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To Automate or Not to Automate? That is the Question!

To Automate or Not to Automate? That is the Question!

The idea of automating just about any task is an attractive one. You can save time, sometimes hours a day, for you and multiple members of your team.

But then, in the face of changing a routine, finding an automation tool and setting up a new system, you have to ask: is it worth it?

Knowing whether a task is worth automating first requires taking a look at the total time, energy and trouble going into completing it the way it’s done today. From there, you can explore what tools are available to address concerns.

I’m going to break down these three major factors so you can apply them to whatever tasks you’re thinking about automating. Any one of these alone can make it clear that it’s time to automate a process. If you aren’t compelled by one factor, look at the sum of all three. And if you still aren’t sure, apply the questions I’ve listed at the bottom of this article to fully assess your path forward.

Factor One: Total Time

This factor is easy to assess since is quantifiable. For any task you do on a regular basis, there’s usually an opportunity to automate all or part of it, especially since these tasks are almost always repetitive.

For anyone who owns a business, the more tasks you have that require daily or weekly attention, the harder it is to take that vacation you deserve or step back from the daily grind.

My two cents is that any task you’re doing daily can probably be automated to cut the time it takes in half, or eliminate the need for a daily recurrence all together. I’d say the same for many weekly tasks, too.

Here’s a table you can use when assessing how much time you’re really spending on a regular task. Look at the time you could save after migrating that task to an automated solution. Not every task will have an obvious automation solution, and many will depend on other factors like what software is easily available. At the very least this can start to put daily and weekly tasks into perspective of the total time invested.

Table to see how much time you really spend on a repetitive or regular task

Start by jotting down how much time you spend doing regular and repetitive tasks. Especially those that are stressful when you’re out of the office. Better yet, keep a time log for all of your regular tasks to identify room for automation. You might not even realize how many times you’ve performed a single task until you look back over the course of the month.

Expert tip: This concept is so important that it’s discussed in greater depth in the first module of our new online course, DuplicateU: Lay The Foundation. To get additional guidance on this step and what it can mean to you and your business, learn more about DuplicateU here.

Factor Two: Energy

This is where we get into the more open-ended assessments. The energy you spend doing a regular or repetitive task should be a major consideration when looking at automations—after all, you have a lot of responsibilities requiring energy throughout the day. And energy is a finite resource that must be managed with intentionality. If any recurring task is taking energy away from important business functions like strategy and planning, marketing and sales, or financial oversight, it might be worth looking at another solution.

A task can take little time and still be exhaustive mentally/emotionally. Take financial management tasks, for example. One question I answered recently is whether it’s time to upgrade from a bookkeeper to a CFO. If it’s not time to take that step yet, and you’re trying to do away with a few regular data entry tasks, a simple spreadsheet automation might save you energy spent entering sensitive information and validating data fields.

If you’re not sure how much energy a task really requires, ask yourself how you feel after the task is done. Are you able to jump right into something else, or do you need time to “recover” before tackling the next thing? If your answer is the former, it’s likely that task gives you energy. If your answer is the latter, it’s likely that task depletes your energy, and reducing the amount of mental/emotional energy it takes should be a priority.

Factor Three: Trouble (Frustration)

Frustrating tasks and how business owners can automate themThe frustration factor comes down to a little self-awareness. Do you complete certain tasks grudgingly? Are there recurring responsibilities that you put off and put off and put off until absolutely the last minute? Do you have to push yourself to get them done with several pep talks? If a regular task is causing you grief or if it feels like you’re “going to the trouble” to get it done every time, that’s a big flag to consider properly delegating or looking to an automation.

If you feel resentful toward a task, or even hateful of sitting down to do it, it’s probably time to get that task off your plate.

Expert tip: Remember that toxic tasks can weigh down your employees, too. While delegating can serve as a short-term solution, an automation is often the better way to go for repetitive tasks with a high frustration curve.

A final pointer regarding these three factors:

While any one of these factors can illustrate what tasks can be automated, sometimes it’s the sum of all three that point you in the right direction. Imagine an equation: Total Time plus Energy plus Trouble. Label each factor as “high,” “medium” or “low,” and you will feel that much more empowered to invest a little time upfront to move to an automation that will save you time and boost morale in the end.

