Start-up business plan essentials: Deciding on your business objectives and personal goals

How to create realistic aims and prioritise your time to achieve them

Creating a strong company vision and accompanying mission statements is crucial for your business plan. However, in order to ensure you realise your long-term vision, it’s important to have achievable milestones set out along the way. These milestones are measured by the achievement of business objectives. In addition, you need to identify what you expect to attain by realising your business objectives, on a personal level.

Making realistic business objectives

Your business plan should set out the primary goals in terms of profit, turnover and business value, particularly if you want to attract outside investment. Pizza Express, for example, set out its goals in June 2011 as aiming to nearly double their number of outlets from 318 to 700 by 2020. Majestic Wine announced a similar sounding goal, aiming to add 12 new stores a year for the next 10 years. Make sure that your business plan contains SMART objectives.

  • Specific: relates to specific tasks and activities, not general statements about improvements.
  • Measurable: it should be possible to assess whether or not they have been achieved.
  • Attainable: it should be possible for the employee to achieve the desired outcome.
  • Realistic: within the employee’s current or planned-for capability.
  • Timed: to be achieved by a specific date.

Setting your personal goals

Once you have clear objectives in place, your business plan has to show what you expect to achieve by realising the goals set for your business. This could be creating a venture that will give your family work; give you a lifetime’s challenge; provide an opportunity to build a valuable business that can be sold on – all are some possible personal aims. Although your business plan is focused on strategic long-term action, as the Chinese proverb says: “the longest journey starts with a single step”.

The late Stephen Covey, best known for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster, 2004), devotes two of the habits to personal goals.

Personal mission statement

The first of these is “start with the end in mind”. Here Covey recommends developing a personal mission statement and acquiring what he calls the habit of personal leadership so that you can keep steering in the right direction despite changing circumstances. Developing this habit allows you to concentrate most of your energies on activities relevant to your end goal, avoid distractions and in the process become more productive and successful.

Self-management

Secondly, he says “put first things first”. The previous habit involves self-leadership, this one is about self-management. Leadership, Covey states, “decides what the first things are, and management is the discipline of carrying out your program”. Covey also quotes Peter Drucker who pointed out that the expression ‘time management’ is something of a misnomer: “We have a constant amount of time, no matter what we do; the challenge we face is to manage ourselves. To be an effective manager of yourself, you must organise and execute around priorities.” Covey introduces the idea of tasks fitting into four quadrants, with important-not important on one continuum and urgent-not urgent on the other.

Reports, meetings, calls, interruptions and the occasional genuine crisis will drag us into spending time in quadrants I and III (see diagram above). Time spent on quadrant IV activities is only for those determined to fail. Covey recommends a way to up your time on quadrant II tasks. Write down two or three important results you feel you should accomplish in the short term. At least some of these goals should be quadrant II activities. Look at the next few weeks and months ahead with your goals in mind, and block out the time each day to achieve them. With your key goals locked in, see what time is left for everything else! How well you succeed will depend on how resilient and determined you are at defending your most important priorities. Your business plan needs to include your business objectives and personal goals but also the way you will prioritise your time to ensure they are achieved.

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