Goals in business are what you want to accomplish professionally. Coming up with a business goal definition is gonna be a bit vague. After all, goals have many synonyms including Objectives. However, there are a few key ideas to use when you look at business goals. These apply no matter what type of goal you may be looking at. No matter what your business is or the size, however, setting business goals should be your first step.
Since goals are such a key part of every business plan, without them, your business can get way off course or even go completely under.
What Does a Goal Typically Mean in Business?
A standard business goal definition is something your write down and discuss what a group (company, team, or personal, for example) would like to achieve before a set deadline (generally, quarterly or annually). Goals at lower levels align towards the highest goals while lower level goals inform the goal-setting process for higher level company goals.
Objectives and targets are basically the same as goals. Some make distinctions between them, but they are often used interchangeably. You don’t need to worry about the specifics of what differentiates a goal from an objective. The interpretations of these are subjective and not widely agreed on.
A Few Examples of Common Business Goals
1. Grow Shareholder Value
This is about increasing the value of your organization outside of selling the product. Specificity is important in defining your business goals.
2. Increase Revenue
A general financial goal, this is attached to a set amount or percentage to reach.
3. Manage Finances and Costs
This is a catch-all for evaluating the costs for managing your business.
4. Create new features/product offers to gain new customers
This is about focusing on innovation to grow clientele.
5. Streamline current business practices
This is an evaluative goal to standardize business practices. It’s focus is alignment.
How Important are Business Goals?
The answer is obvious, but we needed a good title (get that sweet SEO). But seriously, there’s no con to setting goals and having good business goal definitions. They help your company focus, give direction for the company as a whole, and give you a method to measure your progress at every level.
Business Goals Help with Alignment
By finding a business goal definition for your company, everyone should be able to see the direction the company is moving in and how their work impacts it. By knowing exactly what you’re trying to achieve as a whole, everyone can make more informed decisions about their daily work and their projects. It also helps teams see how each other fit into the purpose of the company, providing more opportunities for collaboration.
Gain Measurable Results
Setting goals is one of the easiest ways to measure the progress you’ve made as a company. You can equally measure those goals through the Key Results you set (if you’re into the idea of OKRs) and through the Weekly Plans and projects you have.
Recording Goals Helps You Evaluate What Works and What Doesn’t
Goals involve some level of planning, meaning that goals instantly allow you to reflect on your past experiences as a company while always remaining forward-thinking. If you’re falling short on your goals, you can evaluate that in real time and reflect on what needs to change: either your methods or the goals themselves.
Goals as Part of Your Business Plan
Details for goals (and, by extension, what you are going to use to measure them (I.E.: Key Results) are generally included in business plans and your business goal definition. Your business plan should be a formal, public document that highlights not only your goals, but potential projects and financial forecasts as well. This should be shared with everyone at every level in the company in order to achieve alignment.
Goal Setting Mistakes
Goal setting is not a process you can make on the fly. It requires some forward thinking and reflection. Though your can adjust your business goal definition, spontaneously creating new goals often creates some serious problems.
Setting vague, unmeasurable, unfocused goals
If can't measure your business goals, you won’t know if you’re actually reaching them. If you can’t see progress towards your goal, then you aren't gonna meet it. Remember: your goals need to be specific, focused, and have a set deadline. Without these key elements, you’re gonna be at a total loss. What’s the point, after all, of setting goals if you just completely ignore them or procrastinate on them to such a degree that they are no longer achievable?
Tim Ferris has a phrase for this in his book, Tribe of Mentors: “Life punishes the vague and rewards the specific.” Your personal business goal definition should be aspirational, sure, but you need to be able to contextualize and define them outside of “succeed”or “make money.”
Setting Goals that aim too high or too low
Google has established a pretty good system for measuring goals that are aspirational, but realistic. The goal is to aim for a .7 on a 1.0 scale, or, in other words, meeting 70% of a goal’s expectations.
This is why you should connect business goals with your process models and ensure that you conduct research for your prospective numbers. A study conducted by Ivan Markovic and Marek Kowalkiewicz argues for the importance of business goals in setting up business models.
After all, goals require a broad understanding of the company as a whole instead of the specifics. The specifics are decided by specialists at the team level.
Objectives and Key Results are one of the big trending goal setting strategies (partly due to Google's use and New York Time's best seller author: John Doerr). You can use all your goal setting tips with Objectives, but by definition, OKRs ensure that your goals are measurable and focused.