Questions to Ask if You’re Still not Sure

Automating tasks sounds great. But doing so often require time you feel you don’t have just to get a new system up and running!

If you’re thinking about a specific task and still aren’t sure, or need a few more reasons to justify the time or budget invested in making the switch, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. If you delegated this task instead of automating it, would it be a headache for the person taking it on?
  2. Is the task prone to human error? (Great examples would be bookkeeping and setting appointments.)
  3. Could automating the task improve the quality of work?
  4. Do you know others who have implemented this kind of solution before?

(Expert tip: Making time for a single conversation with a peer or consultant can save you hours of googling, deciphering software features and price-comparing.)

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, that’s a strong indicator that automation could save you time, money and strife.

Looking Toward the Future

Instead of living with frustration or feeling the burnout bubble up, make a move now to automate recurring tasks in a way that is intentional and well planned. These moves will pay off not only in time and energy savings, but also in opening up opportunities to scale your operations. The sooner you have automations in place, the more seamless your ramp to growing your business will be.

Automations often require new software and subscriptions, so weigh these expenses with the benefits these solutions bring and move decisively. If there’s one epiphany that business owners come to time and time again, it’s that we can’t do it all.

Start a time log today to look for tasks begging for automation, or drop a comment here if you already have one on your mind. I’ll reply directly with tips and will be available to point you in the direction of solutions that can help you survive today and scale tomorrow, like the new self-paced online course DuplicateU that will start by working through this exercise. Learn about new automations today to set your business up for a self-sustaining future with lower stress and bigger returns.

You Know An Employee Is Ready To Take Responsibilities Off Your Plate When…

You Know An Employee Is Ready To Take Responsibilities Off Your Plate When…

As a business owner, one of the most important things you do is delegate. After hiring the right people and setting standards for each role, you’ll be faced with new opportunities on a daily basis to delegate tasks and projects, and help employees move to new heights in performance and skill.

It’s satisfying to see an employee grow. So how do you know when someone is ready to take on more responsibility?

One of the first signs that an employee is fully invested in your company (and ready to take more responsibility) is when his or her vocabulary shifts from “mine” and “yours” to “ours.” It’s not just about the employee’s success, and it’s not just about the success of the company. It’s about “our” success together.

This sounds great, especially with that goal in the back of your mind to get to a place where you can let go of the day-to-day and watch your business run itself. You want your hard work to pay off in a self-sustaining way. The specifics of “when” and “how” come down to human resources and recognizing when an employee’s growing skillset can mean bigger opportunity for your business.

Here, I’m going to break down how to identify when an employee is ready to take on more responsibility and carry your business forward.

When an Employee is Ready and Knows it

An employee who is ready for more responsibility and shows it

There are employees who are hungry for more responsibility and make it known to you and your team.

Naturally, any employee you’re considering handing new responsibilities off to will have excelled in meeting his or her current accountabilities. Take a look at any energetic or ambitious employee against the key performance indicators (KPIs) you have in place to ensure that existing tasks are being completed consistently and correctly.

Then look at the telltale signs below that signal an employee is ready to take on even more:

  • Ingenuity: If an employee actively looks for solutions to problems, this demonstrates a drive to exceed expectations, play to the success of the business and ultimately take on more responsibility.
  • Prioritization: Taking on new tasks requires excellent time management practices. In the face of new responsibilities, an employee has to know how to stay on top of current duties and work new ones in while keeping priorities clearly outlined.
  • Managing deadlines: Hand-in-hand with prioritization is the employee’s ability to watch deadlines and take charge of follow-up. Meeting deadlines, and proactivity communicating when a deadline may not be met, are key practices that become more essential when the employee’s plate is even fuller.

When an Employee is Ready and Doesn’t Know it—Yet

An employee who is ready for more responsibility but doesn't know it yet

Maybe you have an employee who’s showing signs that he or she is ready for more responsibility, but lacks the spark to ask for additional tasks proactively. In this case, get curious and speak with the employee about what’s going on. It’s possible he or she has a concern about biting off more and being successful, or simply isn’t aware that there are additional ways he or she could bring value to the organization.

It’s your job to see the possibilities for this employee’s skillsets and strengths and match them with organizational needs.

