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SMART Goal Setting for Entrepreneurs

If you’re serious about being a successful entrepreneur, you need to set clear goals for your business. SMART goal setting is powerful and will help direct your every move. If you fail to set goals, your business might operate, but it may not grow into a worthwhile, successful business. And in today’s competitive business world, it’s not good enough to just operate – you have to be competitive in order to succeed. To do that, you need to set SMART goals for your business.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” 

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.


With reference to goal setting, specific means a goal that is simply and clearly stated in one to three sentences that is easily understood. There must be no vagueness or doubt about its meaning. 

The goal answers the six ‘W’ questions

  1. Who – Who is responsible for this goal? Mr. Abigale and his team.
  2. What – What do you want to achieve? 200 new customers.
  3. When – When do you plan to accomplish this? Within the next ten months.
  4. Where – Where are you focusing your energy? In the three major cities in Texas- Houston, Dallas, and Austin.
  5. Which – Which problems do you foresee? Website needs upgrades, marketing needs to be polished, and funnels need to be perfected.
  6. Why – Why do you want to find more customers? To increase revenue. Create awareness of our offerings in a wider radius.

This means systems must be put into place to monitor and quantify the actions taken in order to track whether the goals are being reached. You can measure events like number of sales, number of new leads, revenue numbers, number of new contracts, effectiveness of new supply chain, etc. The more you can measure, the better you will know if you are still on track toward your goal.

These and other indicators should be measured throughout the process, and it should be clear when an objective has been achieved. When you set up your goals, ask yourself, how will we know that we have achieved our goal? How will we measure our progress along the way?


Achievability is important. It’s all very well to dream big, but it all comes crashing down easily if your dream is completely out of reach. You know it is achievable if it has been done before under similar circumstances.  Ask yourself, is the goal you have set for yourself and your team actually within reach or does it just sound impressive? 

A goal should also not be so easy that one can see at the outset that it’s 100 percent achievable. What’s the challenge in that? No one gets motivated by a goal that is too easy or too difficult. It must be slightly out of reach and require the team to stretch themselves. Increasing sales by 10% at a thriving business is not challenging enough.


Your goals must be relevant to your company and your team. Goals that just keep everybody busy is a waste of time and resources. 

There should be a real benefit attached to actually reaching that goal. This is where you contemplate the ‘’why’’ question. Why are we aiming for this goal? What is in it for the team and the organization as a whole? How will we and the company benefit? How do these goals fit into what we want to achieve with the company in the long-term?


There must be a time-frame within which you will achieve your goals. A time-frame can be a great motivator. On the other hand, a time-frame that is too long can lead to the team losing interest and motivation.

Some goals can only be achieved in the long-term. In that case, you should break down your goals in smaller, more manageable parts. You can set interim milestones and monitor when they are achieved. This will give you a sense of progress toward your end goal.

When determining the time-frame keep in mind Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for completion. 

Why are SMART goals important for entrepreneurs?

While many people do not write down their goals, you are more likely (42% actually) to achieve your goals if you take the time to write them down and think them through.

  • SMART goal setting helps to clarify your thoughts, helps you to get organized, and generally gives you a sense of direction. The process of thinking about your goals, especially if you adhere to SMART goal setting, focuses your mind and lets you realize what you are really in for.
  • The SMART goal approach brings clarity of purpose and stimulates motivation. If you can keep your goal in mind, you’ll remain motivated to do everything in your power to reach it.
  • Thinking about your long-term goals for your business involves thinking about your priorities. You have to get your priorities right if you want to achieve your goal. You can’t move into a fancy office if you don’t yet earn enough revenue to afford it. Committing to SMART goals forces you to get your priorities right.
  • Setting goals and then putting in the effort to achieve them is a challenge and a growth opportunity for everyone on the team. It can help team members to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
  • SMART goals are a bit like New Year’s resolutions: they force you to take action. You said you would do it, now you have to stand up and be counted. Setting goals and announcing them to the team and other stakeholders is sure to put you in a position where you feel you have to take action to show that you are a person of your word.
  • Setting up goals is a creative process that might lead to all sorts of other innovative ideas concerning the business. 

Distinguishing between goals and objectives

Setting objectives is an integral part of goal setting. Objectives help you achieve your goals.

Goals are what you want to achieve, objectives are the practical steps to achieve your goals. Your goal might be to be the most popular urgent care in the city in five years. Your objectives are what you will do every week and month to achieve that goal.

Your objectives, if well-thought out, will set you on the road to achieving your goal. They will give everyone on the team a sense of security because they can visualize the road ahead.

