SMART Goals for 2023

It’s officially the New Year, and for business owners, that’s an opportunity to look at your business through fresh eyes, with a renewed sense of energy and focus. Last month, we celebrated last year’s accomplishments and successes, but this month, I’d like to look ahead to how we might exceed them in 2023.

You’re probably familiar with SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound), but have you thought about the ways in which this year’s SMART goals might differ from last year’s? What I like about SMART goals is their near-universal applicability. While goals will vary from one business to another, there are key elements to this method that consistently help entrepreneurs create, and ultimately achieve, their goals. If you’re a new business owner, or if you’ve just been struggling to figure out the right goals for this year, here are some things to consider.

First, a goal must be Specific. Clearly state what you hope to accomplish, and exactly what you would need to do to accomplish it. For example, setting a goal to acquire 10 new clients this quarter, as opposed to the more general goal of simply picking up new clients. You then need to specify the actions you can take, such as launching a new promotion or referral program. This specificity enables the second component in the acronym – measurability.

Having a Measurable goal means that you know exactly how to track your progress. In the example of acquiring 10 new clients over four months, you should be tracking not just how many new clients actually signed on, but when they did, where they’re interested in traveling, and on what timeframe. Any measurable information could be useful down the road in what will hopefully be a long-term business relationship.

It should probably go without saying that any realistic goal must be Achievable. Sometimes, however, we overestimate or underestimate what we can achieve because we haven’t yet put specific or measurable parameters around our goal. The goal of bringing on 10 new clients this quarter by launching a promo or referral program is achievable, but only if your business has the resources and capacity to launch such a program, and if the target audience is reachable. I’d also like to challenge you to make your goals just a bit uncomfortable. Setting an easily-achievable goal might offer more short-term comfort, but your goals need to challenge you if you hope to learn and grow as a business owner.

Next, consider how Relevant your goal is to your business’s long-term success. Is it a goal that aligns with your mission and vision? Gaining new clients most likely is, but it’s not unheard of for advisors to get sidetracked by less relevant goals. I always encourage advisors to commit to their goals in writing and review them on a regular basis to ensure that they’re still relevant.

Finally, make sure that your goal is Time-bound. The impact of gaining 10 new clients will be greater if you limit your time horizon to something like one quarter than it would be if you limit your own potential by stretching it over a longer period. Carefully consider how much time you need to achieve your goal, and be strict about it. This can often be the most stressful part of the SMART goal-setting process, and it can be tempting to give yourself more time than you really need. But at the end of the day, setting goals that are strictly time-bound will save you more stress than it will ever induce, because it will teach you how to efficiently manage your time, one of the most important skills in any business.

As you plot out your goals for 2023, don’t forget the most important factor in the equation: your relationship with your clients. Never stop asking yourself: Why should they be doing business with you? If you aren’t doing everything you can to nurture those customer relationships, no amount of planning will matter.

I hope thinking about framing goals in this way has given you some food for thought. If you’re still skeptical of the SMART goal process, I would encourage you to put your skepticism to the test and give it a try anyway. As I’ve said, businesses, like people, are all different, but also like people, there are plenty of commonalities we can all learn from.