By Andrena Sawyer
Did you know that you can give 110% effort and fail miserably, even with a good business idea? I’ve seen it more times than I can count–an eager entrepreneur has a brilliant idea and quickly forges ahead, only to come back disappointed that things did not work out. By the time they come to that realization, they have likely invested a lot of money, energy and time that they will never get back.
When I encounter an entrepreneur going through this experience, they usually assume that they are simply not cut out for entrepreneurship. It is at this point that I dig a little deeper into their execution process and I find that the real problem was that the idea or goal was underdeveloped, leading to poor execution. It was a set-up for failure from the start. I, then, have the task of talking the entrepreneur off the ledge by explaining that there may have been nothing wrong with their effort, resources or intentions. The reason for the apparent failure was likely that the goal was an inherently bad goal.
When it comes to execution in business, a good goal is not just noble in its intention, but it also S.M.A.R.T. It is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Ensuring that your goal meets these criteria increases the likelihood of success. It eliminates wasted time, and hones in on the best strategy for success.
Specific goals break down your general goals into manageable pieces, so that they are easier to achieve. A great example of this might be to increase your annual revenue. “Increase revenue in 2019” is a noble general goal. An even better goal is to “increase revenue in 2019 by identifying profit leaks and creating monthly marketing campaigns in order to obtain new clients.” Using that example, it’s easy to see how an entrepreneur can go from casting a wide net and taking a chance on what sticks, to identifying a specific strategy for success.
Even that specific goal can be further developed as you think about other factors that will affect the outcome. By adding metrics and changing the goal to “increase revenue by 40% in 2019, by identifying profit leaks and creating monthly marketing campaigns in order to obtain new clients,” the direction and initial action steps are even clearer. There is little room for wasted resources and time.
The attainable and realistic factors in the S.M.A.R.T. formula are subjective factors determined by the individual’s readiness to start working on their goals. An entrepreneur who does not have a marketing budget needs to first raise the money or create a budget for marketing before embarking on the goal above. Without a budget for a robust campaign, attempting to increase revenue by creating marketing campaigns will prove futile. It seems obvious enough, but many entrepreneurs still do not count the cost before they set their foot on the pavement.
The last piece of the formula is timeliness. This ensures that the person setting the goal has a sense of urgency and can fend off complacency when working toward their goal. It is easy to overlook this final piece, but it is just as critical as the others because it has two extremes: too much time allotted for the goal, and not enough time.
When there is too much time, it is easy to fall into traps of procrastination and complacency. These are traps that force individuals to believe they have more time to do the work than they actually do. They lose their sense of urgency, which opens the door for others to leverage their ideas, or for a competitor to get to product launch before they do. The other extreme is not to give yourself enough time. By rushing toward the goal, entrepreneurs stand the risk of sabotaging by not properly assessing the risks and all of the factors necessary for success.
No goal is perfect, and neither is every process, and there is room for imperfection. After all, there’s value for the entrepreneur in trial and error and even failure. However, by ensuring that your goals are S.M.A.R.T., you set yourself up to experience the thrill of achievement that will become motivation for future successes.
Andrena Sawyer is the President of P.E.R.K. Consulting, and the Founder of the Minority Christian Women Entrepreneurs Network. She is also the author of The Misadventures of a New Entrepreneur: 5 Things They Won't Teach You In Business School, The Long Way Home, Ponder It In Her Heart and The Other Side of Assertiveness. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @ Andrena_Sawyer.