Goal-setting is crucial to the success of any business, but is particularly important for entrepreneurs who can become distracted without focus. Goals direct actions, give you something to aim for, and can serve as a yardstick for measuring your business' success.
Have Short-Term And Long-Term Goals
You might want to set weekly goals, quarterly goals, annual goals, and even 3-year or 5-year goals. One way to generate short-term goals is to first consider your long-term goals. Is there a certain dollar amount you want to earn or a number of clients you need to sign up by a certain time? If nothing like that comes to mind immediately, take a few minutes and think about what professional goal you would like to attain. Once you have determined long-term goals, you can work backward. If your goal is to make $100,000 this year, you should make a list of what it would entail to make that money. If you encounter difficulty creating your list, ask peers or friends for help. When your list is complete, break those small steps down into goals.
Make Your Goals Specific And Measurable With A Deadline
"Increase my sales" is a good goal, but it's so vague that it does not provide a means by which you can judge your success. Modify your goals by making them specific. All goals should be specific (Get new clients), measurable (Get three new clients), and have a time frame (Get three new clients by November).
Don't Set Yourself Up For Failure
Make sure your goals are attainable. If you aim too high, you're dooming yourself to defeat.
Don't Be Lazy
On the other hand, some entrepreneurs set goals that are too easily attained. If you tend in this direction, look for ways to challenge yourself. If you usually aim to add one new client every quarter, push yourself to shoot for two or three.
Goals should help you attain a specific aim. Look out for goals that are just going to keep you busy, but are not appropriate to the overall success of your business. If you don't believe your goals are worthwhile, you won't make the necessary effort to achieve them.
Be Patient And Persistent
It your system of setting goals does not seem to be working because you are not attaining much of what you write down, do not give up. Keep setting goals for several months and you will find that your goal setting skills improve.
Review Your Goals Constantly
Keep your weekly or other short-term goals in plain view -- by your desk, or next to your computer, for example -- so you know what you need to attain. Look at your annual goals monthly to see if you're on track. If your business' focus changes, don't be afraid to alter your goals. Flexibility is a crucial component of goal-setting.
Most companies don’t use budgets to help them meet profit goals. Why? Because most owners and chief executive officers reason that the effort required to learn how to build and use workable budgets is just too much. Owners and CEOs need to begin controlling the bottom line with some of the same tools they use to control the top line, and budgeting is the first step. Consider these tips to help you become a better budgeter.
For a brick-and-mortar shopper, one of the keys to a successful holiday season is a well-prepared sales staff. Here’s how to get your team ready this year.
Be prepared for super-knowledgeable customers. Last year, some two-thirds (65 percent) of holiday shoppers planned to “webroom” — that is, go online to browse products, compare prices and research before heading out to a physical store.
That means your employees need to be super-educated. Consumers today expect sales associates to be knowledgeable about products and services, how they work and how they compare to your competition’s. Make sure your employees are familiar with your return policies, guarantees, pricing and more.
Create a true in-store experience. When customers step out from behind their computers or tablets and actually head into a store, they want an experience, not just a transaction.
Try imagining what your store would look like if Disney were operating it. Can you hire or train employees with that level of dedication? How can sight, sound and visuals contribute to a magical experience?
Give your employees the tools they need to succeed. Your customers walk into your store, smartphones in hand, eager to compare prices or look up product details. Make it simple for your sales staff to do the same by providing them with smartphones or tablets, ring up sales (using apps such as Square) or place orders. Now’s the time to plan your mobile attack, update your POS system and get your team trained on it.
Plan seasonal hires in advance. Good workers get snapped up quickly, so get your hiring lined up now. You’ll also need time to train seasonal workers and get them up to speed on your products, services, policies and technology, so plan ahead for that now, too.
Get mobile with training. Thanks to tablets and smartphones, you can train during downtime on the sales floor instead of taking salespeople off the floor to get trained in a back room or at the sales counter.
Walk employees through point-of-sale procedures, show them videos or compare products online using tablets, and you can teach your staff while still staffing the sales floor.
Money talks! Bonuses or commissions can motivate employees during the busy selling season. However, be sure to combine individual-based rewards such as commissions with group rewards to encourage teamwork.
For example, hold contests between morning, evening, weekend and weekday teams or teams on different days of the week to get employees pulling together.
Involve employees in decision-making. Letting employees help brainstorm merchandising, marketing or sales ideas can help them feel a part of your business, and that’s especially important to part-time or seasonal workers.
When employees feel invested in what you’re doing, they’re more likely to work harder and be happier doing it.
