Small business goals are important, but…
by Marilyn Miller
‘Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.’
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Twenty years ago, I took a course on goal setting. I learned that my business goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound) and that they need to be in writing.
At the time, I was working for a financial institution and immediately composed my goals to increase new business sales by x, maintain x percent of clients, and so forth. And, it worked! I met my goals and advanced in my career with a goal-driven focus.
Setting clear goals had always helped me. So, when I started my own business, I promptly set my very SMART goals, which mostly had to do with growing my client base. I was specific, focused and disciplined, and sure enough, I began to win new clients.
I had it made. Until I didn’t.
Although I was winning new clients and earning nice fees, I was not winning the types of clients that were going to help with the long term growth of my business.
The clients were not business partners but “energy vampires” who sucked the life from my business. They were not honest with me about the nature of their business, and about their expectations of my services.
However, I was so hyper-focused on meeting my growth goals that I allowed a few noisy clients to interfere with my ability to grow my business the way I wanted. The large fees seemed great, but I spent so much time responding to over the top requests and requesting information I should have received in the first place, that I was quickly in the hole – working too hard for too little return.
I let the situation go on longer than I should, mainly because of the large growth goals I set for myself, and the significant potential these bad clients represented. I finally realized that I could not afford to work with clients who were not willing to work with me. No amount of money is worth it if your client does not respect you.
It took a while, but I finally realized that in order for business goals to work in the long term, I had to be willing to be flexible with them, and adjust them from time to time. I took a hard look at my client list and made some tough decisions. It was a very scary premise to let go, or “fire” the “energy vampire” clients, but it also gave me the freedom to go in a different direction.
Goals are a great roadmap, but like any flat map they cannot anticipate potholes or slippery surfaces or rock slides. Like a good driver who is able to navigate tough conditions, a successful entrepreneur has to balance focus with flexibility, and set business goals that will ensure happiness and success in business, and in life.
If you have comments or ideas for future issues please email Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marilyn “Mara” Miller is committed to small businesses. For over a decade, she has been a strong advocate for her clients. She not only helps customers recover money due to them, but also works to strengthen their credit practices and procedures.
Marilyn is founder of M3 Consultants, which helps small business owners improve their cash flow through better credit practices.