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SMART Goals: an Acronym for Success

Short- and long-term goals are essential in business. By planning for the future, you can work toward developing a business that’s successful and sustainable. Specific strategies for creating goals can help you and your team to effectively meet your business objectives. One such strategy is SMART goals, which ask you to clearly define all of the variables related to your company’s aims for the sake of making it easier and more likely for you to achieve them.

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What are SMART goals?

The SMART method helps you effectively approach reaching your goals in the workplace. Applying SMART as a grid for your company’s aims is usually helpful for creating specifically measured, clearly defined targets that you’d like to reach. This methodology also helps you avoid failures and measure your progress more precisely. The SMART acronym stands for:

  • Specific: Increase the chances that you’re able to accomplish your business goals by making sure they’re well-defined. Determine the who, what, where, when and why.
  • Measurable: Develop criteria for measuring progress toward your business goals. Detail the key indicators that help you decide if and when you reach your goal by quantifying them.
  • Achievable: Create goals for your business that are attainable and achievable by ensuring that you and your team have the skills and resources needed to reach the goal.
  • Relevant: Align your company’s goals with the overall objectives of your business and the realities of the market.
  • Time-based: Give yourself and your staff a deadline for reaching your goal to provide a sense of urgency and the opportunity to schedule the steps needed to achieve the goal.

Related: Goals vs. Objectives in Business: A Guide for Managers

A breakdown of each SMART component

To give you a clearer idea of how SMART business goals can be applied, here’s a basic description of each component:

  • General goal: Start with some specific overall aim that you have, such as starting your first business.
  • Specific: Define exactly what kind of business it is and what it sells.
  • Measurable: Provide at least one example of a measurable goal. Specify a timeframe in which you will have the business registered and have your first sale. Then, define how many sales you want per day, week or month and by what point in time.
  • Attainable: Set your measurable goals to fit realistic time frames and resources. In other words, don’t try to apply SMART by setting a goal of 1 million units sold within two weeks of starting business.
  • Relevant: Provide a realistic description of how doing something measurable and attainable will let you achieve something else, such as having more investment capital or free time for hobbies if you’re starting a business.
  • Time-based: Similar to being measurable, the time-based section lets you define the time frame by which you’d like to achieve different parts of your overall goal.

Benefits of using SMART goals

Setting project and business goals is most effective when the process of reaching them is segmented into bite-sized chunks that can be done one at a time. This makes the goal as a whole seem much less overwhelming and lets you plan clearly towards achieving it. Business SMART goals offer exactly this kind of segmented, clarified planning capacity. Additionally, there are many benefits of using SMART goals in business, including the following:

  • Increase the likelihood of achieving your goals. Using the SMART goals acronym when creating business objectives may give you and your team more confidence, motivation and clarity. It will also help you focus on individual, practical steps.
  • Identify the steps needed to reach your goals. Thinking through the details of your overall goal from different angles enables you to create an action plan and identify the support, resources and training that you need to accomplish your company’s long-term aims.
  • Effectively grow your business. Using the SMART goals acronym helps you establish a target date for deliverables and enables you to prioritize the goal and see real results. This is especially beneficial because it helps you avoid getting sidelined by day-to-day tasks or superfluous distractions that could cause you to lose track of your long-term goals for business growth.

SMART goals examples for business

Here are three simple examples of SMART in action for hypothetical situations. They can help you see how you can use this technique to create your own SMART business goals.

Goal 1: completing a big project

Here’s an example of how to use the SMART acronym for a project:

  • Specific: Most of customers view our company’s site on their smartphones. Recent feedback shows that their experience is poor, so we will optimize our website for mobile devices by Q3.
  • Measurable: By May, we should have the new site fully developed and ready for content. June 1 is the deadline for writing all of the copy, approving images and creating any additional graphics. Implementing and polishing the SEO is the primary focus for June.
  • Achievable: The departments that need to be involved in this project agree that this is a realistic timeline.
  • Relevant: Our online presence is a priority to attract new customers by increasing traffic and improving click-through rates.
  • Time-bound: The new site launches on July 1.

Goal 2: increasing sales

Here’s an example of how you could use SMART business goals to outline a plan to increase sales:

  • Specific: We need to increase our conversion rate by 5% by the end of Q4. To do this, we need to implement more sales training, increase advertising, create incentives and conduct cold calls or follow up with potential customers.
  • Measurable: I’d like to increase our sales by 1.5% each month. We should identify and implement new marketing and advertising strategies by the end of October.
  • Achievable: Both the marketing and sales teams feel that we could easily accomplish this goal in the allotted time.
  • Relevant: Growing our customer base is a top priority for my company this year.
  • Time-bound: We should reach this goal by January 1.

Goal 3: improving company morale

Here’s an example of creating a SMART goal to improve staff performance:

  • Specific: We have good team members, but they’re getting overwhelmed and feel undervalued. To improve morale and performance, we need to establish better relationships among coworkers. We can do this by creating incentives, increasing positive reinforcement and establishing team-building activities.
  • Measurable: We want to decrease the turnover rate by 10% by the end of the year.
  • Achievable: By prioritizing employee satisfaction, we can see an improvement in company morale.
  • Relevant: Staff satisfaction is key to our business becoming more efficient and effective.
  • Time-bound: Relationships should be strengthened by the holiday party in December.

Benefits and drawbacks of SMART goals

While SMART is an incredibly effective tool for simplifying your achievements in business or life, it’s not perfect for every context. On the one hand, SMART is superb in that it’s a simple process for achieving results. It can be applied by pretty much anyone, at any time and in almost any setting without having to use any specialized tools or complex training methods. This is the most powerful aspect of SMART.

On the other hand, this very simplicity has caused SMART to sometimes be misunderstood or misinterpreted in ways that make it less effective. SMART works best for smaller overall goals aimed over shorter time spans. Because it has so few categories, applying a single SMART plan to a complex multiyear set of aims can be difficult.

FAQs about SMART goals

Are there other words for the letters in the SMART acronym?

Yes, there are. While specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based are often used, other variations for each of these are also commonly found. They might include strategic, manageable, ambitious, reliable and tangible, for example. However, the basic SMART protocol remains mostly unchanged.

Is SMART useful for multiple simultaneous major goals?

You can use SMART for as many goals as you like and for any scope of time, but it works best when applied to goals without too many complex steps per section. For larger projects and plans, creating multiple SMART grids for each segment is a practical choice.

How can SMART be applied to goals with multiple time frames?

You can apply multiple SMART plans to different goals based on their time frames. Businesses might have a single key long-term goal for several years in the future, a few intermediate-term goals for the next year or numerous short-term goals with horizons of weeks or months. You can create a SMART grid for goals in each of these categories.

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