OK, the year is well underway… and it seems like just moments ago we were wrapping up the prior year. How has it started for you? Are you ultra-focused on the goals you set and making measurable progress? Or are you just treading water, marking time, chalking up ‘Another Yesterday’?
As accountants, we see many clients who need to set (or reinforce those goals) so here are six questions that guide you in goal setting.
Topline growth. If you are a mature business, you may be looking for a small percentage increase (in dollar terms) but a start-up might aim for 100 – 200% growth. Perhaps you are interested in growing in terms of market share (in percentage terms). Some businesses may not want to grow revenue at all while you focus on other business improvements. We like our clients to be really clear on these goals and then to ensure progress is properly tracked.
The bottom-line. Perhaps you are looking to distribute more profit to owners and/or you want to build the cash reserves of the business for an acquisition? Some businesses (think early stage tech businesses) may be ambivalent to profit as they ramp up sales, assuming they are well-funded through investment. Again, these strategies take careful planning (e.g. tax mitigation) but are dependent on your business goals.
Fewer business owners will think of this (versus 1 and 2 above). But it’s important to measure how much you are investing (in personnel and other expenses) and what that investment is yielding (revenue and profit). Sometimes our clients tell us they used to make more money with fewer people, few customers, fewer products, less marketing expenses etc. But not anymore. What has changed? Efficiency (or capacity) has decreased. Let’s ensure you are measuring the right thing in your business to increase capacity.
Are you happy with the way you work? Does what you do excite you? It is unlikely, you’ll ever find the perfect role where EVERYTHING is stimulating, enjoyable and rewarding. But modifying your role could lead to more fulfilment. For some this may mean goals such as 20% more time on sales, management, human resource planning, client interaction, technical work etc. Some may want to work LESS in which case the goal may be reducing the average work week from 50 hours to 45 hours. As accountants, we can help our clients be clear on the impact on any of these decisions.
Your business doesn’t exist in isolation. It’s part of an ecosystem comprising your clients, your employees, your employees’ family members, chambers of commerce, business groups, not-for-profit organisations, your neighbours etc. How do you want to impact that community? How can you contribute? Note, this is not necessarily entirely altruistic since we often reap benefits when we add value elsewhere. Modelling the implications of these decisions can be really important.
Nothing lasts forever. Every business will undergo significant changes in ownership and management. It’s just a matter of time. It’s best to be ready for and control these changes when the time is right. Every business should have goals related to succession even if they are not to be activated for a long time. A one-year goal might be to research possible merger partners, meet with a trusted advisor or determine how to calculate the value of your business. Accountants with experience in transactions can form an important part of this process.
Final thoughts. This is not complicated. Start somewhere and write down a few goals related to the above. Pick a clear time frame – one year is usually good – and think about what would make you happy and proud when the time elapses. Remember, not everything above is of equal importance; it’s perfectly reasonable to ignore some factors and focus intensely on others. We feel it is essential to help our clients set goals because then we can help you achieve them!