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5 Blunt Questions You Should Answer Before Setting Your Small Business Goals

setting small business goals

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What are your small business goals, that keep you up at night?

You have a dream. An idea perhaps.

You want to be a successful entrepreneur. Congratulations! And welcome to the club!

As you start your small business, people will tell you that you need to build a business plan, set some goals and objectives.

Now when I started off, just like many of you, I had an approach of “let’s just try my best, and see how it goes”. For a small business, that’s not so bad, is it? Turns out, that approach is not so great either.

Why is goal-setting important for your small business?

Even when you’re just starting out?

To answer that, let me start with a favorite quote of mine:

man wearing gray blazer 838413goals in life

So simply put, having a sort-of idea about where you want to reach, has the following key advantages:

Provides you focus

When you start off as a small business owner, there seems a ton of things you can do, and you try to do everything, to get the results you want.

While it’s good to experiment and even fail, I learnt it the hard way that some of the things I did could have waited till later. When you have a goal, before you do anything, you can ask yourself if it’s really going to help you to get what you want.

Helps you manage time and priorities

Given the explanation above, this is self-explanatory, because as a small business owner you’re wearing many hats, have a lot of tasks, besides trying to juggle a personal life, and you only have 24 hours a day.

Gives you a measure of success

You can track as often as you want, where you are, compared to where you want to be! So you’re always moving forward.

Helps you manage others

If you have employees or partners, when the goal is clear, there is no confusion. You’re all on the same page about where to go, and all you can debate about is how to get there!

Now if you’re convinced you should have some sort of goals, just have to start setting them, you can Google “how to set goals for my business” and you will have about 300,000,000 results 😉

how to set business goals

You will get plenty of valuable information about the actual process of setting goals. So that’s not just what this blog is about. It’s a bit more behind the scenes. About one factor that you know more about than any of those websites. YOU. Your dreams, motivation, and ambitions, and how that fits in with your goals.

And then, of course, this blog is about how to figure all that out!

So let’s get started with the 5 questions. So let’s get started with the 5 questions. Prepared to be brutally honest with yourself? Here goes then.

Q1. What is YOUR definition of success?

When most people start out on their entrepreneurship journey, they want their venture to be a success. Naturally! Duh!!!

What most people don’t define at this point is, what is their definition of success?

In other words, when would you think you have become successful, you have achieved what you wanted?

In his book Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra says:

Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals. Success is the ability to fulfill your desires with effortless ease. - Deepak Chopra Click To Tweet

“There are many aspects to success; material wealth is only one component…success also includes good health, energy and enthusiasm for life, fulfilling relationships, creative freedom, emotional and psychological stability, a sense of well-being, and peace of mind”.

So the question is, what is YOUR definition? What do you desire to achieve in life, through your new business?

To help you answer this, let me ask you a question you have been asked plenty of times before, and one which you probably hate.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Companies insist on asking that in job interviews. Sometimes you know. But if you’re desperate for a job, all you want to tell them is “I have no clue! Just give me the damn job, and we will find out”.

Once I was so fed up with the question, in the interview of a job I wasn’t even THAT interested in, I was tempted to say, “ Oh you know, in 5 years I will be lounging on the deck of a yacht in the Caribbean waters, sipping a Mai Tai, while my super hunk of a husband lay tanning next to me, and we, being millionaires by that time of course, won’t be worrying about making money, like ordinary folks”.

While that could be what I wanted, in that context I held my tongue and gave them a safe business answer 😉

But the fact remains that while that questions may be annoying at times, it is still asked, because everyone wants to know one thing before they work with you, partner with you, and invest in you:

Where do you want to go?

What you need to ask yourself is actually one level higher.

What is the vision for not just your business, but your life?

Even with small business owners, 2 people may not want the same thing. So don’t go by anyone else’s idea of what a successful like should look like, for YOU! Defining what you want, what is important to you overall in life, is crucial to start a business with an ambition that’s right for you, and for you specifically. Because if your business and personal goals don’t match, after a while you will get tired of hustling for your business success. And there goes your dream! To avoid that, think about your life vision first.

