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How SMART are Your Goals?

If you’re like most small business owners and non-profit leaders, you’re busy…VERY busy.

Every day, you have too much to do and too little time to do it. But, you recognize the need to continually improve your bottom line.

You’re eager to attract new customers or donors and launch new programs and services, but have limited time and money to invest.

So, how do you make more progress towards achieving the growth or making the changes you seek?

FIRST…whether written in a formal strategic plan or on the back of an envelope, you must know what you want to achieve.

Makes sense, right? Tough to know how to get somewhere if you don’t know where you want to go.

So, figure out what you want your organization to look like at the end of the year.

Think about how much revenue you want to take in, how many programs or services you want to offer, what kind of customers or donors you want to work with, etc..

NEXT…think about what needs to be done to accomplish what you want by year-end. After deciding what needs to be done, you can create SMARTER goals that, when met, ensure you meet your expectations.

SMARTER goals focus on achieving tangible incremental improvements that move you and your organization forward.

But what is a SMARTER goal? And how do you create one?

That’s what we’ll tackle here using a simple mnemonic – S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

S = SPECIFIC When establishing a goal, be as clear and concise as possible.

Don’t make a goal overwhelmingly large or complex. Don’t worry about complete sentences or grammar. If the desired output of the goal is clear, a simple bullet will suffice.

Focus on WHO will work on or “touch” the activity and WHAT the output or final deliverable is. Be as SPECIFIC as possible.

M = MEASURABLE Every goal must include criteria or a metric by which you can determine if the goal is completed.

Typically, goal metrics include a number, percentage, or dollar amount. Incorporate how many, how much, or how frequently.

A = ACHIEVABLE You must determine if it’s possible to meet each goal. For each goal, ask yourself…

  • Are the means to achieve your goal within your control?

  • Are there external factors that could put this goal at risk?

R = REALISTIC It’s critical that each goal is realistic. Sometimes, a goal is achievable, but totally unrealistic.

For example, doubling your annual sales may be achievable, but is totally unrealistic unless you also double your sales team, invest tons more money in marketing, etc..

Review each goal independently and determine if it is both achievable AND realistic.


Determine when the goal will be worked on; establish a completion date.

Knowing the timeline for each goal is key. You can then review ALL the goals to ensure you schedule them appropriately. For each goal’s timeline, consider:

  • Resource availability (bodies, money, etc); and

  • Its priority in the organization.


It may seem obvious, but ensuring every goal you have is both legal and moral is critical. Consider how much stronger our current economy would be if everyone in the financial industry had honestly appraised the ethics of their profit goals a couple of years ago.


It’s very important to make sure each goal will actually add tangible value to your organization.

Goals shouldn’t just generate activity. They must support your larger vision for the organization and what you want it to become.

Be sure that each goal will increase or improve something. Otherwise, it’s not really worth pursuing.

Goals without tangible benefits don’t deserve your time, energy, or money.

In short, SMARTER goals are:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Realistic

  • Time-based

  • Ethical

  • Rewarding

With SMARTER goals, you move your organization forward much more efficiently, with greater focus and improved results.

If you have any questions or would like some feedback regarding making one or more of your goals SMARTER, comment below!



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