What better time of year to jot down some business than right now. Want a head start? A few tips? Here's everything you need to know.
Now, I’m not talking about the resolutions we all make, like eat more kale, run a marathon, and stop binge-watching Netflix. Let’s be honest, those resolutions barely make it past January.
I’m talking about business goals that connect where you are today with where you want to be this time next year. I’m talking about the business goals that fill an important gap between what you’re doing today and what you know you ought to do.
Below are some common things small business owners put off until tomorrow, next month, or just *later*. Use these articles to arm yourself with the knowledge and resources you need to make sure business goals actually come to fruition, whether it’s tomorrow or next month. As long as tomorrow doesn’t turn into next year, or worse…never.
Table of Contents
1. If You’re Still Using Word & Excel for Billing
Make this the year you upgrade to a better way of billing. How can you move your business forward if your tech stack can’t keep up? Worse, how can you do things like grow and measure success if you spend all your time billing?
If you’re setting business expectations finding easy efficiencies like faster more automated billing processes are a no-brainer. The advantages are easy to grasp:
- You’ll get paid faster
- Your paperwork will be slick and accurate
- Your clients will appreciate the ease and convenience of paying you
- You’ll spend less time on the process
Not convinced? Read: Still Invoicing and Accounting with Word and Excel? 5 Reasons to Stop
2. If You’re Always Wondering Where the Time Goes
First, know you’re not alone. I hardly know where last year went. Personally, looking back I did accomplish a lot, most of which (fingers crossed) ladders up to completing business goals. Goal setting helps me stay organized and manage my time more effectively.
When setting business goals, businesses might focus on setting short-term goals or long-term goals, but it’s really dependent on your business and how much time you can allocate to different tasks. That’s why time management is so important, how can you set goals that you don’t have time to achieve?
Figure out your “latte factor” when it comes to time management; those pesky little tasks that eat up small, cumulative chunks of time.
Intrigued? Read: What’s Your “Latte Factor” When It Comes to Time Management?
3. If You Need to Get a Grip on Your Costs
Is every invoice payment accounted for before it even hits your bank account? If not, my friend you’ve got a cash flow problem. It’s no secret that small businesses struggle with things like writing a business plan and having enough capital, but beyond those initial bumps in the road, cash flow is always a challenge.
How many dollars are coming into your company and how many dollars are going out might seems like an easy thing to keep track of and keep in the green, but it’s really not. Here are some of the main reasons for cash flow problems:
- Poor financial planning
- Declining sales or profit margins
- Consistent late payments
- Poor inventory management
- Inflexible funding facilities
- Seasonal variation
Sound familiar? Don’t worry, let’s take a step back and focus on something a little more digestible.
Take a moment and try out some nifty expense tracking tools, and you’ll get those expenses in check and (dare to dream) become profitable. Hashtag business goals and objectives.
Committed to controlling your costs? Read this free eBook: Your Guide to Mastering Cash Flow in Your Small Business
4. If You Never Want to Have Another Awkward Conversation
Ever sat on a reply to a client for a long time and then hit that “send” button with trepidation? Or sent an email draft to your BFF wondering if it’s the right mix of firm and clear, but still friendly? Good news: You’re not alone. And we’ve got the guide for you!
But wait, how is this a business goal? Those awkward conversations will always arise, but the business goal (personal goals too) is to know how to handle them and address them in the best way possible.
Want to learn more? Download Awkward Conversations: Guide for Small Business Owners [Free eBook]
5. If You Want Projects to Run Smoothly
When you hear the words “project management” what comes to mind? Oftentimes, they’re associated with assembling work-back schedules, assigning resources, and effectively managing scope creep.
But stellar project management is so much more than that. The projects you take on—big or small—require careful planning and amazing collaboration in order to achieve that “wow” factor. In terms of business goals, this is one that has a trickle-down effect that can’t positively impact many other parts of your business. And we’ve got just the guide for you.
Want to learn more? Download Master Project Management: Closing Deals and Delivering Amazing Projects [Free eBook]
6. If This Is the Year You’ll Grow Your Team
You’ve been a one-person operation for a while now, but you’re finally there: You need to expand and start to hire people to support your business as it grows. It’s such an exciting leap for any small business owner to make.