Here are some examples of vision you could have of yourself in 5 years, through your small business:

–  Being a sole proprietor, working 6 months a year, holidaying when you want, even if you don’t make that much revenue
–  Making a million dollars, setting new trends in the world, and having at least 10 people reporting to you
–  Launching many innovative offers through your business, and being constantly engrossed in your work with the next new thing
–  You are content with just putting food on the table for you and your family, doesn’t matter with this business or something else, as long as you have some source of income

Being an entrepreneur is an opportunity chance to take control of your life and build the one you want, to do what you want, personally and professionally.

So grab this chance, and design your future, your success. How do you do that?

Step 1. Design a vision board

A vision board is a collection of many images that represent the future that you want to create for yourself. And it has been proven to work in getting what you want.

design your future goals

Plus it is fun! Think about that you in 5-10 years, the successful you. What do you see? What have you achieved? Take pictures of what you aspire to be and have, and put them down on a board!

Here are some examples of vision boards.

vision board 1

vision board 2

Source: Google

All you have to do is just put down what you think would make you feel good. Nothing is impossible! You just have to know what you want first.

Not sure how to get started?

Download a vision board template & a full business goal workbook to set the goals right for YOU.

Step 2. Match your business goals with your vision board

Now you know how your future could look like. What do you need to achieve through your business, that will help you achieve all that in life?

See some examples:

Vision board This is what I need to do This is a goal
I want to have my own house I want to make enough money with my business. I would like to make at least $500,000 in the next 5 years.
I want to have a huge empire & presence I want my business to grow I want to hire a team of 2 by the end of 2018

If you’re hesitant to put growth numbers, because you will be disappointed if you don’t make it, I totally get that!

Just put a goal for your initiatives instead.

See some examples:

Vision board This is what I need to do This is a goal
I want to have my own house Sell to enough customers I will build an email list of at least 1000 customers by 2020.
I want to have a huge empire & presence Build brand awareness for my business I want at least 1000 monthly visitors on my website

These, as you may know, are also called SMART goals.

S pecific

M easurable

A ccurate

R ealistic

T ime-bound

This helps you focus your efforts. If you know what your vision is, you will know how high you have to aim for. You can work backwards from your vision board with some financial planning to reach your SMART goal.

Remember, you can keep reworking your goals, just keep your vision in mind.

See some examples of SMART goals from The Balance:

SMART goal 1

SMART goal 2

Now it’s ok if you don’t know enough to be too specific. Just keep one focus in mind and go with it!

When I started my business, to prove nay-sayers wrong, I vowed to at least make as much money every month in my business as I did in my corporate job, and keep living the life I had before. And every 3-6 months, I checked if I did!

Not sure how to match your vision and business goals?

Download a SMART goal worksheet and a full business goal workbook to set the goals right for YOU.

Step 3. Distinguish between short term goals, long term goals, and objectives

While some goals remain consistent throughout your business journey, like lead and revenue generation, some goals could be split up into short and long term goals.

Short term goals

Definition: Simply put, the immediate goals. Usually within the next 6 months – 1 year.


Brand awareness

Building a customer base

Cost minimization

Long term goals

Definition: The future ambition. Anywhere between 1-3 years, for small businesses.


Better customer relationships

Employee engagement and retention


Now while goals are at a higher level and end result, objectives are more about a series of smaller steps, in order to achieve that goal. For instance in the previous example:

Vision board This is a goal These are objectives
I want to have my own house I will build an email list of at least 1000 customers by 2020 I will write at least 2 pieces of content a week with free value-adds for my customers to make their lives better. I will give free samples of my products to prospects who provide their contact information

Want more examples? Download a goal setting worksheet and a full business goal workbook to set the goals right for YOU.

Q2. How good are you at time management?

Quite possibly, you were an employee before you decided to become an entrepreneur. You only gave time to your family that was NOT owned by your employer.

But remember, as they say, starting and growing a business is a lot of hustle. You will always be looking for customers, or delivering to them, building new contacts, maybe even travel extensively, etc. That means a lot of time on your business, and less time for loved ones.

So first of all, are you ok and ready for that? Does your vision board support that?

And secondly, have you thought about how you will prioritise your tasks among all the different things you have to do for your startup?

How much time are you willing to give to your business, vs. to your family/ friends/ other loved ones/ fitness/ hobbies? If you want to only work 9-5, on weekdays, your business results or growth pace may not be as magnificent as it would be if you tried harder, gave more time and energy to it.