These are some of the signs that an employee is ready for more responsibility, whether or not he or she knows it:

  • Excelling in existing responsibilities: This is the basic metric when thinking about handing off more assignments or tasks. If your employee is excelling in tasks on his or her plate now, it may be time to start building that employee up to bigger things.
  • Strong performance reviews: If your recent reviews of the employee outline strong adherence to KPIs, that’s one sign that he or she is ready for more. And if your reviews include any type of self-assessment where the employee has shown confidence in work done, that’s an even bigger push to start giving that employee more to do.
  • Acting as the go-to: If other teammates are reaching out to this employee for help with technical or theoretical questions, and he or she has the answers, this may signal that the employee is ready to take on more.

    Expert tip: If other employees are going to one person with questions, this also signals an opportunity in your training program. Make sure team members are cross-trained and have access to the information they need to do their job well.

Align Appropriate Rewards

When an employee takes on more responsibility, consider what type of recognition is most appropriate. If the employee is up for a promotion or raise, celebrate the hard work that went into it. And if you hadn’t thought about a promotion or a raise yet, ask yourself what that employee would need to demonstrate in order for a promotion or raise to be appropriate, and share the criteria with him or her to build up that employee’s momentum.

That said, a raise isn’t the only way to show an employee your appreciation. You can also recognize your employee (and encourage the same behaviors from the rest of your team) using one of several reward approaches. Handing more responsibility to an ambitious and resourceful employee will be good for you, good for the employee and good for your team if done right.

Once you do identify an employee who is ready for more responsibility, the art of delegating is another practice you’ll want to master. And coupled with the recognition and rewards that will keep employees motivated in their new tasks, you and your team will be on the path to bigger things.

Do you have a specific case to ask about? Or an employee who’s shown some of these signs, but not others? Leave me a comment below with your question, or reach out here.

5 Steps To Train Staff To Work To Your Standards

5 Steps To Train Staff To Work To Your Standards

When applying for a new job or considering a job offer, “opportunity for growth” is the second most important thing people look for—right after salary.

When looking at the millennial audience, in particular, a whopping 46% of survey respondents said they left their last job for growth potential.

The point here is that your employees actually want to work to your standards. They want to learn and grow. They want to be engaged, and they want to get more involved over time.

You would think that this hunger to grow means that each new hire will, thus, always be ready to work and work hard—and even up to your own standards.

And yet, there’s a disconnect somewhere along the way. New hires choose to work with you, having measured what room there is to grow. So, why aren’t they growing? How can you motivate staff to work consistently to your standards? Where’s that hunger gone?

The short answer is: training. You have to train your staff correctly in order to work to your standards, or that expectation will never be met.

The long answer brings us to these 5 essential steps.

1. Know Your Standards

A funny thing happens when we communicate. Whether it’s a conversation, an email, or a job description, we have a very clear idea in our heads of what it is we want to transmit.

But then the receiving side doesn’t always picture what we had in mind.

If you want your staff to work to your standards, you must explicitly outline those standards. Start with a little soul searching to find the words, and take notes: what standards do you hold yourself to? What inspires you to meet those standards?

This exercise is a necessary starting point. Anything we feel or expect in life that’s even a little abstract only takes form when we put words to it. It’s how we catalogue our world. So, take a few minutes, close the door to your office and write out what standards you have. Get specific, and include the “why” and other motivators behind each one.

2. Communicate Your Standards

Now, you’ve done the soul searching. You’ve spelled out your standards, where they come from, and what they mean to you.

Next, ensure you have the right language and channels in place to communicate those standards.

When it comes to training staff, you need to have role-by-role key performance indicators (KPIs) in place, communicated openly to each employee. Your KPIs, when clearly identified for each staff member, can help you quantify and qualify those standards you want to train staff to work to.

To measure staff properly on your key standards using KPIs, harken back to the goals and motivations behind those standards. KPIs have to be as objectively measurable as possible, or you risk opening the floodgates of inconsistency that can undo your “standards metrics” altogether.

For example, let’s say it’s your standard to “go the extra mile” for clients. What does that mean? How do you measure it? That could mean a KPI of client retention, or of clients contacted just to “check in” during a given week.

3. Streamline Training

What a buzzword—streamline. What does that mean, “streamline training?”

