If you’re in business, then you probably already know the importance of setting smart goals. What’s more, your goals are likely to be measurable, attainable, and time-bound.
But what do you do when, all of a sudden, you realize you’ve hit a brick wall in your efforts – and your business growth stagnates? You may be doing everything right, but something’s still holding you back somehow. What should you do then?
When your standard operations no longer drive you closer toward your long-term business goals, then that’s a sign that you should immediately switch gears. Instead of spending more of your company’s time, manpower, and resources in processes that are obviously no longer working, it’s time to find alternative, possibly more effective ways to generate growth. Here are six of our best suggestions to accomplish this.
1. Adjust the Game Plan
In any team sport, the goal is simple: to win the game. And all teams go into the game with a plan to beat the other team and get the win. But most of the time, things don’t go exactly as planned. They run into unexpected strategies from the other side that render certain parts of their own plan ineffective, if not self-destructive.
What does the coach do? Obviously, he won’t change the goal – the goal is still to win the game. But surprisingly, a lot of new or inexperienced business people make that mistake – they keep doing what’s not working, but change their objectives. Obviously they won’t reach their long-term goals that way!
In sports, some inexperienced coaches also make the mistake of overhauling the plan in the middle of the game. They end up putting undue stress on their players and sowing confusion throughout the team. Rarely does this approach result in a win – and the same result happens in business when you make drastic changes to your company’s game plan.
That’s why smart coaches don’t change the goals or the game plan. Instead, they analyze what’s going wrong, decide the necessary adjustments to make, and communicate those changes to their players clearly. They do this as often as needed to wrest control of the game again.
In business, that’s also a smart strategy. Don’t lose sight of the goals – just make the adjustments to help your team get over the hump and continue forging ahead.
2. Track Your Progress
Here’s a simple fact about business: if you’re not tracking your progress towards your long-term business goals, then you won’t reach those goals – period. It should go without saying, but as you might expect, many young and/or inexperienced entrepreneurs make this mistake.
If you’re not actively and carefully tracking your business’s performance, now’s the best time to start. Set some KPI’s (key performance indicators), or metrics that clearly and irrefutably indicate your progress towards achieving your long-term goals. Those KPI’s may vary depending on what your long-term goals are, but profit margins, customer retention, and employee engagement are among the most common ones.
If you’re already tracking your business’s analytics, then continue doing so. The important task will lie in the analysis of your company’s KPI’s to find where the weaknesses are.
3. Stick to What’s Working
As you track your company’s performance, you’ll also identify the processes that are working for you. These are the processes that consistently bring positive results to the company. It’s a good idea to reinforce those processes by creating standard operating procedures around them.
The idea is to create habits within the company – automatic processes that your employees can do consistently well. This will minimize the amount of manpower, resources, and time you put into those processes, and bring a more focused effort on identifying and fixing the problems that are keeping you from achieving your long-term business goals.
What’s more, be sure to observe the other activities connected to or affected by the positive processes within your company. That success trickles down to the processes that follow, or indicate success in the processes preceding it. Simply reinforcing the “root” positive process – if it does well, the other processes in the chain will as well.
4. Break the Next Milestone Down into Even Smaller Ones
Smart goal-setters break their long-term business goals into smaller, time-bound milestones. But when a certain milestone is proving difficult to reach, perhaps even that needs to be broken down even further. It’s a technique that helps managers get their departments out of a funk, and it works on the long-term business goal level, too.
The great thing about this technique is that, aside from identifying root problems and addressing them, it also lets the company uncover effective new approaches to old problems. That way, when similar problems are encountered in the future, the company will have new solutions to employ.
5. Set a New Deadline
Firstly: Does your long-term business goal (or its most immediate milestone) have a deadline? If it doesn’t, then set one right away. As the saying goes, any task expands to fill the time allotted for its accomplishment – and when a task doesn’t have a deadline, it tends to take forever to finish.
If your goal or milestone already has a deadline, then check: Is the deadline putting some undue strain on your manpower and resources? Will setting a new deadline – one that allows for a more careful, measured, and organized approach – make it easier to achieve?
In business, there’s no shame in asking for more time. If allowing more time will guarantee a better, more certain achievement of a goal or milestone – especially if it means breaking the company out of a slump – then it’s a smart business decision to make.
6. Don’t Stop Learning
Lastly, don’t stop learning. Remember: no matter what the problem is that’s holding your company back from its long-term goals, chances are many other companies have been in the exact same situation as yours – and has managed to find ways to keep moving forward.
Do some research. Find those companies and learn about what they did to reach their long-term business goals. Then compare their solutions to your situation, and identify which skills, processes, or resources are missing. And finally, find ways to fill in those gaps with as little time, money, and manpower as possible.
By The Numbers
When it comes to your business’s long-term goals, it’s not simply a matter of grit and determination. Rather, it’s a calculated, scientific approach that requires careful analysis, sharp problem-solving, and smart decision-making.
Also, remember that like in all great undertakings, things rarely go according to plan. So you need to be flexible and shrewd, able to make the necessary adjustments quickly. But throughout the entire process, keep your long-term goals in your sights. When you do, achieving them no longer becomes a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.”Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community