Now that you know your vision and SMART goals, how will you manage your time, to have the life you want?

Download a timesheet and calculator to split your time between all your priorities. 

Q3. Are you ready to NOT be your own boss?

Surprised to see this in a blog on entrepreneurship? Wasn’t being able to work with your own whims and desires, not someone else’s, a key factor in you starting on your own anyways?

In an online poll by Hiscox, maximum number of people said the same.

Start own business

I knew an entrepreneur once who told me, ” I left my job to leave my boss and be my own one. Turns out, now I have multiple bosses, each crazier than the other!”

Whether you’re a manufacturer or a service provider, you have to constantly work to understand your customers, appease them, respect their feedback, and be there for them, when they need you for something related to your product.

Your customer is your new ‘boss’ now, he/ she is is the person whose satisfaction and endorsement of you means everything for you to succeed.

Are you ready for that?

Q4. Do you really have a passion and purpose for your specific idea?

‘Purpose’ is the new buzz-word these days, and everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon to tell you to have a ‘purpose’.

And sure, having these factors are important, but seriously, you basically want to make money, right?

So why are the business and self-help gurus around the world stressing the need for it, and suggesting ways that you can actually find yours in life?

There is a reason for that.

You may not know it yet, but entrepreneurship can be a lonely, long journey. And you need to keep going no matter what. No matter the quantity or quality of clients, the extent of revenue, the ups and downs.

So ask yourself if have enough passion for your idea, your mission, your ambition, to keep moving.

When I worked in L’Oreal, I often heard senior management telling us that you need to be able to eat, drink, sleep with, and make love to your brand!! In other words, be so completely obsessed about the brand you manage, that no matter where you go, it is all you can think about.

It is the same for your business. Sometimes to achieve your goals, you have to work at your idea for months or even years. Are you that much in love with it, to sustain that journey?

And purpose?

Well, you could have a passion to make the big bucks and feature on the next Forbes cover as the latest hot-shot millionaire. Why dream small, right?

But is that enough? Studies say that people and businesses which have a bigger purpose in mind, a raison-d-etre, as they say, to actually help others in a way, have better chances at success. Purpose driven people have a higher income and net worth.

Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.

– Margie Warrell

Wondering how to find YOUR purpose?

Download a step-by-step guide to write down your purpose. And a full business goal workbook to set the goals right for YOU.

Q5. Are you self-aware?

Want to grow a million-dollar business but you’re a loner and don’t like dealing with people? Uh-oh. That could be something you need help on then.

You like instant gratification but your business idea could take ages to take shape? Hmm…rethink that, maybe?

See, if you’re in your 30s or 40s, I would take the liberty of assuming you have some idea about your strengths, stuff that’s not exactly your forte, of your values, and your personality.

As I tell myself all the time, am too old to lie to myself 😉

So be aware about yourself, and choose ideas and business goals that suit you best.

Of course no idea is completely out of bounds, but before you head off with goals that are completely contradictory to your personality, at least be honest with yourself about what you can and WANT to manage yourself, and which tasks you will have to pay others to help you with.

Not sure how to match yourself with your business goals?

Download your self-awareness worksheet and a full business goal workbook to set the goals right for YOU.

Now that you feel good and clear in your mind and heart about what you’re aspiring for, roll up your sleeves and get to work!

Eventually, the most crucial thing I have learnt in my entrepreneurial life is that to really achieve something, you can plan and strategize all you want, at some point, you just have to get started.

You might fail a lot, and in fact you should, but if you keep going, you will get what you want. Your dream and your vision. Be #PowerfullyYOU.

What would YOU say are the factors that are important to keep in mind, while setting your goals? Would love to hear your comments!

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Ryan Biddulph
1 year ago

All good questions Poulomi. Asking pointed questions does give you a clear focus on the proper small business objectives. Getting clear in mind makes the small biz journey easier. Being unclear leads to all types of struggles.

Ryan Biddulph
1 year ago
Reply to  Poulomi Basu

Getting clear on differing objectives is key because many entrepreneurs blindly follow other folk’s goals, objectives and intents. Bad idea because when you begin chasing what does not matter to you, endless struggles follow. Asking a few simple questions and waiting for honest answers does wonders for our small business.

10 months ago

Thanks for this. I’m going to try it one question at a time!

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