Common mistakes made when goal setting

  • Setting unrealistic goals: Setting up SMART goals for your company often means that you have to think big and outside the box. However, you must make sure that your goals are realistic and that your team can achieve them in the allotted time frame.
  • Setting an unrealistic time frame: Time and again, teams underestimate the time it would take to accomplish a goal. You have to take trouble to be as accurate as possible in your estimation of the time it would take to reach your goal, otherwise team members will get discouraged if things take longer than planned. In that case, you run the risk of not achieving your goal in time, achieving the goal with half baked solutions, or not achieving your goal at all.
  • Not tracking progress: Tracking your progress helps you to move forward because you can see what you have already achieved. It also shows whether you are still on track to reach your goals or if there is reason to maybe re-evaluate your goals. 
  • Failing to set a starting date: It is very common to feel overwhelmed by goals you have set for your business. It’s difficult to start on a task when you feel overwhelmed by it, so it’s common to put off starting, waiting for a time when you feel more ready, or you have more time. There is no perfect time to start, there is only now. Set a starting date and communicate that to everyone so you can hold each other accountable.
  • Not following you goals every day: Entrepreneurs are very busy people, often taking on different roles to get the business off the ground. So, between countless meetings and daily deadlines, the goals get forgotten. A business can’t afford to lose sight of its goals. When you have set your goals, schedule regular meetings with the team so you can check if everyone is still on track.
  • Not being flexible enough: Goals and objectives that don’t allow for unforeseen circumstances can make your business miss out on new opportunities. Circumstances change, markets change, COVID happens. For instance, physical events are something of the past while COVID lasts, which means no business for corporate events companies like T3 Expo. However, earlier this year, the company used its events expertise to help transform New York City’s Javits Center into a hospital for COVID-19 patients.  Just because a curve ball has been thrown at you, doesn’t mean you have to give up on your goal. Quickly modify, adapt, and move forward. Modifying your goal does not mean you didn’t reach it, it means you recognize the need for change and become flexible enough to go with what is thrown at you.

Why some people don’t even get as far as setting goals 

If you have the wrong mindset, it can stop you from setting goals. Let’s look at some of these instances.

  • You don’t believe in goal setting: Many people think goal setting is a waste of their time. This is because they have failed in achieving their goals in the past and now don’t believe in setting goals. The problem here is that they probably didn’t take the time to analyze and understand why they had failed. Had they done that and addressed it appropriately, they probably would have succeeded. You will become convinced of the power of SMART goal setting once you take the trouble to research highly successful people and what their goals helped them to accomplish. People who set realistic goals and work at them, do succeed.
  • You lack the ability to set goals: If you set goals before and failed, the problem might lie with your goal-setting abilities. It’s one thing to have a goal for how you’re going to spend your vacation, it’s quite another thing to set goals for your business. Simple fact: it’s not easy. It takes time to come up with a goal for your business. Think it through carefully. Make sure you make it achievable and realistic. Test your goals with the 6 W-questions and formulate it in a simple statement.
  • You are afraid of failure: You are so afraid you might fail that you don’t even bother to set a goal. Many people don’t know how to handle failure, so they simply don’t set themselves up for the possibility of failure. Problem is, then you also set yourself up for nothing, nada, zilch. These are the people who, when they don’t see results soon, give up. The point is, failure is part of goal setting, so instead of fearing failure, try to accept it, expect it, and learn from it. Failure is a part of business, it will happen. Don’t let it get in the way of your future success.
  • You have doubts: A major stumbling block to setting goals is a lack of self-belief. Many people don’t believe in themselves and their abilities or the possibility of achieving a goal. For them, it’s hard to even think of setting an ambitious goal. But if you want to succeed, you can’t afford to have doubts. Again, look at people who have succeeded and their beliefs. Look at Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. They set high goals, believe in their products and services, and tell everyone about it. They don’t let any doubts, and there must be many, get in their way,
  • You lack vision: Some people struggle with goal setting because they don’t have a clear vision of what success would look like for them. They can’t picture themselves being successful and what that would entail. Since they don’t have a clear image of success, they can’t set a goal to achieve it. In this case, you might need someone to help you dream big, and help you figure out the necessary steps to achieve the goal you come up with. Just make sure it’s your goal, not the person’s goal for you.

Final thoughts

SMART goal setting has helped many people to succeed. If you have a dream or a vision of something you’d like to achieve, you owe it to yourself to learn all you can about goal setting and then to commit yourself to achieving it. 

In addition, if you are a physician looking to start your own business, check our my book, Entrepreneur Rx. In Entrepreneur Rx, I share time tested insights and knowledge for building a thriving startup while maintaining your practice. From identifying winning business ideas to raising necessary capital, I offer a comprehensive insider’s view into strategies that have helped me develop and nurture a number of successful businesses.