Streamlining anything means locking in a system to make it happen. This includes an outline of what the process needs to achieve, the steps to get there, and the accountabilities to make those steps easy to follow for all players involved.

In training your staff to work to your standards, your system starts with those same KPIs we just talked about. What training does an employee need to meet all those metrics?

Now, list that training out.

Next, ask yourself, how much time will that training take? Just like you need to schedule in when you check email during the day (and how much time you plan to reply to messages), you need to put real numbers on how much training can be done with your staff and in what frame of time.

Last, and equally important, you have to gather the resources you’ll need for each part of training. For example, if you’re training a client service rep, do you have all needed training documents and tools in one place? Lead sheets? Call scripts? CRM training docs?

This is where most companies’ training stops. If you really want your staff to work to your standards, let’s see what comes next.

4. Offer More Training And Ask For Feedback

One of the standards I’m willing to bet you hold dear is the hunger to continually learn and grow.If you want to support this standard for your staff, the key is offering them opportunities to learn with purpose.

Ongoing training serves two purposes:

  1. It builds staff knowledge and skills
  2. And it keeps staff engaged

Once an employee is trained in and technically knows how to do their job, if you’re at a loss for what other training to offer, there are a couple directions you can go.

First, you can consider adding new responsibilities to offer more training.

Second, you can check in with staff for feedback on what they want to learn. This gives employees a stake in the training they’re about to receive, and emboldens them to view the world through the lens of “what else can I do?”

Share this nugget with your staff, too: asking for advice or training actually makes you look smarter, according to a recent study from the Harvard Business Review. Encourage the company culture where team members know they can come to you (or go to the right person) and ask for more training in order to live up to the standards you’ve set—and even surpass them.

5. Reinforce With Company Culture

This brings us to the hardest part: promoting the same passion you have and getting your staff equally interested in what they’re doing. But how can you get employees to work to your standards, the owner of a business, when it’s not theirbusiness?

For one, make sure you share company successes along with individual successes. You can permit yourself to brag a little if it opens an opportunity to talk about how awesome your business is, along with each of the employees who work there.

Permit me a minute on my soap box. There’s a big difference between confidence and conceit, right? With confidence, you strut and say, “I’m awesome.” But with conceit, you puff your chest out and say, “I’m better than you, and you, and you…”

Most of the time, we want to be confident, but not conceited.

In business, and to create the company culture that will promote standards of excellence, however, a little conceit is a good thing. Tell your brand story and make sure your staff knows the character roles each of them play. If you believe your brand really is better than the competition, how do you back that up?

One of the biggest factors is almost always the team that makes the company up. So make sure your staff knows that.

The right company culture will pay off in many ways. And combined with these other steps, you’ll finally be able to zero-in on that age-old question of how to train staff to work to your standards. If you haven’t already, get out your pen and paper and start with step 1 right now.

Questions? Leave us a comment below!

How to Know When it’s Time to Upgrade from a Bookkeeper to a CFO

How to Know When it’s Time to Upgrade from a Bookkeeper to a CFO

As your business grows, financial management turns into an increasingly delicate task. To stay on top of the books (and stay ahead of problems later), you need a rising degree of financial intelligence.

But you’re also running all other aspects of your business. To focus on more critical duties, and—ideally—take a big step back from the business so that it can start to run itself, getting those time-consuming financial activities off your plate is crucial.

You probably already have a bookkeeper, whether remote or in-office, part-time or full. So, when do you know it’s time to delegate all your financial responsibilities to a Chief Financial Officer (CFO)?

Here, we’ll explore the key differences between a bookkeeper and a CFO to understand which will have the biggest impact on your business according to your needs, right now.

WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE BOOKKEEPER DO?

You probably already have a bookkeeper or use a bookkeeping service, and here we’re going to review what their responsibilities generally include.

A bookkeeper is generally employed by a small-to-medium-sized business to record and track transactions and reconcile accounts, including but not limited to payroll, invoices and expenditures.

