Setting goals for a small business gives you a road map of where you are going, but a goal that lacks specifics is only slightly better than no goal at all. For maximum impact, businesses and other planners should flesh out their plans with specifics. Setting SMART goals covers several aspects of a proposed course of action, paving the way for proper implementation and accountability.


SMART represents five aspects that should be considered when setting a business goal. It asks whether the goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Some users substitute relevant for realistic or actionable for attainable. The method calls for you to break your goal down to more manageable chunks and give yourself the opportunity to track progress towards those aims.


Goals often fail because they're too general. If you set a goal to increase sales, this means nothing by itself. How do you intend to do this? What do you wish to achieve? Why are you setting this goal? Ask yourself what fulfilling your goal looks like and write that down. Asking these questions helps define your goal and gets it out of the ether of generality.


While setting a specific goal is good, making it measurable helps put it in motion. A measurable goal includes milestones to keep you on track. "Have great customer service" sounds like a great goal, but without a way to measure what that means you can't judge whether your store is succeeding or not. In the example of increasing sales, ask yourself how much improvement you expect to see, based on your store's sales history or industry standards.


A key question in setting any goal is whether it's doable. Doubling your sales may be too much at one time, but a 30 percent increase may be more realistic. A quick way to short-circuit your action plan is to set an unachievable goal. You staff will feel defeated by the impossible task and stop trying to meet it.


Another key question in goal setting is whether it's worth doing. If your goal fits in with your mission statement or long-range plans, then your plan carries more relevance. Even if your plan meets the other SMART objectives, it gets you nowhere if it leads you down a rabbit trail. For example, if you're a sporting goods store, trying to increase candy sales isn't relevant to your core business.


If you plan to increase your sales by 30 percent, put a time frame on it. Will three months work? Deadlines will help keep you on task as you pursue your goal, and if it's a multi-step project a series of deadlines gives you some milestones. As you set your time to meet your goal, keep achievability in mind,