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The Importance Of Setting Goals And Tracking Progress For Entrepreneurs

Once an entrepreneur has identified the problem she holds a solution to, and developed a general business strategy, it’s imperative to then begin thinking specifically about goals. From a broad perspective, these goals must all connect to the core values of the entrepreneur. These values, which are given form via an entrepreneur’s mission statement (or, better, mantra) provide the guidance and drive for the attainment of goals. Importantly, by connecting your goals to these values, you reduce the chances of falling into one of the worst things you can do as an entrepreneur: engaging in random acts of improvement. I’ve seen so many good ideas never result in anything because, while the entrepreneur is working hard, she is not working efficiently. Random acts of improvement are actions intended to accomplish a goal that is not connected to any other goal. While these random acts of improvement can result in short-term accomplishments, they have a negative correlation to success over time. Essentially, random acts of improvement pull the entrepreneur away from the core of their enterprise.

 

When developing your strategy for setting goals and tracking progress, it’s essential to find the core and constantly ask whether the strategy and the goals that lead to accomplishing that strategy relate to the core. In their book Made to Stick Chip and Dan Heath relate the story of how when a Southwest Airlines executive was questioned about why Southwest didn’t serve food on their flights, the executive responded that adding meals would not help Southwest be the low-cost air carrier. Being the low-cost air carrier is Southwest’s core; anything that diverts from that core is to be avoided. Keeping this idea clear in mind acts as a very effective filter when determining goals. This step alone will aid you in accomplishing goals. It’s far better to have a small amount of very focused and germane goals than it is to have a laundry list of random acts of improvement.

 

An important additional step in setting goals is to be certain that, as Jim Collins says in his fine book Good to Great, you confront the brutal truth without losing faith that you will succeed. The music business is both full of challenges and full of opportunity. When setting goals, you must be certain to examine both the challenges and opportunities. Too often entrepreneurs see the opportunity, but fail to accurately assess the challenges. Don’t fall into this category. Instead, be sure to create goals in a manner where you face your challenges head-on. Again, as with avoiding random acts of improvement, facing the truth and developing strategies will enable you to maximize opportunity filters and focus your goals.

 

In terms of more specific strategy for accomplishing these goals once set, you should—of course—be certain that any short-term goals align with your long-term strategy. More specifically, your goals should have the following characteristics, they should be:

  • Difficult but achievable
  • Observable and measurable
  • Specific, with a target date
  • Participatively set, when possible (assuming, of course, you’re not working alone; if you’re participatively setting goals when working by yourself, you may have some other issues to sort out)

 

In terms of tracking your goals, once they’ve been created using the principles above, again you must remember to confront the brutal truth. Resist the temptation to hedge on your evaluations of the efficacy of your progress. For instance, if you had a goal to draw 100 people to a gig, and you got 50, it’s important to attempt to figure out why you didn’t hit your goal. Only by assessing the outcome of your goals by tracking them, you can continue to evolve your strategy. Over time, you begin to gather data which enables you to revise your strategies and achieve your goals.

In terms of specific goal tracking mechanisms, there are quite a few tools available for free online. Basecamp is a wonderful tool for creating a list of goals, and keeping track of progress. Similarly, Google sheets is a very good way to list a series of goals that can be shared by all parties involved.

Good strategies evolve over time via an ongoing process of iteration and analysis. Remember, while you cannot measure and track your way to business excellence, you can certainly increase your odds of success.


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Published: 10/08/2007

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