To reach short-term milestones and stay on track for long-term success, keep your eye on business goals every week.

Image courtesy of isophere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of isophere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just as large corporations are vulnerable to bleeding from blind spots due to their size, small businesses are equally under threat. Runaway expenses and competition quickly add up to a perfect storm. Planning and executing an agenda to reduce the risks could be months or years in the works and businesses need to take a long-term view. This makes setting and reviewing business goals a necessary exercise.

Here are 10 ways you can take stock of business goals:

  1. Goal, set, match

Set goals on a five-year timeline, say for achieving a certain amount of profit or objectives by the end of each year, with intermediate quarterly and monthly targets. Review your trajectory every week to study the reasons why certain goals were met but not others. Reassess strategy, ramping up initiatives that worked and rethinking those that did not. At any point, especially when considering a new business direction, check that they match your business mission and vision. Hone it till you own it.

  1. Income and expenditure

Review income and expenditure every week. There are inexpensive software and accounting programmes available to watch for expenses that the metrics cannot support. Considering your financial position will change from day to day, expenses in the pipeline may have to be shelved, cut or diced. On the other hand, encouraging numbers may be an incentive to do better.

  1. Feedback from the ground up

Taking stock means finding out where the problems are and tackling them at ground level with the people doing the work. Department heads become crucial for relaying risks and concerns to staff, so communicate corporate goals to them in a transparent manner. Conversely, keep feedback channels open from the ground up so that necessary intervention measures can be deployed before expensive problems arise.

  1. Logic, data and performance

When the numbers don’t add up, be firm – spending and sales expectations have to be communicated to employees in a logical manner, backed up with data. This will enable management and staff to set realistic targets, and exchange ways and means to achieve both personal and corporate goals.

  1. KPI is a four-letter word

Can’t achieve your goals because your sales department is a revolving door of one-hit wonders? Instead of threatening staff with key performance indicators, remember to inspire, motivate and reward to get that all-important buy-in for long-term commitment and continuity to achieve corporate goals.

  1. Customer satisfaction

How well are you doing? It is not enough to send the goods and collect the money. Check in with your customers regularly to improve your delivery, keep abreast of their needs to create new product lines or services, and keep your profile at the top of the buyer’s list.

  1. Watch your peers

Study quarterly reporting figures posted by listed companies in your industry. Here, you can glean what product lines are making a profit or loss, and importantly, why. This will give you a heads-up on where the industry is heading, where the new markets are, what your competition is doing and where you fit in.

  1. Technology is your friend

Get excited about technology and programmes that can help the organisation to quickly build up product lines that sell, and drop the duds. There are also many apps for businesses that help with team building and keeping staff accountable. Social media is a great tool to gauge both employee and customer satisfaction, bouquets as well as brickbats.

  1. Get the full picture

When you’re so involved in your business that you can’t see the wood for the trees, get your Number Two or wingman to make sense of the numbers. Your accountant would be your best bet but don’t be afraid to use a family member or friend – even The Godfather had a consiglieri. Legacy systems in family-run businesses are speed bumps and a qualified professional, such as said consiglieri, can be instrumental in diplomatically engaging the hierarchy to move things along.

  1. Colour by numbers

Numbers don’t lie. Get everyone on the same page on whiteboards or work-sharing apps where you can make announcements about what the numbers mean, and post encouraging directives for the week.

By Chua Soon Tzer, General Manager, Workcentral. An edited version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times on 8 Jan 2016.