When Should You Revisit Your Business Goals?
As the calendar turns to a new day, week, month, or year, do you ever get the feeling that you should start something new? While the need for something new might be the strongest for many of us at the beginning of the New Year, perhaps we should revisit our business goals more frequently than that. For annual goal setters who are fortunate, business transactions flow along, progress takes place, and business continues to grow. At the other extreme, daily goal setters may change their goals multiple times per day, based on who spoke with them most recently, or maybe their largest problem of the day. Is this you? I hope not. We all have to confront short-term problems eventually, but for some people this ‘priority of the day’ mentality seems to be part of their personality. For example, a creative person may inherently avoid planning or committing to a schedule because they feel it constrains freedom and creative expression. They rely on the latest emergencies to provide focus for what to do next. This is a tough way for most of us to run a small business. So how often should we revisit our business goals and establish new priorities? Rather than suggesting an optimal time interval (such as weekly, monthly, quarterly or semi-annually), let’s explore some common business disruptions that should naturally prompt us to reconsider our goals. Gaining or losing a large customer – Customers are like kids: they all eventually grow up and move away. When we lose a major customer, our business focus will logically shift to sales and marketing to replace the lost business. On the other hand, acquiring a new large customer can be just as disruptive to your business, and they often require additional attention to serve well. Key employee turnover – Losing a key employee demands our attention, for large and small businesses alike. For example, if you have ten employees and lose one employee, then 10% of your workforce is lost! When you have fewer than ten employees and lose one, the results can be even more dramatic, particularly for the remaining employees. Recruiting, hiring, and training a new employee to restore your business to normal becomes a high-priority business goal. Note, however, that an opportunity might exist to restructure, reassign, or outsource responsibilities when employees transition. A major product sales decline – Almost all products and services have a product life cycle, which means they inevitably decline. When they do, more focus is needed for extending the life cycle, managing the decline, developing new products organically, or acquiring new offerings. Industry competitor or regulation change – Having a new competitor enter your market should shake you up. Having an existing competitor make a new offering similar to yours demands attention. You should compare value propositions, since your customers will be asked to. On a similar scale, when a government agency decides to add regulations in your industry, it’s time to comply—which also affects your attention. A major operating breakdown occurs – If you make a product, perhaps the production process stops or slows. If you provide a service, the quality of delivery might not meet quality standards. Either way, both situations require more attention when they occur. Business funding disruption – One example is that sometimes our customers don’t pay us on time, which decreases our cash flow and demands that more attention be paid to managing accounts receivable. Another example might be a new customer delaying a purchase from us, which interferes with expected cash flow. Additionally, our bank might lower our line of credit when we need more funding. Any of these funding problems rightfully demand more attention than normal, which takes attention away from our business goals. It’s OK to shift your attention. You just need to be mindful before changing your business goals. Take the time to change focus and solve the problems that accompany major changes in customer base, employees, competitor offerings, industry changes, operating problems, or business funding disruption. These are all strategically important for your business. The point is, once the problem becomes less of a priority, you should revisit your business goals. Your goals might stay the same, or they might need an adjustment to accommodate a major change in your business. How often should we revisit our business goals? While the timing is not as important as knowing when it’s OK to change our priorities, we should check ourselves at a minimum of once a year. Some of the most successful businesses revisit business goals semi-annually or quarterly. I see monthly adjustments to goals when the business is new, going through a turnaround, or experiencing a major disruption like the aforementioned events. Avoid abandoning your goals just because you are experiencing business problems, because they happen. We might need to add new goals or even replace them. In all likelihood, most of us need to simply refine our goals after we manage a major business disruption. May you achieve all or your goals after a business interruption by restoring your focus and clarifying your direction.