But hiring and leading also create their own challenges. So, take a deep breath and make sure you add the right person to the mix. With growing your team and business as business goals, doing them the right way is so important to your *growing* success. See what I did there? 😉
Anyway, need help with hiring? Download Ready, Aim, Hire—How to Build a Winning Team for Your Growing Business [Free eBook] or read How to Build a Team That Helps Your Business Thrive
7. If You Want Better Relationships with Your Clients
Look back on your year, and the business goals you set for client relationships. Did things like scope-creeping clients impact those business goals or make them much harder to achieve? Did you find yourself wishing you had said “no” to a particular project because there were business goals you knew you wanted to focus on?
Here’s the thing: You’re master and commander of your own ship, so take control of those client relationships and make this the year when you do work you love for clients who inspire and challenge you!
It’s not easy and we’ve all been there when business goals are in conflict with each other.
- Business goal: You want to grow, so you take on all new clients and projects
- Business goal: You want a roster of non-toxic clients you love to work for
So what do you do hotshot, what do you do?
Wondering how to find better clients? Read: Stop Clients from Expecting Free Work — Without Burning Bridges and 3 Ways to Find and Land ‘Anchor’ Clients.
8. If Your Want to Be Sooo Ready for Tax Time This Year
Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before because it bears repeating. Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your business for years, being ready for tax season can save you a lot of headaches, time, and money.
A growing business (and even a freelancer) can have complex books that can make it hard to keep track of everything in time for tax season. One of your short-term business goals should be to get your books in order and be ready for tax time. Here’s a good starting point:
Determine Which Government Forms You Need
Different business structures like S corps or sole proprietorships require different government forms. And that’s on top of basic information like last year’s tax returns and your employer identification number.
Get a Handle on Financial Statements
If you haven’t already, pull all last year’s financial statements, like your Profit and Loss and Trial Balance. You’ll want them handy whether you manage your finances on your own or work with an accountant.
Support Your Business and Your Team
If you employ a team of contractors or employees, you’ll need records of all those payments and taxes. And don’t forget to issue those 1099s or W-2s to your team so they can file their own taxes on time.
So, while these should be short-term business goals, the actions you take and the processes you set will make tax time easier year over year over year.
Want a head start on this tax season? Download these free tax checklists: U.S. Tax Checklist for Full-Time Business Owners and U.S. Tax Checklist for Part-Time Freelancers and Solopreneurs
9. If You Want to Tackle the Biggest Challenge of All… You
As a small business owner setting business goals and implementing business goals it’s easy to overlook one of the biggest challenges every business owner faces, themselves. Setting smart goals for your business is one thing, but addressing your personal goals outside of the day-to-day operations of office management and running a business is just as important.
Running a business is an emotional journey and acknowledging the emotional challenges of business ownership will make you a better human, which in turn will help you achieve the rest of your business goals and objectives.
You don’t have to be alone to feel alone while running your business. Taking on the challenges of a business owner and “figuring stuff out” can make you feel lonely and isolated when you don’t have someone to turn to for help. Even seasoned business managers feel alone and struggle with isolation. The good news? Loneliness is something you can mitigate against.
Maintaining Your Sense of Self
Starting a business will consume you. Your business and all the tasks associated with starting it and keeping it going will wrap themselves around you, commanding all your thoughts, feelings, and energy. Developing business goals is one of the best ways to stay organized, focused, and separate your business from yourself.
Learning to Lead
Thriving as a business owner requires you to decouple your occupational skills from your leadership skills. Leadership development goals encourage us to take stock of ourselves as leaders in order to understand our gaps and strengths in order to improve.
Ready to tackle the biggest challenge of all? Read our eBook The Courage to Continue
Let’s face it, we all have some pesky to-dos, which may or may not be or ladder up to business goals. If they support business goals then do them, get them over with, and take time to focus on the difficult tasks.
Vague and ambiguous goals aren’t going to help you. If you need to first develop business goals (realistic goals), then do it, get them fleshed out, and make a business plan that tells you exactly what you need to do. The moral of the story is to focus your work on goals that can impact your small business’s success.
So this year rip that bandaid off. Take a moment to get crisp on your business goals. And then go accomplish them!
Let us know in the comments below what business goals you’ve achieved this year, how you did it, and what you’ve got left on your roadmap for the year.
This post was updated in September 2021.
Written by Jane Flanagan, Senior Director, Content & Creative Services, FreshBooks
Posted on December 17, 2018