If you’re not thinking about 2011, you absolutely should be. As this year comes to a close fast in between changing leaves and holiday leftovers, now is as good a time as any to start thinking about your business goals for 2011. In order to be successful in reaching a goal, you must have a clear picture in your mind of what you want to achieve. The key to effectively growing your business is to take time to reflect, evaluate, monitor and change. In doing so, you must develop goals and milestones to ensure your success.

When contemplating your business goals for 2011, consider the SMART methodology, meaning Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound goals. Let’s dive in a little deeper. Specific goals are well defined, and clear to anyone that has basic knowledge or understanding of the project. Measureable goals are able to evaluated and monitored; you can calculate how far away completion is and know when they have been achieved. Attainable goals are reasonable and reachable. Relevant goals take into account availability or resources, knowledge and time. Time-bound goals have time limits to them as to when they should be achieved. Your goals for 2011 need to encompass all of the aforementioned components.

As you evaluate your business, we would like to provide you with 3 suggestions of SMART business goals for 2011. We want to see you thrive!

Business Growth: Let’s say your goal is to increase your sales by 10 percent over a 12 month period, or bring on 2 new clients each month. Adjust the time, numbers and percentages as you see fit for your business. Let’s break this down: What does it take to increase your sales or bring in new clients? How can we turn this goal into action? Maybe it means setting yourself up to attend 2 business networking events a month, or doing follow up phone calls/emails for the people you’ve already connected with. Develop a plan of action for your goal, and then set up a time (maybe every 3 months if your goal spans over the year) to check in and evaluate your progress. If things are not going the way you want, rethink, regroup and adjust where necessary.

Be More Efficient: Let’s say your goal is to free up some time from your schedule to focus more on other aspects of growing your business. How can you do that if you’re a small business, wearing the hat of the business bookkeeper as well as the marketing director? Take a week and just write out what your time goes to. Is it mostly social networking? Invoicing? Etc. What areas can you afford to streamline or delegate to someone else, so you can shift your focus back to the core of your business? Have you looked into automated systems that automatically take care of your billing for you (see Freshbooks)? What about a Google Voice number that will keep record of all your voicemails, type them up for you and send them as emails? What about hiring a virtual assistant to take care of your paperwork and confirm your appointments? In the business world how you spend your time is important. Make sure you are spending it wisely. If you notice hiccups in your system, rethink, regroup and adjust where necessary.

Get Organized: Where was that paper from last week? Oh goodness, where is that email where that client told you what they wanted? Let’s say your goal is to get your business organized, which also ties into being more efficient. Take a week where you simply write down things that are not organized within your business as you notice them. Notes like “it takes too long for me to find files,” or “my supply room is unorganized so I can’t locate the items I need.” These are real problems that can slow your business down. Once you realize where the speed bumps are, take some time to research cost-effective systems to solve these problems. It could be something as simple as purchasing color-coded folders to organize your file cabinets, to investing in a software system that organizes and sorts your digital files. These goals can be measured on a time system by re-checking how efficient your new system is (does it still take forever to find something or locate a file?). If the new system is not picking up the slack, rethink, regroup and adjust where necessary.

Setting SMART goals are crucial to your success. The more specific you can get with these goals, the better. Suddenly, wanting to bring in new business becomes wanting to bring in 2 clients a month from the local eco-friendly business industry by attending 2 networking events and following up on people you’ve connected with. Last but not least you need to take action towards your goals. Writing your goals down is a great start, but there is more to be done. Even if you come up with a fantastic SMART goal nothing happens if you don’t act on them.

You make these goals happen by taking action consistently. And guess what, you’ve got a whole year at your disposal for getting the job done.

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