Millennials are that mysterious generation between the ages of 18 and 35, born after 1980, who have been given a reputation that says they have an inborn distrust of hierarchy and bureaucracy, and are prone to job-hopping. They want a secure job, but they aren’t looking to make one job their life’s work. They are on track to being the most educated generation, rising to meet a new knowledge-based economy.
But is this reputation actually true? To manage your Millennial employees, you must understand the group and how they compare to other generations before them.
They Prefer To Work In Groups Millennials have a reputation for “crowdsourcing” and they often do tend to want to work in groups. But don’t let that make you think that they are unable to make decisions on their own. While they value the input of a diverse group, they are still able to make decisions at work without the constant input of others.
In an IBM study of Millennial workers, more than half said they made better business decisions when there was a group of people providing a variety of input. But Generation X response was even higher. So if you are able to work with your Generation X employees, Millennials shouldn’t come as too much of a shock.
Millennials, like Generation X, believe their leaders are the most qualified to make decisions. Baby Boomers seem to have a built-in distrust and skepticism. Perhaps that is why they prefer to avoid group decisions and are unconcerned about getting consensus on their plan of action. They trust themselves to decide.
Key Takeaway: Millennial workers, like Gen X workers, want to have a group consensus when it comes to decision making. As a manager, you need to address this in two seemingly conflicting ways:
They Are Adept At Using Technology Millennial employees stand out for having skill with technology. Not only are they adept at using technology, but they prefer it. No other generation has grown up steeped in technology like the Millennials have, and so what is seen as optional or gadgetry for older generations is a natural and required for Millennials.
Rather than sticking with what might seem outdated, Millennials will try to inject updated technology and workflows. It will seem more efficient to them even if older employees prefer the “way it’s always been done.”
Oddly, though, Millennials crave in-person collaboration and abhor the faceless vacuum that technology has brought. 60% of Millennials prefer in-person collaboration rather than remote technological solutions.
Not having known how it was before technology, Millennials are beginning to push back against information overload and technology. While older generations embraced telecommuting and the freedom it provided from what they knew of work before, Millennials grew up with telecommuting as the norm. They often crave in-person connections. This explains the rise of nostalgia and interest in old technology such as typewriters and film cameras.
Key Takeaway: Millennial workers are naturally fluent in technology, and will adapt and adopt it into your workflow quickly. As a manager, you must understand that:
They Desire Regular Feedback Millenials have a different “social mindset”, according to the Ivey Business Journal. We’ve talked a bit about that in the previous points, but another aspect of that mindset is that they want feedback on how they are doing, they want that feedback often, and they want it right now.
This level of feedback meets their need to always be learning and growing, but there is another reason why they desire more frequent (and sometimes instant project-based feedback): they grew up with the internet and social media, and are more familiar with instant gratification and instant feedback than previous generations. Previous generations have the mindset of getting the job done, while Millennials require much more praise to encourage them to continue. Their generation grew up with high expectations and, along with that, near constant praise and affirmation at each stage.
While twice-yearly reviews might be enough for your other workers, it is in this category that Millennials stand out and show how different they are. Some Millennials may take the lack of reviews and feedback to mean that they are not appreciated.
Key Takeaway: Not all of your team will want the same kind of feedback that Millennials prefer. Provide your team the feedback they need on an individual level. You can still have twice-a-year reviews, but may need to provide informal feedback between that for some.
Dr. Joanne G. Sujansky, CSP and Jan Ferri-Reed, Ph.D suggest that you may also need to change how you approach negative feedback when dealing with Millennials, couching it first in a positive affirmation before addressing an issue that needs to be changed. Additionally, you may want to create mentorship programs so Millennials have direct access to near constant feedback and feel they are valued.
They Are Motivated Differently Millennials are motivated by a sense of progress, the opportunity to be creative, and a sense that what they are doing matters.
While they may eschew, to some degree, traditional hierarchies, you can create mid-level job titles to motivate Millennial workers. Much like the different colored belts in martial arts, instead of the traditional white, brown, and black, these smaller levels show that improvement, though incremental, is happening. It shows your Millennial workers that career progress is taking place.
Millennials have grown up in a “maker-centric” age in which creating something is of utmost important. They are used to having answers and information at their fingertips as well, and a simple online search can provide them with complex answers to just about any question. The speed at which they can find answers feeds into their need to be creative. Remember, they grew up in a fast-paced information age, and their attention span might be shorter (though it might also explain their adeptness at multitasking).
You can also help your Millennial workers by explaining the vision of your business. This is not a generation just happy to punch a timecard and work for a few hours. They want to know that their work matters in the scheme of things, that they are a part of something larger. By explaining and illustrating the vision for your business, you help them understand how they fit into that plan other than just punching in and clocking hours.