That said, a bookkeeper’s role isn’t limited to entering numbers into spreadsheets. Especially if you contract a bookkeeping service, their expertise and knowledge also include leveraging key accounting software to take care of things like:

  • Training you or other staff on accounting software
  • Cleaning up mistakes and validating accounting data
  • And streamlining all bookkeeping tasks

These responsibilities take an enormous weight off a business owner’s shoulders. However, you’ll see that these tasks still require someone to manage the bookkeeper and step in when it comes to more complex to-dos.

Spoiler alert: if it is time to upgrade to a CFO, you’ll have more accounting needs than those listed above.

WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE CFO DO?

As your business grows, managing your finances becomes too complex for a bookkeeper to handle. And without the right pieces in place to keep finances managed well, this can become a strain for future growth, particularly when it comes to investments and strategic planning.

This is your first sign that it might be time to hire a CFO.

But back to basics: a CFO is brought into a business as the bearer of all financial activities. The CFO not only has the knowledge and skills to handle accounting independently, but takes ownership in the success of your business.

Ideally, a CFO ends up becoming a right-hand man or woman for your company, with responsibilities such as:

  • Strategic planning to assess the operational and financial impacts of strategic business initiatives
  • Annual budgeting and quarterly forecasting, including recommending adjustments, as needed, to properly manage the business
  • Operational and financial reviews with actuals vs. budget forecasts and operational efficiency metrics to make better day-to-day and strategic decisions

A CFO will be responsible for everything from general accounting to protecting the financial future of your company, keeping a pulse on how stable your company is at a given time.

Though, as you can imagine, hiring a CFO is a big decision for any business owner and has to be done at the right time.

LET’S TAKE A MOMENT TO TALK OUTSOURCING

We can outsource just about everything these days. With a tap of the smartphone, we can open apps to communicate with freelancers and contractors around the globe who are playing an increasing role in capacity building and scaling for small and medium businesses.

Outsourcing is common, too, with bookkeepers. Whether it’s an independent bookkeeper or a service you contract, working from the cloud gives businesses the financial controls they need without having to hire in-office.

Looking for a bookkeeper online today is easier than ever, too, with multiple certifications you can check for and validate. For example:

  • Certified Bookkeepers (National Bookkeepers Association)
  • Certified Management Accountants
  • Certified Accounts Payable Professionals
  • Certified Accounts Payable Associates
  • Certified Payroll Professionals
  • Tax Certification

But did you know you can outsource your CFO, too? This is most appealing for businesses without a physical office, and for those who are aching to get the help a CFO can offer but still aren’t sure about finding and hiring someone local full-time.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S TIME TO HIRE A CFO?

We’ve talked about the increasing complexity of business finances. So what are some of the triggers that might indicate it’s time to start thinking about hiring a CFO?

If any of the following are true, that will be a big flag that you’ve grown enough to start thinking about hiring this important team member:

  • If you have investors interested in supporting your business, they’ll want to see detailed financial statements and financial plans. This is something that almost always requires contracting a CFO, unless you want to be stuck doing all this work yourself.
  • If your company revenue has increased significantly or rapidly, it’s wise to look for a CFO to help manage your cash flow. Planning appropriate cash usage is another strategic “must” that a CFO can manage for you.
  • And, as your business grows, banks will start insisting on thorough audits of your financial statements when you come looking for loans. These types of audits can include digging into even the most minute details, and can be intimidating—not to mention a major time suck. A CFO would take care of this for you, also ensuring that financial statements are up-to-date without discrepancies before that audit even comes.
  • For any company that’s grown significantly beyond “what it once was,” understanding and managing risk becomes more difficult. Hiring a CFO gets you the insights you need for proper risk management, strategizing and protecting you against all the “what ifs” that are likely to occur.

Now that the wheels are turning on the “when” and “why,” the rest is up to your gut. You’ve made business decisions a million times before, and now you have some key considerations on a silver platter. So, what do you need? And what do you want? Do you have the time to handle finances on your own?

If it is time to hire a CFO, this will mean handing all that responsibility off to someone uniquely trained and positioned to not only handle accounting, but the necessary financial strategy to keep your business running successfully.

BONUS: HOW DO YOU HIRE THE RIGHT CFO?

Hiring anyone for your company is a delicate matter. Even the entry-level representatives answering the phones act as the face of your business, so there is no “small” job in your business.

That said, a CFO will act as an especially important player. Looking for talent isn’t as hard as you think, and so if it is time to hire a CFO, start looking now.

