The 11 Categories of Small Business Goal Setting You Never Knew Needed Alignment

small business goal setting

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It is common for small business founders to focus on fire fighting in the present. This is because intuitively, they somehow know what they need to do in order to make that sale or to ensure that Revenue remains constant. Unfortunately, this also means that the founder is going to do everything. In order for small businesses to scale beyond the six and seven figures, founders need to align these 11 categories of the goal setting process that they need to pay close attention to. Just as you have a glass before you pour water out of your jug or bottle, each of these builds on the other, through a logical sequence.

1. Vision

small business goal setting

It might sound odd to ‘set’ a vision as a goal. At the start of any business, your vision is going to guide you just like a compass guides you to the north. One of the things to check off is to ensure your vision is clearly stated and communicated. Simply design the end state of your business. See it in your mind, hear it in your head and write down the end state of what your business is to you, your stakeholders and the customers you serve. After all, according to Stephen Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it makes perfect sense that you begin with the end in mind.

2. Meaningful and valuable product or service proposition

small business goal setting

You also need to clarify what your proposition is to your potential customers. Some people call this the minimum viable product. Very often, great businesses are those with at least a decent product or service. 

It is difficult to sell something where the product is lacking in meaning and value to the prospect. Conversely, an offer is irresistible because that offer presents an important meaning and value. To do this, many have suggested using customer avatars. However, I believe that direct interaction with people who represent my market will tell me almost immediately. To do this, one should employ a process of Design Thinking to get to the heart of your offer.

Have you set up some time to think about how to create a viable and valuable offer that is highly prized by your prospects?

3. Clarity of activities

small business goal setting

When you are busy trying to do many things, it is very often difficult to prioritize what you need to do first. In my opinion, Clarity of your activities must align with the value proposition that you have crafted. Once you know the value proposition, you can then align all of your activities that can help you to fulfill a prospect’s curiosity about that proposition. 

Making a list of all the possible activities that your business needs to conduct can therefore enable you to prioritize them more effectively. When there are things that spill over, you can adjust your priorities in order to get things done. In your goal setting process, list down these activities and prioritize them. Awareness of these key activities in your business will undoubtedly prevent confusion later on by stating what should be the focus.

4. Customer acquisition

small business goal setting

Ah, lead generation! Everybody wants more leads, right? Wrong! Most of the time, acquiring a customer is an expensive endeavor.  it is much easier to look for people who already respect and trust you to make additional purchases. This means that the ability for you to acquire customers is just the first step in an entire journey to walk alongside your customer. There are many channels that one can use to acquire customers. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much money. However, it might take effort in exchange. If you’re unwilling to put in the effort, you can most certainly replace that with an expenditure to generate potential prospects.

5. Hiring and leading a team of A-players

small business goal setting

Up to a certain point, the founder will be overwhelmed. However, most founders end up hiring people at the wrong time, causing them to feel even more stressed out because now they have to manage these people! Isn’t it more sensible to hire somebody whom you can succeed you in certain activities, way ahead of time?

This is because most founders do not clarify key activities ahead of time. Some are way too creative. They end up getting distracted, and after a few months have no clue what their business is truly about. Others just allow the passage flow of the business to dictate where they go. This is like telling an oak tree to navigate out of the spot where it was rooted. 

Once you can see how your team functions, it makes it easier to manage them. When key business activities are known, the right team members can be hired to carry out those tasks effectively. Even if a new task happens to come up that is not within the team’s capabilities, at least they will be able to learn, in order to take action. You can provide a platform for their ideas to be heard, and even coach or guide them to do their work that supports the activities you need. Often, a founder’s leadership abilities are learnt on the job. But you certainly can accelerate that by hiring an executive coach who understands how a small business should scale.

So, do you set a goal to build a strong pipeline of talent? Are you also setting effective goals to learn to develop your leadership before you actually truly need it?

6. Productivity metrics/KPIs

small business goal setting

Once you are able to put in place the right team, they are likely to give you ideas in terms of what productivity looks like. They are likely to want to produce the right kinds of metrics and KPIs in order to  be seen as high-performing. In many cases, productivity is the achievement of a specific kind of goal within the category of activities. However, most entrepreneurs take the wrong approaches to productivity. If the KPI produced does not actually support the key activities listed, we can say that that KPI is misaligned or irrelevant. Thus, you have to set a goal to track what really matters.

7. Process improvement

small business goal setting

If somebody has a system to make $1, all I need to do is to identify the process by which he did it, and I can replicate this system. However, there are many other kinds of processes that are not so straightforward. For instance, how did your top engineer produce code in such a short span of time? Or how did that designer create an emotionally evoking piece of work that made the client cry for joy? 