Key Takeaway: Millennials are motivated by the prospect of creativity, change, and social connections rather than typical motivations of high salaries and moving up the ladder. They want to feel fulfilled in their work. This provides a few challenges for managers, with one key issue being that Millennials may feel frustrated if their ideas don’t seem to go anywhere, or take too long to be acted on.
They do not have the patience for typical business hierarchies, instead associating the speed at which they can research and solve problems as the same speed in which change should occur. While you cannot (and should not) always accommodate that fast pace, put into place a mechanism where new ideas that the group deems valuable do have an opportunity to go forward quickly. Their creativity and the implementation of ideas feeds the sense that they have value and are doing something that matters in your company.
They Feel Strongly About Giving Back To The Community
Millennials are concerned about giving back to the community. A 2010 study by Pew Research Center found that Millennials were more concerned with helping people in need than they were with getting a high salary.
If you hope to attract and inspire millennials, you must offer them more than the chance to earn a buck. You need to show that them their work matters in the scheme of something larger than themselves. One way to do this is to create programs and opportunities for them to give back to the community. This might be through time off to participate in charity events, through company-sponsored events, or through a matched donation plan to the organization of their choice.
Key Takeaway: Millennials want to feel that they are doing something to help others. They want to work for a company that has a reputation for caring about people and important causes, or at the very least allows them to be active in supporting those causes themselves.
They Like Flexibility Millennials prefer more flexibility in how they do their job as well as time (and acceptance) to pursue their own personal projects. This doesn’t simply translate into a 9-5 job that they can do at home; they still prefer that in-person communication. Instead, it means taking a new look at how a work day is composed.
A Griffith Insurance Education Foundation report on Millennial research from 2011 found that Millennial workers will sacrifice pay if it means that they have a better work and life balance. What this means is that Millennials expect to have the option to adjust their work schedule to fit their life rather than the other way around. They prefer more vacation time (unlimited, if they can get it) and the ability to work outside of the office.
Key Takeaway: With Millennial workers, their lives aren’t reshaped to fit the job. It’s the other way around. While not every job and position can accommodate this level of flexibility, find ways to give them that work and life balance so that they do not feel their personal lives are sacrificed for the betterment of your company. For example:
The truth is that Millennials are not all that different from previous generations in the most important aspects of work, including ethics, habits, and teamwork. They sometimes get a bad reputation for being lazy or self-centered, but that is not the case. That IBM study reveals something remarkable: Millennials aren’t all that different from previous generations, and are quite similar to Generation X. In fact, if there was a generation that stood out as taking an unusual approach to work, it would be…Baby Boomers.
Ultimately, Millennials want to feel that their work and their place in your business has meaning. Lynne Lancaster, co-author of When Generations Collide, says it best: “They want access to bosses, to be mentored and coached, and for bosses to show an interest. When they get ignored, they start to ask ’Why am I here?’”
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start a business, focusing on some of the fastest-growing small business industries such as architecture, employment services and computer services could make your venture a success.
Sageworks, a financial information firm, has identified five industries with the highest sales growth after examining the recent financial statements of U.S. private companies. These industries experienced stable net profit margins in recent years, and all but one showed profitability in the last 12 months that was above the average for all privately held companies.
Here are some top growth industries:
Computer Services: Encompassing systems design, on-site management systems and data processing, the computer services industry saw sales growth of 15.3 percent in the last 12 months. Data integrity, data protection and data security have become a tremendous priority for many U.S. companies as cybercrime rises – making it an on-demand sector.
Architectural Services: This broad industry includes everything from landscape architecture, drafting services and building inspection to surveying and mapping, engineering and architectural work. The industry experienced 13.6 percent sales growth in the last 12 months. As the real estate market recovery continues and the economy in general improves, demand for architectural firm services is likely to keep growing.
Employment Firms: Ranging from temporary work placement and employment agency to payroll services and benefits administration, this industry experienced sales growth of 13.4 percent in the last 12 months. An improving economy and more hiring by companies represent a boon for small businesses specialized in employment-related sectors.
Consulting Firms: Businesses that involve management, human resources, energy, security, logistics, distribution and marketing had 11.4 percent sales growth in the last 12 months. With new issues pertaining to changes in the health care system, technology and even the environment, the need for experts who can help companies comply with new regulations is rising.
Accounting Services: Another broad category, accounting services, which includes CPA firms, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services, had sales growth of 10.1 percent in the last 12 months.
