Goal Setting and Action Plans for Small Business

Setting business goals and action plans

Following on from last week’s article about business plans for small business, we now address a section of that business plan being your goals and action plans.

I must admit that I have failed on many occasions to reach my goals and plans in business. I have spouted a litany of excuses that are a mile long to cover my tracks of failure as well. It was only after I realized the distinct differences between my goals and my action plans, and the necessity of them working together, that I was able to start achieving them and in turn, find “success.” It all seems so simple to understand, but putting it into practice and sticking to it is another story entirely.

Here are a couple of definitions.

Goals are where you want to end up: the objectives, the end results, things that you are striving to achieve.

On the other hand, an Action Plan, in this case a Business Action Plan, is the blueprint you refer to do the Daily, Weekly, and Monthly tasks required to arrive at your goal.

For example, if someone asks me if I have a goal to improve my health, and I respond by saying “I want to go jogging 2 times every week”, that would not be considered a goal. It would be part of a specific plan. On the contrary, ‘improving my health by losing some weight’ is the goal described here. However, the goal will never happen unless it is accompanied by an action plan.

As a self-employed small business owner, you need to recognize and understand the goal and the action plan, realizing that each of these, working in sync are necessary to build and achieve success.

As goals and actions are so closely related, they often times get used in the wrong way.

Here is a clearer example.

In Hockey, You Have to Shoot the Puck to Score a Goal!

Action plan to put the puck in the net

Here is a picture of a net that is used in every hockey game. Now I know you are not stupid and that you recognize this, but just reed on a bit to see where I am leading.

When you play hockey, the aim is to shoot the puck into the net and score as many goals as you can.

To score goals, you must have an action plan to have a good chance of making it work, especially when you come up against obstacles such as another team trying their best to stop you scoring.

This action plan consists of shooting the puck, passing the puck, skating, checking, and practicing all aspects of the game. These are all components of a larger plan.

Your goal of getting that puck into the net can not be completed without the action plan of how to get there.

Hockey players can’t wish the puck into the net. They succeed by having an action plan for the tasks required to make it happen.

Just having the desire and the goal is not enough. You need the action plan to make it work.

Having a Goal and an Action Plan Working in Sync Together!

Let’s face it. A goal without a plan is just a dream.

You must know someone who is always saying that they are going to do something, change something, make something, but it never happens.

In your business it is never enough to say that you want success, because if you fail to do the things necessary to make it happen your business will crash.

To go back to the example I used in the beginning, jogging twice a week could be a good plan in getting healthy, but the goal has to be defined. Just getting healthy is not enough here. You need to get specific and say something like, “I want to decrease my weight by 10 pounds in 60 days, so I am going to jog Mondays and Wednesdays at 2 pm for 1 hour”.

The best goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based. So, once you have identified the specific goal that is measurable, achievable, realistic and you have added a timeline to it, jogging twice a week becomes a strategic part of the action plan to achieve the end result of losing 10 pounds in 60 days.

Having a plan allows you to segment the path to your goal into smaller bite size amounts, so when the going gets tough, you can reflect on your bite size accomplishments, and gain more motivation to push ahead.

In your business this is needed because the going does get difficult from time to time.

A Closer Look at Goals and Action Plans!

Here are some examples of goals and action plans that may apply to your business:

The Goal: Increase profits this quarter by acquiring 10 new clients.
The Action Plan: Visit 4 new prospects every day. Implement a follow-up plan.

The Goal: Decrease my dependence on a single supplier this month.
The Action Plan: Request presentations from 3 alternate suppliers. Select an additional supplier.

The Goal: Reduce accounts receivable by 15 days this quarter.
The Action Plan: Introduce expectations and options to pay on delivery. Invoice on time. Implement a follow-up process.


Goals disappear quickly when there is no roadmap/blueprint to lead the way.

Action Plans on their own just get trashed by the busy moments of everyday life.

When you have goals and action plans to achieve those goals, you are much more likely to achieve them.

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