Ask the Expert: Setting Company Goals

Steve Novak

Business Operations and Strategic Planning consultant, Owner, PPR Management Services, LLC


Our company is having trouble turning a vague list of long-term ideas into a concrete plan. Even worse, we can’t seem to reach our short-term targets in a reasonable amount of time. How can we get more focused and achieve our goals?


Strategic planning is frequently overlooked because it is often misunderstood. It doesn’t have to be onerous or complex. It should be put together so that it works for you. It provides focus and direction to the entire organization. Here are the steps and structure of strategic planning.

1. Three Elements:

  • Goal Definition: A list of specific goals you want to achieve.
  • Action Plan: An outline of steps to achieve the defined goals.
  • Performance Measures: Ways to monitor progress toward the goals.

2. Four Dimensions (of Goal Definition)

  • Specific Products and Services: This applies to every organization. I worked with a nonprofit dance company on its strategic plan and wondered if this category would work for it. It fit perfectly. Besides stage performances, the dance company offers and plans to offer different types of shows, classes, workshops and other activities.
  • Customers and Markets: Identify customers and market segments you will target. A contracting company I consulted with planned to take an activity that was ancillary to its primary work and offer it to a whole new market outside of its normal business as a stand-alone service.
  • Financial Targets: This is NOT a budget. A small manufacturing company I worked with wanted to double its revenue. We set that as a target. But to get there we also identified sales goals for existing products, new products and new product lines, and sales of both existing and new products to new customers.
  • Structure: This includes infrastructure, skills and everything else needed to achieve the goals. To achieve the goals it had set, another company I worked with determined it would need to remodel its existing building, hire new staff with specified skill sets, and change some processes.

3. One Direction

The main function of strategic planning is to move everyone in the same direction, toward the defined goals. It is a concrete plan that everyone can see and refer to, yet its structure provides flexibility for changing conditions. The performance measures not only monitor progress, they help to guide the behavior of individuals toward achieving the goals. 

Categories: Biz Expert Advice, Business & Industry, Small Business