Demand for such services is usually consistent, and once you have the appropriate education and licenses, upfront costs of a startup in this field aren’t as intensive as other industries. (Remember that licenses and certifications have to be kept up to date.)
“For various reasons, each of these service industries might be worth exploring as starting points for business ideas,” said Sageworks analyst Kevin Abbas, in a press release.
Another way to use the data to explore new business ideas is to identify some of the unmet needs of these growing industries and to determine where small businesses could provide support, he added.
Should your business be on social media? Absolutely. But should you have an account on every platform? Not necessarily.
Your social success depends largely on the type of business you run and how much time and effort you intend to put into your strategy. Some networks, like Facebook, are more low-maintenance and work for every type of business, while others, like Instagram, require more dedication, working best for businesses in certain niches.
We profiled the top social media platforms, so you can learn how to utilize each one for your business and determine which ones fit your needs.
Facebook is the biggest social network out there, both in terms of name recognition and total number of users. With over 1.39 billion active users, Facebook is a great medium for connecting people from all over the world with your business. And Facebook is not only the biggest network, it's arguably the most versatile one. In the 11 years since it launched, Facebook grew from a simple website where college students could keep in touch into a multifaceted Web and mobile social-platform where anyone can connect with not just their friends and family, but also with celebrities, organizations, businesses and more thanks to the Pages feature.
Since Facebook has a wealth of options for any type of organization, it's a great starting point for your business, regardless of your industry. You can use it to share photos, videos, important company updates and more. Additionally, Facebook is a lot more low maintenance in terms of posting frequency — whether you post several updates a day or only a few a week won't make much of a difference in terms of what your fans think of you.
Twitter is another social network where mostly anything goes. With Twitter, you can post short (140 characters or less) text updates along with videos, images, links and more. You can also easily interact with other users by mentioning their usernames in your posts, so Twitter is a great way to quickly connect with people all around the world (the platform has more than 500 million users worldwide). Because of this, Twitter is not only a great way to market your business; it's also an effective channel for handling customer service. For example, if you maintain an active Twitter presence, then customers who are also active on the platform will seek you out to express concerns or share their praise.
If you have interesting content, Twitter is also a great tool for quickly spreading the word. Retweeting and sharing other users' content is incredibly simple, and if a user with a lot of followers retweets you, your content has the potential to go viral. But with Twitter, it's important to remember to find balance — don't simply share your own links or media; make sure you are also sharing a lot of interesting, relevant content from other Twitter users so your audience doesn't think you only care about what your business is doing.
This platform consists of digital bulletin boards where users can save and display content they like in the form of pins. Users create and organize their boards by category, so for example, as a personal user, one might have a board dedicated to food where they pin recipes, another board dedicated to photography they find interesting and so on. Pinterest is very visually oriented (every post has to be an image or video), and like Facebook, it is also fairly low-maintenance as far as post frequency is concerned. However, keeping your boards organized and search-friendly can be time-consuming.
Pinterest is also a much more niche network than Facebook or Twitter, and so it may not work for everyone. Pinterest's users are primarily female, and popular categories on the site are DIY projects, fashion, exercise, beauty, photography and food. That's not to say that businesses outside of these categories can't succeed on the platform, but it does make it a great marketing tool for businesses that do work in those areas. If you can find ways to connect your content to Pinterest's audience, then go for it.
Instagram, like Pinterest, is a visual social media platform that is based entirely on photo and video posts. The network, which Facebook owns, has over 300 million active users, many of whom post about food, art, travel, fashion and similar subjects. Instagram is distinguished by its square photo/video post format that makes each post look similar to a Polaroid picture. This platform, unlike the others, is almost entirely mobile (there is a Web version, but you can't take photos or create new posts, and other functions are limited, as well).
Instagram is another platform where more artistic niches excel, so again, it may not be the best fit for your business depending on your industry. If you want to succeed with Instagram, it's important that the person running your account has a good eye for detail and has at least basic photography skills so that the photos and videos posted to your account are high quality. And don't be discouraged if your industry is underrepresented on Instagram; if you can find the right hashtags to latch onto and can post intriguing photos, you will most likely make it work.
Tumblr is arguably the most difficult social media platform to use as a business, but it's also one of the most interesting networks. Tumblr allows several different post formats, including text posts, chat posts, quote posts, audio posts, photo posts and video posts, so you're not limited as to what kind of content you can share. As with Twitter, reblogging (reposting other users' content) is very quick and easy, so if a user with a lot of followers shares your content, it's possible to go viral fairly quickly. However, what sets Tumblr apart more than anything is its audience, which is less like a pool of users and more like one big tight-knit community full of smaller subcommunities.
