Checklist: Starting a business in the UK
Written by Alan Davidson
To achieve goals, you have to set them.
You might have long term visions and dreams for you business, but writing a business plan and specifying these goals, is the best way to achieve the results you want.
Specific goals give you something definite to work towards, and a way to measure your success. But setting great business goals is not as easy as it might sound.
The best goals are thought-out, well planned and realistic. Preparation is therefore key. This is why we always spend time doing research before we sit down to write our own business plan.
These are the 7 things you should do before your goal setting session:
Check out the competition
Before you start setting goals, you should do some research and find out what your competitors are doing. Find out who or what your immediate competition is, and see what they are up to.
While you’re at it, check out the biggest businesses or names in your industry. Use Google Trends to research the products or services you offer. What are people talking about? Is there a new invention or trend that you might capitalize on?
One of the most common reasons why businesses fail is because they fail to research their competitors, and underestimate how important this step is for their business growth. Not only do you have to know about these competitive brands. You also need to be able to explain how you’re different. What can you offer that others don’t? Why should customers come to you? Think about what makes you unique. How you stand out.
This knowledge is crucial to decide the direction of your business, and can be what makes or breaks your business.
Look at your past performance
Planning for the future requires looking at the past. Consider your historical weak points and strengths. It helps if you have specific measurements for your past performance.
Measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) is a great way to achieve this. Every business should find their key areas to measure. These measures should be unique to your business, based on the numbers you find to be most critical.
This could be number of sales, customer satisfaction rates, monthly revenue, number of customers, employee satisfaction, on-time delivery, number of repeat business, website visitors, number of returns, or other suitable measures.
By measuring the numbers that affect your business, you will have a better idea of how you have performed in the past, and which areas are in need of improvement. This will help you to set goals that have the biggest impact on your business growth.
Make sure that your goals are in line with your vision and mission
As business owners we spend a lot of our time working in the business, and dealing with pressing issues. We are used to thinking “what needs to be done right now?”. Your goal setting session requires a different mindset, and a different focus.
Goals should not be decided solely based on your immediate needs. Remember your vision. What kind of business did you set out to build? Where do you see yourself a year from now? What about five years? What do you want to achieve? Find the answers to these questions, and set goals that will help you reach them.
Ultimately, your goals should be small, achievable targets that will help you towards achieving your vision in life and business.
Stay on track by tracking your progress
Plan a way to track your progress. A good business goal should be measurable, and it’s important that you actually measure how you’re doing. Depending on your goal, this could mean a daily, weekly or monthly check. This allows to you take the appropriate actions.
Before setting your goals, consider how you will track these. A reporting system or software might be required. Consider which statistics you might be able to find at the moment, and which ones would require a change in how you work.
It’s great for a business owner to be aware of the amount of information you already have access to. You might be surprised to find that you already have access to more information than you know. This could include things like information about advertisement success rates, how long it takes each team member to complete a task, or how many people that enter your store.
You might also be surprised to find that you don’t have information you thought you did. Certain things like customer satisfaction rates and average length of client engagement are often not actually measured, although they often should be.
Include your team in your goals
Your team is your biggest asset. When making goals, you want to make sure to include your team in them.
Consider how they can use their skills, knowledge and strengths to help your business grow. They might even have skills outside of their traditional job role, and be able to take on other tasks. Having an idea of what each team member is capable of will give you a huge advantage when you go into your goal setting session.
Plan to celebrate
Nothing is more demotivating than reaching a goal just to find a long list of new goals waiting for you to take action.
When you or your team reach a target, make sure to celebrate and show appreciation for everyone’s hard work. This helps keep yourself and your team motivated to keep working, as well as feeling satisfied for accomplishing something.
Your show of appreciation could be financial in nature, typically with a bonus after reaching certain targets, a raise or a promotion.
It could also be something simple like a meal out for the team, leaving early on Friday, bringing in a cake, or even a simple thank you.
Make planning a regular activity
Planning and goal setting is not just a one off activity. We recommend that you make yearly goals with specific, measurable targets. These targets can be further reduced to 90 day SMART goals.
This does not mean that you should create these goals and then leave them for 90 days. You’re much more likely to succeed if you regularly review your goals and plan for activities that will help you get there.
Make planning a part of your routine. Consider how you will do this in practice. You might have to create reports, lead review meetings, or simply examine the progress by yourself. Deside how and when you will be able to work on monitoring your progression, and if or how you will share this information with your team.
After going through these steps, you will have a better idea of exactly how you will achieve your goals. You will be aware of the competition you are facing, the market trends, and you own past performance. You will know your strengths and weaknesses, and be clear on what you want to change for the future of the business. You will have an idea of how you will track and review your goals. And lastly, you will know how to include your team in the goals you are setting, and how to celebrate their victories to keep their motivation up.