And then, pat yourself on the back, because your business has grown so much that you’ve arrived to a major turning point. This will be another day you remember.

Have a financial situation you’re not sure about? Want to learn more about what a bookkeeper or CFO can do? Connect with us today!

3 Tips For Delegating The Correct Way

3 Tips For Delegating The Correct Way

Your business is “your baby” and nobody can do it like you can, right? WRONG! SO many business owners get caught up believing that they’re the only person who can do the work in their business to keep it running, and this thinking is what keeps them stuck, working around the clock.

Sure…you’re unique and no one is exactly like you. But doing everything yourself is a quick road to frustration, exhaustion and burnout. Not to mention business stagnation.

Delegating work effectively is absolutely crucial to your long-term success.

The prospect of delegating may make you cringe because of the amount of time and effort it takes up front. In the long term, however, it will save you exponentially more time and help you conserve exponentially more energy, allowing you to focus on bigger, more important aspects of your business.  

Not sure if you’re ready to “let go” and allow your team to help you? Here are three tips for delegating the correct way.

Decide What Needs To Be Delegated

To decide what you can delegate to team members, first start by examining yourself. You undoubtedly have many fantastic skills. You probably even have a few skills that are unique to only you and nobody else on your team. There are also things that make you jump out of bed in the morning, eager to get into the office. But what about the tasks that aren’t your expertise, your motivation or your passion?

Starting out by delegating things you aren’t the best at or don’t enjoy doing, is a perfect place to begin. If there’s a task or activity that you aren’t very good at, chances are there is someone on your team that is excellent at it, or that you can find someone who would be excellent at it and add them to your team. Delegating that activity or task to them will not only allow them to excel, it will also give you a much better end result.

Delegating those things you simply don’t enjoy (or maybe even dread) doing is also a great place to start. Just because you may not like a task or activity doesn’t mean everyone dislikes it. By getting it off your plate, you are getting rid of negative energy and are able to focus more positive energy and efforts on the work you love and excel at.

One pro tip here to consider is that while getting everything you are not great at or dislike off your plate all at once may be tempting, don’t go overboard. Start small to make sure the process runs smoothly and orderly and you’re satisfied with the outcome. As delegated work gets done and your systems get ironed out, you can then continue to delegate bigger and bigger tasks and activities.

Set People Up To Succeed

As you are delegating, remember that you want to give your team members every opportunity to succeed.

Part of doing this successfully is granting them the true authority to perform the work you are delegating. Do anything less, and you will place a potentially insurmountable obstacle in the path of your employees, requiring them to rely on you and causing yet another bottleneck. Examples of authority include monetary or personnel resources, decision making power, etc.

Equally important to empowering team members with the authority required to complete a task or activity, is making sure you are extremely clear when making the request. This includes communicating a deadline, providing a detailed explanation of the physical outcome you expect (what it will look like, etc.), conveying why the work is important (it’s purpose), and sharing any and all information, training, messages, etc. the person will need in order to have the background necessary to complete the work to your level of satisfaction. This is often where the delegation train goes off the rails. Take the time to plan your delegation, and err on the side of over-communication and overtraining.  

Evaluate And Refine

Another very important factor to take into consideration as you delegate work to your team members is to keep the lines of communication open and establish a structure to regularly discuss how tasks and activities are progressing. Doing so will allow team members to surface any breakdowns more quickly, and to share their recovery plans to address those breakdowns. This is the way that you stay in coordination with the folks doing the work, without needing to be involved directly in the doing.

As you delegate more and more, and you start to see common breakdowns or pitfalls, you’ll be able to establish practices, guidelines and procedures that minimize those same issues from surfacing in the future.

Delegating tasks and activities in your company may feel daunting, but the rewards and gains in productivity you’ll see from it will pay you back exponentially in business growth and scalability. At Kleriti Business Solutions, we partner with business owners to build the muscle of effective delegation, grounded in the processes and workflows that allow their businesses to operate consistency and with high quality. If you want to be able to delegate more, step away from the day to day of working “for” your business, and begin working “on” your business, contact us today.

