No matter what sort of small business you have or how long you’ve been at it, it’s always important to set new goals for yourself! Having the right goals for a small business is essential to its future success and growth. They save you from just stumbling around aimlessly in the dark, and give you a map of where to go.
Goals for small businesses are very personal, because each business (and business owner!) is different. It’s also important to know how to identify the right goals based on what you want the future to look like.
Let’s start by understanding what makes the goals of a small business so important, examples of some great goals to consider, and steps for setting your own goals for a small business.
The importance of goals for a small business
Owning a small business can feel stressful and chaotic at times. You may feel like the typical goals of a small business owner are just keeping your head above water and making it to tomorrow.
But having specific, concrete goals for a small business can actually bring order to the chaos in a couple of ways.
Helps you decide on priorities
You probably have a million things on your to-do list, which can make you feel scattered and overwhelmed. When you sit down to set goals for a small business, you’ll naturally start to sort them into high-priority goals vs ones that aren’t as pressing.
Keeps you focused
Small business goals give you a north star to walk towards. Instead of making short-term decisions that don’t really fit into a larger plan, you’ll be able to evaluate your options in the context of your goals. “How does this move me closer to X outcome?”
Provides a benchmark for progress
The idea of “success” can feel a little nebulous when you don’t give yourself ways to define it. So setting goals gives you real points of reference you can use to measure your progress in different areas of your business.
Each time you complete a goal, you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of succeeding at what you set out to accomplish.
8 Examples of small business goals
So, what might goals for a small business look like? They could be just about anything, from financial to operational to strategic goals.
These example goals for small businesses are meant to help get your gears turning—you’ll probably be brainstorming plenty of your own outside the list!
1. Offer a new product or service
Expanding your line of products or services can be one of the most powerful growth-oriented goals.
For example, maybe you own a brick-and-mortar bakery and you want to add an espresso bar to bring in coffee aficionados.
Or you have a web development business and want to add web design/UX services so you can offer comprehensive packages to clients.
When pursuing this goal, be intentional. Do your market research to figure out what type of new offering will appeal to new customers and keep existing ones coming back.
2. Hire new staff
Is your business a sole-proprietor party of one right now? Hiring your first employee is a fantastic milestone goal!
If you already have staff, think about what kind of role you could hire for that would be the most helpful.
A dedicated marketing/SEO specialist to help bring in more customers? A personal assistant to handle communication and logistics?
As a small business, you probably have a limited budget for staff, so make sure you’re funneling it to the right areas.
3. Try new marketing strategies
Whether you’re handling marketing yourself or you have people to help, don’t be afraid to mix things up!
When you’re trying to increase your sales and grow your customer base, you have to provide people with the right opportunities to find you and compelling reasons to choose you.
Creating a solid marketing strategy for your business is easy to learn, so make this a goal!
4. Trim down expenses
A small business with a lot of unnecessary expenses is like a boat with holes in it. So one of the best goals for a small business is to find those holes and patch them up!
Review your expenses and take a look at which ones are necessary vs potentially wasteful. Shop around to see if you can find cheaper alternatives (e.g. supplies, ingredients, services) without sacrificing quality.
5. Improve your branding
Branding is about so much more than a logo (although a good logo does matter!). It’s your story—the why behind your business.
Your branding is the reason customers should buy from you instead of someone else. It’s also the absolute foundation for your marketing efforts and future business growth.
6. Build a website/social presence
These days, people like to feel a personal connection to the businesses they patronize. So a website and active social media is the perfect place to connect with the public and show off that brand we just talked about.
This is where you get to share your story, give people insights into your mission and values, and teach them about what you offer.
Make it a goal to build (or revamp) a website, join a new social media platform, schedule weekly posts, or something related.
7. Open a new location
If your small business is the brick-and-mortar variety, this goal is pretty straightforward: open a new storefront, restaurant, etc. Even if you offer a service instead, this goal could simply mean expanding to new markets.
The end goal is simply becoming accessible to more customers than you were before.
8. Revamp your business plan annually
This is one of those small business goals you can check off your list every year! As your business changes and evolves, it’s wise to revisit your plans on a regular basis.
A business plan is a specific type of document that details everything about your company. Use it to describe your products and services, analyze your target market, plan out your finances, outline your marketing plan, and more.
How to set goals for a small business
You might already have some initial ideas buzzing around in your head. So how do you turn them from raw ideas into plannable, measurable, achievable goals for a small business?
Let’s look at some tips for setting goals the right way!
1. Think about your short-term and long-term vision
It’s like giving yourself a job interview: where should your business be in one year? How about five years? You’ll ideally want to have a variety of goals to achieve within different periods of time.
Some may be achievable within months (e.g. increasing your monthly income by 5%). Others may have a much longer time horizon (e.g. doubling your sales in two years).
Maybe in 5 to 10 years, you want to be one of the top businesses in your industry locally.
2. Sit down to review your financials
How are your financials set up to support the goals of a small business? This is an essential part of the process because chasing your dreams can get expensive!
If you have a goal of hiring a new team member, you’ll need the financial bandwidth to pay someone’s salary.
Also if you want to attract new customers, you’ll probably have to increase your marketing budget and may not see immediate returns to cover it.
Brush up on these tips for managing your business finances, then sit down to look at your savings, profits, expenses, etc.
3. Talk to others in your industry
Particularly if your business is on the newer side, it’s important to leverage the knowledge and experience of those who have walked this path before.
You might not want to talk to your direct competition, of course—they don’t have much incentive to help you.
Look for online groups and forums, business owners who are in your field but outside your local market, etc.
Ask questions like what they wish they’d done sooner and what decisions have been most transformative for their business.
Chat about what goals they’ve set, whether they feel any were mistakes, steps they took to reach them, etc.
In addition, take notes and apply their insights to your journey!
4. Make your goals specific and measurable
Your goals should provide you with clarity, not confuse you more. As soon as you come up with some high-level small business goals, start breaking them down into smaller chunks with concrete steps.
You want to monitor your progress towards each goal so you can tell when you’re on the right track or getting off course. Plus, it always feels good to check items off your to-do list!
5. Determine your top priorities
What are the very most important goals of a small business that needs to grow in your industry? You can’t do everything at once, so it’s crucial to know what you want to accomplish first.
This means doing a ton of research.
Which business activities will make the biggest impact? What will the likely costs be, and are they within your financial ability right now? Will you need to hire outside help, whether that’s freelancers, consultants, or employees?
6. Give yourself deadlines
Goals without deadlines tend to lack a sense of urgency. Once you have your goals roadmap laid out, come up with a realistic timeframe for each step.
Do your best to stick to them—but also don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way and you have to stretch a deadline now and then.
Time to set your own small business goals!
Goals for small businesses certainly aren’t one-size-fits-all. It’s up to you to envision the future you want to build and evaluate your current business realities.
Start by setting a few small, easily achievable goals, and ramp up to bigger and better things as you build confidence!