Don’t Run Your Company Without These

For decades, American Express told us, “Don’t leave home without it.” I’m giving that a slight twist here.

You need to run your company intentionally. And you can’t do it without Business Goals and Objectives.

I know what you’re thinking …

Before you decide to skip this SBOM Section because you’ve been talked to death about goals and objectives, I ask you to reconsider.

Here’s Why

They don’t do any kind of formal business planning

Here’s the truth. One of the primary reasons small business owners don’t have a formal operating plan or planning process is that they don’t have well structured and thoughtful Goals and Objectives. This means they operate their businesses in a reactive way.

A business and operating plan without meaningful goals and objectives is an exercise in futility. It’s equally true that goals and objectives without a plan to achieve them is folly. Either way is like operating based on hope. As the wise man once said, “Hope is not a plan.”

If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten.

If your business is OK with getting what it’s always gotten, I hope what you’ve always gotten is acceptable and satisfying.

If not, then something has to change. That won’t happen without clear Business Goals for at least the next calendar year.

Business Goals Differ from Personal Goals

In some self-improvement literature, goals are primarily motivational tools. Business Goals are not. They are here to help management run the company on purpose.

Business Goals inform the business’ actions and organize the business’ energy

They give the business focus and direction. And they enable owners and management to wisely allocate the company’s energy—people, time, money, structure and tools—to produce results that otherwise would not happen.

A Different Way to Create Meaningful Business Goals

Most business goals are built from the current situation and projected forward. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this. However, there is another way to do it. And my experience with small businesses tells me it’s more effective.

This approach uses reverse engineering to identify and illuminate your important business goals for the next year.

The New Year’s Eve Retrospective Method

To build your Business Goals, try the New Year’s Eve Retrospective (NYER).

The NYER is designed to give you an opportunity to scan last year from a unique perspective … at the end of the coming year, as though it had already happened.

You literally put yourself in the space of December 31. Then you assess where your business has come from, and what went on during the year to get you where you are now. You literally scan the past 12 months. Then you consider and discuss the actions and decisions that produced the current business reality you are experiencing on New Year’s Eve.

Here are the guiding “rules” for an effective NYER:

  1. Give your imagination free rein. Have fun with it. Play “what if I could …” when creating your NYER.
  2. Don’t worry about what you will do or how you will accomplish things. That’s not the purpose of the NYER.
  3. Write your NYER in NARRATIVE form—not an outline. This is key. Use whatever narrative style you’d like. Perhaps it’s a story or an essay. Feel free to use some humor, if that’s your style. This is not intended to be a heavy, formal “academic” document. It’s a platform for purposeful creative “play” in the best sense of the word.
  4. Start your NYER from the perspective of where your business is on January 1 in all its parts and aspects. In that sense, it is reality, not fantasy-based.
  5. Get your senior management and trusted advisors involved. Ask for their thoughts, opinions and concerns about it. Be open to what they say and be willing to adjust the NYER based on their input. The purpose is to build a narrative story of what your business did last year what it accomplished, and how it did that from a look-back perspective.
  6. As you assess your business on December 31, ask yourself, your managers and advisors, “What would have to be true for that to actually happen?” It’s a very powerful tool to inject reality and creativity into your 2015 business narrative and accomplishments.
  7. Complete your NYER narrative and get buy-in from your managers and advisors. Then go through it and extract the important measurable Business Goals that must be used to guide decision-making during the coming year. Next, build your tactical operating action plans around these.

Start the Habit of Running Your Business with Goals

As with any other new habit, you will likely be uncomfortable with some or all of this. Stay with it. Make it work for you and your staff. It’s an effective way to identify and clarify the most important growth and business strengthening goals for your business. Don’t give up. I guarantee you’ll be glad you stuck with it.

Key Ideas

  1. If you’re not running your business with thoughtfully created and crafted Business Goals, you’re running it reactively and without a clear purpose.
  2. Commit to doing this for the new year.
  3. Well-crafted Business Goals are not primarily motivational. They are powerful directional and progress measurement tools.
  4. Always ask, “What would have to be true for us to reach this goal or destination?”
  5. Use the New Year’s Eve Retrospective (NYER) method to help you identify and illuminate your Business Goals for next year.
  6. Involve your management staff and trusted advisors in this process.
  7. Follow the seven guiding rules for creating your NYER.