Working smarter

How to set long term and short term goals

So, you know where you want to take your business in the future, but you feel stuck focusing on immediate priorities like sales and staffing?

So, you know where you want to take your business in the future, but you feel stuck focusing on immediate priorities like sales and staffing? It’s a familiar story, whether you’re a large enterprise, small business or somewhere in between. Right now, it might not feel like it, but it's possible to look ahead without losing overview of the present. The best way to do this is by using your long-term goals to inform your short-term objectives, and vice versa. Here’s how to go about it.

Developing long-term goals

Start by devising the long-term goals of your business. Think about your mission statement and the reasons for founding your business. What's really important is to focus on the bigger picture: what do you want your business to do, become or earn? Where do you want your business to be in three to five years’ time? Perhaps you want to increase sales and achieve a particular revenue target, expand into a new market segment, improve customer service or even develop stronger ties with your local community. 

Setting short-term goals

Once you’ve figured out your long-term goals, it’s time to break them down into actionable parts. Setting SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely – short-term goals is a popular strategy.

For example, if your long-term goal is to achieve a 30% increase in revenue, you might set short-term goals to gain 10 new high-yield clients (specific) and keep accurate client records (measurable). You could split new client acquisition among four senior employees (achievable) who target potential clients that have operated in your industry for many years (relevant). As for the time frame, you might commit to recruiting one new client each month for the next 10 months (timely).

 

Taking action

Get down to the nitty-gritty with your employees to do the work to achieve your short-term goals. Put together an action plan that details who will do what and when. What do you need to do today, this week and this month?

Assigning a member of your team to take charge of each task is a great way to foster accountability and motivation – two key components of turning business goals into reality. Check in regularly with your employees to make sure you’re on track and able to address any problems that may arise. And make sure you’re ready to alter your plans if things change or something goes wrong – which, as you’ve probably figured out, is inevitable in business.

Measuring progress

Taking some time each week or each month to look at how you’re tracking can help you maintain focus. Reward your team for their efforts so far, and change or reset any business goals that proved too challenging or were thrown out due to unforeseen circumstances.

When the time comes to expand your long-term goals, consider taking inspiration from the short-term goals where your team performed especially well. This can help you inform realistic and achievable future objectives.

Whatever your industry, setting complementary long- and short-term goals is a great way to strategically grow your business now, and in the future.

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