Expert Advice

A Winning Process for Small Business Goal Setting

A simple three-step process for setting small business goals to ensure you maximize your time, impact, and growth.

December 14, 2021 · 3 min read

Being a small business owner often requires living in the present and working on one challenge at a time. However, it’s worth setting aside a few precious hours to plan for long-term goals. Doing so ensures your valuable time is working towards a bigger picture. To that end, Hello Alice’s VP of Product, Kelsey Ruger, hosted a live virtual workshop on goal setting for the new year with help from small business owners. Here is the process he shares for small business goal setting.

1. Clarify Your Strategy

Before setting any goals, make sure you understand the market and the strategy your small business uses to transfer value to customers.

Typically, Kelsey explains, companies fall into one of three different strategies:

  • Cost
  • Differentiation
  • Niche

Besides doing your own self-reflection on this point, consider surveying customers. Do customers see the same value that you do?

“What I’m doing is going back to my customers that have purchased from me several times and getting on Zoom and asking them questions about what they would like to see from me,” says small business owner Sandra Lucia Diaz. Her Etsy store Fearless Yaya celebrates the Latinx community with artwork, greeting cards, and more. 

2. Narrow Your Focus

After identifying your key value proposition, you can start to target specific areas to zero in on. 

“You’d be surprised how many people start doing things without really fully understanding what they’re working toward,” Kelsey shares. “And that’s a big problem if you’re running a business because you could spend a lot of time, energy, and money working on something just to find out that it’s not the right thing to do.” 

Ask yourself the following questions to further define areas of opportunity:

  • Do you know what you are working toward? 
  • Do you know the biggest problem/opportunity?
  • Are you able to articulate the problem/opportunity?
  • Have you assessed if your ideas are viable?
  • Have you decided which ideas to test?

3. Collect and Curate Ideas

Once you’ve narrowed your focus to different areas of the business to focus on, start to brainstorm specific ideas to support these areas. Be sure to include your team to maximize brain power in the room! 

For this stage, Kelsey recommends working with either physical or digital post-it notes. 

“Post-it notes are the best tool out there for the mindframe of putting things up but knowing we may not stick with them,” he explains. “We want to be able to move them around.” At Hello Alice, we use Miro for the digital experience.) 

For this step, try bucketing your observations and ideas into three different categories:

  • What’s working
  • What’s not working 
  • What could we start doing? 

Set a timer for each category and get as many ideas out as possible.

Then, you might try to re-organize ideas by business function. For example, you can group stickies into the following areas:

  • Product Development
  • Operations
  • Marketing
  • Hiring
  • Sales

From there you can prioritize which specific ideas will have the maximum impact for different teams and start executing! 

How Often to Set Goals

How often should small business owners set goals? Quarterly? Annually? Every five years?

“A lot of it is going to be dependent on what business you’re in, what that marketplace looks like, and what you’re trying to accomplish,” says Kelsey. We recommend at least annually, if not more regularly. You may also want to reset goals after major disruptions to the business.

More Resources

Watch the full workshop video here:

Interested in more tips on this topic? Be sure to join Hello Alice to access the following free guides to set your small business up for the year ahead:

Create a Vision Statement

Identify Key Priorities

Build an Annual Roadmap

And subscribe to our weekly newsletter to be first to know about future events and workshops for small business owners.