Question: I’m not sure how to plan realistic business goals for the future. I’m almost at “what’s the point?”. The past year and a half have been so unpredictable. Expectations are sitting on my shoulders. My employees are stressed. I feel like a wave is about to come crashing down on my business. How can we plan and set goals if we don’t know what to expect?
Thoughts of the Day: It can be tough to plan and set realistic business goals. Especially when times have been so unpredictable for a lot of small businesses. There are numerous factors that are going to influence business goals and expectations for the coming year. Putting goals and expectations down on paper can help you feel like there’s a little more control in the outcome of 2022. It’s important to plan for the worst outcomes but expect the best—and stay optimistic.
Setting realistic business goals
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How am I going to rebuild?
- What kind of personnel will I need in the future?
- If I’ve had to pivot to new businesses, how much do I need to spend on marketing and sales?
It’s important to map out what the next 12+ months could look like. After a year like 2020 and the hot-and-cold recovery in 2021, it is going to be easy to make a mistake and step into a black hole—which is certainly better to do on paper rather than having to live it out in real-time. Planning is critical for business owners, especially since most tend to act on gut feelings. Adding the stability of setting goals can help to keep everyone moving forward and feeling productive.
But I’m Overwhelmed!
How to Start Managing Your Expectations and Setting Goals
1. Set a goal for net income percentage for your company.
2. When you spend time planning, you’re able to play with various financial levers to see what will affect profitability, and what the outcomes might be.
3. Trying to grow your business or revenue too fast can be a risky game.
4. Setting expectations is about using metrics and planning tools to get to the heart of the business.
- If you had to pivot, have you pivoted enough?
- Do you need more resources this year?
- How are you going to pay for them?
- Instead, should you be leasing them for a while to find out if they’re the right fit?
When it comes to your team:
- Do your people understand the pivot work?
- Are they onboard and understand that this could be a permanent change?
- Do they need any training?
- Do they need any development support so that they can get better at doing what they’re doing now?
- Are there any people on board who might be heading for the exit now?
5. Be transparent with your team about how the company is doing, and what realistic business goals you have for this year.
Employees are feeling the uncertainty too, and they may be wondering if they’ll still have a job in a few months. As you move people around and ask employees to take on new tasks, make sure that they understand any changes in their job description and what their new roles and responsibilities will be. Positive reinforcement will also help them to understand how well they’re doing.
They’ll need proper training and enough time to learn how to do these new tasks, with an ongoing training plan to build better skills at those jobs. You may find that some of your team have hidden talents that you didn’t even know about, which could prove beneficial as the company adapts to a new way of operating.
6. Did you have plans to sell the business until 2020 happened?
Now that things are improving, maybe you’re reconsidering. Maybe that’s a business goal. There’s a lot of planning work that you want to be doing. Getting a valuation is a good place to start, and understanding what your business is worth based on the past few years will help you to assess how much you need to recover to build a saleable asset. As it’s important to collect growth and profitability trends pre-COVID, we recommend going as far back as 2016 or 2017 and using historical data to show potential buyers that—yes—COVID did affect your business, but that the operation performed at a different level before forced lockdowns. Planning out your recovery for the years ahead will also help show potential buyers that you’re still a viable and valuable business regardless of 2020.
You don’t have to keep doing exactly what your business does now, or did before 2020. Ask yourself:
Is a future buyer going to want from the company?
Have their expectations changed because of having been through a pandemic?
Are we valuable in a post-COVID world?
Plan for the worst and expect the best.
Look at the marketplace in which you’re going to operate, and make sure that you are operating in more than one vertical market with more than one group of clients so you can do the same things that helped a lot of companies pivot successfully. Ensure you can move quickly from one group, product, or service to another, depending on how things play out. Don’t stay stagnant. Most importantly, don’t give up. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you can weather this storm. [CD1121]
Robyn Goldenberg is Director of Operations and Marketing for Strategy Leaders. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.