Tumblr currently hosts more than 200 million blogs, and the majority of these blogs are run by young people (half of Tumblr's visitor base is under the age of 25). But this means that businesses that don't cater to young people's interests or aren't relatable to young people in some way are not poised for success on the network. The good news is, there's a subcommunity or fandom for almost every niche and interest you can think of, so a successful marketing campaign is possible if you use Tumblr correctly.
Successful companies set goals. Without them, they have no defined purpose and nothing to strive for; consequently, they stagnate and struggle for meaningful accomplishments. Goals are steppingstones to an end result. They must be present in every business plan and become a regular part of ongoing business operations.
What are Goals?
Goals are resolutions to achieve a desired result. Whether short or long-term, they provide a clear understanding of what the company is striving to accomplish. Setting short-term goals to reach related long-term goals is a key to success for most any business. Thinking of short-term goals as "stops along the way" to large goals can compartmentalize processes without losing sight of the big picture. Having goals gives everyday tasks more meaning and clarifies the reasoning behind company decisions.
Goals Versus Wishes
Separate statements from goals. "My company will make money this quarter" is a statement, not a goal. To turn statements into goals, businesses must follow proven goal-setting procedures; otherwise, goals are merely unattainable wishes.
One proven goal-setting procedure is called S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time sensitive. Goals must also be written, and a plan set forth that outlines probable methods of attainment. Modify goals along the way, but never abandon them unless absolutely necessary. Regularly monitoring goals and producing status reports is helpful in establishing future goals.
Set goals for individuals, departments or the business as a whole. Consider publicizing the goals for the latter two within the company. This can result in a team effort, if properly presented, and employees may feel a sense of responsibility and camaraderie. This can can help boost morale and aid in bringing goals to fruition. Input from employees during the goal setting and implementation processes can also help keep goals realistic and attainable.
Set Goals Always
Goal setting is not a one-time event when formulating your business plan, but an ongoing process. Markets change and both the economy and sales fluctuate, so the savvy business owner must take advantage of every situation. Even small goals set in the middle of a crisis can have a positive impact when things improve. When your business is flourishing, goals help maintain or increase the good times, and can act as a safeguard during inevitable slumps.
Revise Your Payroll Cycle
Perhaps you currently pay your workers weekly – change this to biweekly. In case you currently pay them biweekly, change this to monthly.
You will not only have better cash flow but it’s possible that current payroll processing costs will be significantly reduced, more so if you have a large workforce.
Go Green And Minimize Wastage
Take all the necessary measures to ensure that energy costs are trimmed. Basically, adopt energy-efficient practices at your workplace.
Ensure that all lights are switched off when they are not required. All office equipment must also be unplugged at the end of the day.
40% of electricity consumption by home electronics happens when they have been turned off but not unplugged. The potential savings that you can make on costs of power are evidently quite significant.
The same measures should be taken for everything else including time. Enact a strict policy against lateness and inability to meet deadlines.
Cut Down On Travel Expenses
By taking advantage of technology you can significantly trim your travel budget. Have you considered video conferencing?
Again, do you really have to fly first-class? How bad can business class be?
Consider Making Changes To Your Workforce’s Employee Status
If you have hired your team on full-time basis you may want to consider making them independent contractors.
Assuming you have been honest with the team about the current situation they will most likely appreciate that they’ll still have jobs.
Their new status means the business will no longer have to pay payroll taxes and/or health insurance benefits, all translating into money saved.
Knowing how to stay afloat during hard economic times is crucial in determining whether your business will survive or go under. Has your business had to ensure such times? What was the crisis like and how did you pull through?
Find New Ideas For Profitability
This should also be done in collaboration with the staff. Now is the time to really brainstorm for viable ideas that can actually be implemented in the short-term to alleviate the crisis. Winning ideas should be well rewarded.
Rethink Your Positioning
Think about how you can uniquely present your business to the target audience.
What are some of the qualities you think that only your business can offer customers?
Re-position accordingly and let your customers and prospects know about the extra value they’ll get by doing business with you.
Make Your Turnover Rate Faster
Review your business operations to find out what practices are encouraging slow turnover.
Is it that your inventory lies idle for lengthy stretches? Find out if you can purchase less stock instead of tying down too much money at the expense of your profits.
Is it that many of your customers are simply taking too long to pay up? Perhaps offering attractive discounts for prompt payment will help.
Perhaps some of your products are taking too long to sell. Think about reducing package quantities, or end production altogether.
Negotiate Better Terms With Your Vendors
To secure better cash flow for your business engage your vendors and convince them to give you more time to settle your invoices. Use this cash to keep operations flowing.
Welcome To The...