10 Tips for Strategic, Long-term Goal Planning
Small and large companies will have different long-term goals (which we’ll illustrate in a moment). However, both can benefit from these tips when setting long term business goals:
1. Learn the main goal-setting frameworks.
One of the most dramatic goal-setting strategies is known as the BHAG method. “big, hairy, audacious goals” are great for motivational speeches and vision-casting brainstorm sessions. But they can easily get out of line with your company’s values. By nature, BHAGs tend to be so far removed from your employee’s day-to-day duties that individual teammates can become disenchanted each time they’re reminded of it.
Another approach is abbreviated OKR, which stands for “objectives and key results.” These are a bit more strategic than the buzzy BHAGs of visionaries. OKRs are also more organized. A company (sometimes a department) usually selects between three and five long-term goals and arranges the same number of measurable performance outcomes, or results, under them. When those results are achieved, usually the goal is accomplished as a happy by-product.
Next up are S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-constrained” goals. They’re popular because they can be applied to units as small as individual people and their families, all the way to commercial businesses and governments. The mental exercise of vetting every goal through these filters makes this framework a favorite for business leaders everywhere.
The final conventional goal-setting framework is known as MBO. This acronym stands for “management by objective.” It involves employee participation and accountability, making the achievement of the goal a collective experience.
Knowing the types of goal-setting philosophies can help you choose the best one for your industry and team, so get to know the options before moving forward.
2. Involve employees.
You don’t need to choose the MBO framework to involve your teammates’ individual voices in plotting your course. In fact, Dr. Jac Fitz-enz and SuccessFactors Research conducted a study titled How Smart HCM Drives Financial Performance and found that 44% of high-performing companies aligned their business goals with the goals at the managerial level. Of the weaker-performing businesses, none did.
3. Remember: short-term goals are not the enemy of long-term goals.
Short-term goals should feed into your distant-future goals. They’re there to support the business’s values and long-term plan. Anything that doesn’t should be dismissed as a business-breaking distraction.
4. Run all potential goals through your mission statement and values.
The word “Integrity” was displayed predominantly, ornately in the lobby of the Enron office — right up to the day the company was exposed as a scandalous villain. Did they lack goals? Not at all. They simply allowed their goals to negate their most important commitments.
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5. Hire a consultant.
An outsider can ask questions about your business that you wouldn’t have considered. Those pressure tests may reveal both opportunities and risks you wouldn’t have even known were there.
6. Use multiple financial-modeling methods to assess every idea with data (and eliminate the underperformers).
Contact Ignite Spot to learn what kind of forecasting a virtual CFO can perform for your company. Based on the analysis and modeling of an outsourced expert, you’ll have multiple trajectories to choose from.
With every potential long-term goal comes the real cost of not achieving another goal. Get the hard data on all of your options before choosing and committing your whole business toward accomplishing the wrong one.
8. Include concrete time lines and define/designate roles.
Each team member needs to take some sort of ownership for your business’s long-term goals. Now that you’ve established what they are, assign tasks to move the business toward those objectives.
Think of short-term wins as dots on a connect-the-dots journey. Eventually, they complete an entire picture — the overarching goal. Celebrating them helps every team member stay committed to your long-term business goals.
10. Plan for pivots, not distractions.
Avoid the pitfall of changing long-term goals flippantly because you’re “agile.” Nimble companies change tactics to respond to cultural and market-specific shifts. By contrast, flighty and indecisive leaders allow long-term goals to be abandoned altogether in favor of distracting short-term wins.
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Examples of long-term goals for early-stage startups versus established companies
Small businesses share many goals with their enterprise counterparts. Yours will include data points (percentage points, dates for completion, amounts, etc.) specific to your company and objective, but these ideas will get you started.
Some typical long-term goals for a smaller business:
• Secure funding.
• Acquire a competitor.
• Become profitable.
• Increase market share.
• Manage growth, profitability, and cash flow simultaneously.
• Achieve 360-degree compliance.
• Achieve double the industry-standard CSAT.
As a company grows, some commercial- and enterprise-level specific visions like these may emerge:
• Reinvest liquidity wisely.
• Diversify streams of income.
• Experimental R&D.
• Integrated reporting.
• Implement TQM (total quality management).
Clarity before, during, and after long-term goal setting
Today’s economic stressors may have you feeling like you’re in survival mode. Remember: the businesses that will emerge successfully from these crises are those that establish and stay grounded in their long-term goals.
The first step of forging and achieving your long-term goals is financial clarity. Ignite Spot’s expert accountants give you eye-opening reports and dynamic projections to envision — and then achieve — your business goals. Download our pricing guide today to find the right accountant for your business.