So you’re starting a business. That’s great! You have your dream, you have your investors, and you have the energy. But do you have goals?
We’re not just talking about “I want to be rich,” or “I want to cure cancer.” We’re talking about realistic, achievable, and specific business goals.
Before you could run you had to learn how to walk. Before you could read you had to learn the alphabet. Before you can change the world, you must have business goals.
Clear business goals will help you:
– Avoid confusion as you travel your entrepreneurial path
– Stay on track and not get distracted
– Create a culture of teamwork
As you think about your business goals, consider the SMART method. Keep your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
1. YOUR LONG-TERM GOAL
Specific: “I want to make lots of money so I can help underprivileged kids,” isn’t specific. “I want to provide a third-grade class at an underserved school with new iPads,” is much better.
Measurable: “There are 20 students in that third-grade class. Each iPad will cost $300. That means I need to raise $6,000. And I want the iPads to be available at the start of the next school year.”
Achievable: “I can buy cheaper refurbished iPads through reliable electronics dealers.”
Realistic: “Although I can’t buy iPads for the whole school, I can buy them for at least one whole class so that the students can benefit from access to technology.”
Timely: “If I start now, I can raise enough money by the summer so that I can deliver the iPads to the classroom in August.”
Using the SMART method above, you can see we’ve created a business goal that will work. Your team knows what’s expected of them and can aim their vision in that direction. Every item you sell to achieve this goal, every fundraiser you hold, every penny you earn will have a specific job.
2. YOUR EXPANSION GOAL
Let’s go with the best-case scenario for the long-term goal above. You’ve given yourself a year to raise $6,000 for iPads for that third-grade classroom. Now, though, it’s only been three months and you’ve raised $10,000!
Naturally, this is a reason to celebrate, and you should! You and your team worked hard, and you succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. You’ve earned it!
But what do you do with that extra $4,000?
Successful entrepreneurs always have one eye on the future, and that means growth. Once you’ve accomplished your first goal, what comes next?
Thinking about the iPads you bought the class, ask yourself what comes next once that’s achieved. Will you expand your business to provide iPads for more classes at the same school, or for other third-grade students at a different school? What about other technology needs underprivileged students may have?
Another great way to grow your enterprise is to expand the business end. Do you need more team members? Is your website as up-to-date as it could be? Investing bonus profit back into your company is not a waste and it’s not greedy or selfish. It’s actually a pretty smart business move. The bigger you grow, the more good you can do.
3. HAVE A PIVOT PLAN
Otherwise known as an “in case of emergency” plan.
What happened to businesses when the lockdown went into effect? Some had to shut down, but others flourished despite everything.
It’s impossible to plan for every single emergency that may arise. You’ll only drive yourself crazy trying to do that! However, all young entrepreneurs should have some idea of what to do when emergencies affect their business.
For example, think about what you will do if no one buys your product or wants to pay for your service. How will you fix that? Look at whether the problem is an internal issue that can be addressed, such as lackluster marketing or too much competition. These are problems with solutions you can solve before you start your business. Have alternate marketing strategies. Find a way to stand out amongst your competition.
But what happens when the problem is external – something out of your control? Natural disasters, market swings, and yes, global pandemics are out of your hands. You can, however, make it a goal to keep your business flexible enough to withstand whatever outside forces may happen. For example, if you want to provide third graders with iPads but the schools are locked down and you have no way to deliver them house-to-house, what will you do? If you’ve set your long-term goal correctly using the SMART method, you’re already in touch with the school’s administration. Contact them to brainstorm ways to get the iPads to their students and be ready to mail those iPads out to everyone yourself.
4. CREATE A TIMELINE
Timelines are great for keeping you on track. Think of timelines as smaller steps that help you reach your long-term goal. If your long-term goal is the summit of Mount Everest, then the goals along your timeline are the camps you’ll stop at along the way.
Saying, “I’m going to go climb Mount Everest today,” is unrealistic. Before you get there, you have several things to do. You need to train and prepare. You need to fly to Tibet and make your way to base camp. You need to acclimate a little at a time and then climb down again. You’ve got base 2, 3, and 4. And of course, all of this depends on weather conditions.
On your entrepreneurial journey, you need to prepare and set a timeline. Make those smaller goals super-achievable and realistic. Providing iPads to an entire class of third graders might start with setting a goal to contact 3 underserved schools by the end of next week to find out if any of them want to work with you. By the end of the month maybe you will have reached out to local electronics stores to ask if they can donate any refurbished iPads. Focus on the next steps you need to take but keep your eye on the summit.
The most successful young entrepreneurs are those who are prepared for anything. One of the best ways to be – and stay – prepared is to set business goals that you know you can achieve.
The Kantner Foundation is proud to offer college scholarships to Florida’s high school entrepreneurs. To learn more about our program, and to start your application, click here.