There is a distinction between behavioral processes and cognitive processes. If you don’t set aside time to study and codify these processes, it is likely that you will end up having processes that don’t make sense, or one that people don’t use. Always set a goal to keep your processes up to date and serve as a benchmark to all other activities of the same nature.

8. Financial management

small business goal setting

Not everybody is a wizard at financial management. The truth is, most founders are better at spending and saving. That’s not a sin. However, somewhere down the line, if you’re not cognizant of financial management, it can turn around and bite you in the back. 

Recently I was coaching a business client whose overhead was about 75% more than income.  Turns out that they were spending way too much on things that they thought they need but we’re not really being used to generate customers. They took the idea of hiring people into a good environment literally, without thinking about the consequences. Not only were they spending a lot of money on renovation and furniture, they had a lot of staff who are sitting around, doing basically nothing. 

When you are looking into finances, you also need to apply a simple logic. Is what you are spending on generating some kind of return? Is there a justification for making any purchase? So, if you’re reaching out and wondering whether or not to buy the next amazing gaming machine for your IT staff, think again!  Or, that you want a luxury sofa sitting in a room that people hardly use. 

Remember, finances are only available when all the other things that preceded this have taken place. The truth is that you do not need finances to create finances. You merely need a sufficient  amount of energy and creativity to get the ball rolling. As a founder, you are utilizing your own hard-earned money in order to make a living. Your employees need to know how to do some aspects of that because of the idea of frugality. Not everybody has  this trait. But it is also helpful for you to inculcate the idea of clever spending in them. 

Everything else down the line such as your processes and your KPIs should be aligned with a healthy Financial outcome.

9. Customer intimacy

small business goal setting

Most people are aware that customers are our paymasters, right? In the end, it makes sense that we ought to spend enough time with our customers to understand their needs and interests. By getting to know them more deeply, you are likely to hear about challenges that they face that did normally would not be talking about in the open.

Moreover, when customers are comfortable with you, they are likely to give you direct and honest feedback. By listening to them, they are giving you an opportunity to create something bigger and better than what you could ever imagine. This is largely because they have a different perspective than you do about your service or product. 

Spend time with your customers, listen to them, and not down the level of support that you have and what takes to take that support to the next level. Only then will you be able to establish a tribe of ambassadors and raving fans.

10. Innovation

small business goal setting

It culminates to Innovation. Everything. You start off with a vision, but your customers might give you such a good idea, that your vision is Amplified all transformed. I know that good customers are hard to find. And I will pull out all the stops to ensure that they stay on. The only way to do this is to ensure that I innovate the value proposition,  change the Key activities that prioritize the customer, acquire customers who are going to eventually be great customers,  keep hiring great people to serve these customers, so that kpi and processes are always fine tuned for financial performance.

Now, you can see why the  last 9 items were meant to Align with this category of goals. In some businesses, there are way too many ideas being brainstormed and not execute it. However, somebody needs to jot them down and curate them. I just need to find ways to implement them and demonstrates how this enhances the business.  Only by doing so can you truly say that you are working on the business rather than working in it..

11. Cycle of Iteration

small business goal setting

This final category is something that people in the world of agile project management will be very familiar with. Iteration. The end result of a cycle is an outcome. For instance, I know that if I lift weights, I’m more likely to put on muscle. The more cycles of lifting weights I do in a healthy manner , the more muscle I’m going to put on.

Similarly, you can look at your entire business as a series of cycles. There is a value proposition Innovation cycle. There is a customer acquisition and intimacy cycle. There is even a process improvement and KPI dissemination cycle. Whatever the case, the more you implement cycles, the more likely you will have an intentional business rather than an accidental one.This is because you will activate a Snowball Effect based on processes that already work.


Are there some things that you cannot predict? Sure. There are always unknowns. However, that is the game of business. We cannot predict everything, but what we have is usually good enough. By adapting, transforming our ways, adjusting our mindset, and serving the customers to the best of our ability, we are more likely skewed towards success than any other way.   Therefore it doesn’t make sense to stop the goal setting process and focusing on aligning these 11 categories. By aligning these 11 categories whenever you set your goals or update your mission, you are more likely to understand and engage the engines in your business in a manner that enables it to scale.

If you are busy firefighting, or feel that a business that is no longer as fulfilling as it once was, you may need to speak to us before throwing in the towel! To get proper insight into your business, check in with us at and apply for a consultation so that we can move your business further on track to scale!

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