The Way You Set Your Business Goals Guarantees Failure

The Way You Set Your Business Goals Guarantees Failure

We’re almost two months through 2019. How is your business doing? Do you have your goals written down and visible? Are you making progress toward accomplishing those goals? Are you tracking that progress?

No business achieves success without clearly defined goals to guide decisions and actions. And those goals must be grounded in a meaningful and intentional purpose to make them stick. Clear goals, such as “complete launch plan for new service line by the end of Q1” provide the direction that leadership and team members need to align, commit and act.

Yet so few entrepreneurs prioritize the time to set goals, and even fewer maintain focus on goals that have been set.

A  recent Gallup study showed that only 22% of employees strongly agree that their organization’s leadership has a clear direction, and only 33% of employees are engaged. Without goals, team members flounder, unsure what success looks like or how to achieve it. They show up, punch the clock, keep themselves busy during the day, punch out and go home. And organizations suffer as a result, never reaching the level of success they could reach. If your company falls into the category of lacking direction and employee engagement, have no fear. Now’s the time to reset your course and take a more strategic approach to business planning.  By setting realistic, clearly defined, measurable goals and having a more clearly defined purpose for your business, you can start down this path today. Here are steps to start the process.

Define Your Purpose

As mentioned above, you must have a purpose behind your business goals. Every person on your team, no matter their position in the organization, needs to be clear on why they’re doing what they’re doing. On why their role, their project, their piece in the puzzle is necessary to get the organization to where it’s going. This is what enables everyone in the boat to paddle in the same direction at the same speed like a well-practiced crew team.

How do you determine your purpose? Here are some questions to begin the conversation:

  • What do we care about?
  • What brings us meaning, value, satisfaction and fulfillment?
  • Why does our company exist?
  • What promises do we make to our team members? to our clients/customers/patents?
  • What results do our clients/customers/patients care about?

When everybody knows the purpose of your business, it sets a universal standard for the direction you are moving. It also guides every conversation, commitment and action that every member of your team makes. Every initiative you and your employees look at taking on throughout the year can be compared to this purpose to ask the question, “Is this in alignment with our purpose, and does pursuing it take care of what we care about?” If the answer is “yes,” it makes sense to pursue further conversations to define goals around it. If the answer is “no,” drop it.

Operating in this fashion will set your business up to not only reach its goals but to have the best year in business it’s ever had. For your convenience, we have a handy worksheet you can download and use to help you along this process.

Use SMART Goals

Once you’re clear on your purpose and the initiatives that align with it, it’s time to get into goal setting. We recommend quarterly leadership team meetings where you look back at progress made on last quarter’s goals and set goals for the quarter ahead. This framework ensures everyone is on the same page as it relates to business direction and focus for the next three months, and also gives members of the leadership team a forum to voice their aspirations and concerns, and break apart issues standing in the way of accomplishing goals.

During these sessions, be sure you’re setting SMART goals. Specifically, SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Goals must be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction.
  • Measurable: Include precise amounts, dates, etc. in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. Without a way to measure success, you miss out on the celebration that comes when you achieve something.
  • Attainable: Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. Set realist yet challenging goals that require you to “raise the bar.” These bring the greatest satisfaction.
  • Relevant: Goals should be relevant to the direction you want to go in, and to your purpose.
  • Time-Bound: Your goals must have a deadline. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement comes that much quicker.

Using this technique when defining your goals allows you to frame them in a way that ensures they’re clear, actionable, trackable and attainable. And once the quarter’s goals are set, don’t change them. This shows that your leadership team has a clear direction and is not wavering from it.

Make Progress Visible To Everyone

Once your goals are defined, communicate them to everyone in your organization. Following each quarterly leadership team meeting, hold an all-staff meeting where you report out on the three most relevant data points for each of the following:

  • Where you’ve been — successes and progress over the previous quarter
  • Where you are — important headlines
  • Where you’re going — newly set company priorities for this quarter 

And don’t stop there, or else it’s easy for goals to fall into the“out of sight, out of mind” category. Instead, visibly track progress toward reaching each goal, holding team members to weekly to-dos.

Aligning your team on your organization’s purpose and making sure everyone is focused on your goals can be challenging. These elements are essential to the growth and long-term success of your company. If you are looking for assistance in defining and aligning your goals, contact us today for a free, one-on-one, no obligation consultation.