re going to divide that into 12 monthly targets (not the best idea, each business will have peaks and flows of traffic and business growth so simply dividing it into 12 equal monthly targets is usually not the best plan. You should be a lot smarter than this but for the sake of this illustration though I’ll stick with it)

We are left with £14,1667 each month to get to where we want to be. Now, you already know that your average customer value is £5000 so you need 3 customers each month to achieve your goal.

Wham! Clarity – something which most business owners (around 97% I reckon) don’t have.

Once the target is set you can then start to se how you’re going to achieve what you set out to do. Is it always easy, of course not! If it was easy I would question of the target was ambitious enough. But by having the destination (or target) in place you can then work how to get there.

Once a target is set the most important thing is to keep coming back to it…

every – single – day.

Remind yourself of the target, remind yourself WHY it’s in place and work on getting there. Make this your number one priority. Working on the target(s) you have set takes precedence over everything else in your business. (Working ON your business not IN it is the subject of another article)

The Art of Crafting Effective Targets For Your Business

I’m more than a little certain that everyone reading this article is aware of the SMART acronym. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound targets are all very well – but it does leave a little personality out of the equation.

To craft your own target you first need to make it personal to you. Let me explain…

What most business owners do (around 97% likely) is work in the business and plan their lives around whatever the business happens to kick out. This incredibly flawed idea is one of the most back-to-front systems we use.

Instead, as of today, your business is going to start working for you. Your targets need to be personal. What house do you want to live in in 5 years’ time? What car do you want to drive? What holidays do you want for you and your family? What schools do you want your kids going to? Do you want a gardener? Housekeeper? Chauffeur?

There’s no limit here. You will have a tendency to be conservative but lose that. Then here’s the magic bit…

Write – it – down

Seriously, write it all down and price it up. Put up pictures of the house or the car or the holidays you want to go on. Write it down and price it up. It’s that simple.

I must impress on you the importance of making this personal to you. It can not be anyone’s target other than yours. The target needs to mean something!

Once you have a figure you know what your business needs to provide. Voila! You have a target specific for you.

Now, here’s the platinum part of your goal setting system. Share it. Seriously, have the big boy/girl pants to share your biggest most audacious goals with your friends and family. And have them hold you accountable.

Accountability is probably the most important part of the whole process. If you keep it to yourself there’s a chance that when you faulter, and you will, you’ll allow the doubt to take hold and then your targets fall to one side.

If you tell your family (even better have them involved in the process from the start!) and friends and give them the job of holding you accountable, you won’t want to let them down. This driver will keep you going when the days are tough, of which there will be many.

Have daily, weekly, monthly and annual check ins with yourself and your partner. Write this sentence down and put it some where prominent: “is what I’m doing helping me to achieve xxxxx” Ask yourself and have your family and friends ask you this question regularly. (Mrs O’Neill asks me on a regular basis when she can stop working. I don’t remember putting this in my set of targets but she assures me I did)

Call the regular check ins ‘tacking’ sessions. Tacking is a term used by boat crews to realign their position to achieve the destination they’ve set out for as, naturally, the flow of the water will be a constant battle.

So you’ve set your target and the tacking sessions are in place. As in – in your diary. Don’t be flippant about this, these are appointments to achieve what you’ve set out to do! Your future self, your life and the lives of your loved ones – who you’ve set the targets with or shared them with – is relying on you checking in and making sure you’re on track.

Everything that happens in your business is by accident or design. Which would you prefer?

What is amazing about this whole (very simple) process is one you have the targets in place your mind is sharpened to opportunities in order to get there.

Would you make that extra phone call if it meant it was helping you achieve the life you and your family deserve? Would you draft that sales letter? Go along to the networking meeting? Suddenly the life you want is achievable and the business is aimed straight towards it.


Setting targets is probably the single most important thing you can do. This is no 5 minute task, I know business owners that do away for a long weekend with their spouse each October in order to set the targets for the next 12 months, and review what they’ve achieved to their longer term goals.

In order to achieve your goals you may want to find an accountability partner (someone who is going to hold you accountable in return for you doing the same thing for them) or to get there quickly you can employ the services of a business coach.

Employing the services of a good business coach can dramatically increase your success simply by having someone there with you to bounce ideas around with and keep you on target. The investment does vary considerably but like many things, you do get what you pay for. With a good coach by your side you can expect to see at least double your returns within about 12 months (usually MUCH higher returns are experienced) as long as you do what they advise.

I know there are many small business owners and entrepreneurs who scoff at the idea of paying someone for help but it is notable that anyone and everyone at the top of their game has a coach to help them get to where they want to be faster.

Let’s say you wanted to get to £1M sales value for your business. Would it not be worth it to pay someone £10,000 to get you there in 1 year, rather than do it yourself in 5 years making all the mistakes along the way?

Coaches and consultants – the good ones – can and will help you achieve your targets (amongst many other things!) helping you to realise your goals far quicker.

Further reading and listening.Darren Hardy: The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster.Nigel Botterill: Botty Rules. Mike Michalowicz: The Pumpkin Plan

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