Real-World Business Goal Examples for Your Company's Success
The unstated goal of any business is to make money. But the problem with focusing on making money is it leads to the wrong focus. As we like to say at Ninety, "You don't make money because you want to make money, you make money because people value what you do."
It's our deep belief that the best leadership teams are focused on building something that endures. That's not a small goal, of course, so the reality is that every business has lots of goals that all support that ultimate goal. The purpose of this article is to share examples of business goals as well as to provide some frameworks for constructing them.
By their very nature, most reasonably successful entrepreneurs tend to be goal-oriented people. They have a vision for a business, the desire to put their physical, mental, and monetary resources into it, and the fortitude to weather the inevitable storms most every business will encounter. The business goals they identify — whether on their own or in conjunction with a Senior Leadership Team — are key to ensuring teams are focused and aligned to a larger purpose. This, however, is just one of the important attributes of goal setting.
Beyond fostering focus and alignment, setting business goals creates a culture of accountability, where everyone has tasks or makes contributions that support the goals in place. This helps guide the decision-making process associated with setting and reaching those goals, and it also keeps the goals front and center, a rallying point for the entire organization.
Whether aspirational or motivational, clear and compelling goals aligned with your longer-term vision:
- Provide a clear picture of what success looks like
- Define priorities and explain why leadership makes certain decisions
- Align individuals, teams, and departments across the whole organization
- Provide a methodology to track and measure success
- Allow us opportunities to celebrate and reward performance
Make no mistake: setting business goals is different from setting a strategy for your business. Examples of a strategy would be expanding into new markets, improving product differentiation, or implementing targeted marketing campaigns to support the goal of increasing market share by 5%. It’s a particular approach to achieving a goal. Strategies are important, of course, but they are not business goals; sometimes they guide or inform goals, and other times they support a goal.
Now, at first, many organizations that are in the early Stages of Development might self-deprecatingly state that their business goals are to fund payroll and simply do enough to keep the lights on. (We all have to start somewhere!) But we aim to share, shall we say, more advanced examples of business goals. And we’ll offer a hint right now: all of them should SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Breaking Down Different Types of Business Goals
Business goals can vary depending on the nature of the organization, its industry, and its specific circumstances. However, there are several common types of business goals that many organizations strive to achieve, such as:
Financial goals focused on financial performance and profitability, which may include an end goal of increasing revenue (and, related: reducing operating expenses), maximizing profit margins, improving cash flow, or increasing shareholder value.
Growth goals designed to emphasize expanding market share and/or product line extension, geographic reach, or overall business size. These goals often encompass objectives like increasing sales volume, entering new markets, launching new products or services, or expanding distribution channels.
Customer satisfaction and loyalty goals that center around delivering exceptional customer experiences and activities that foster enduring customer loyalty. Improving customer satisfaction ratings and customer retention rates are typically prime objectives of such goals, along with enhancing customer engagement.
Operational efficiency goals constructed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of key organizational processes and operations. Such goals might center around making workflows more streamlined, reducing waste (material waste or wasted time, likely both!), appropriate resource utilization, and enhancing supply chain management.
Innovation goals are all about fostering creativity and generating new ideas. At Ninety, we’re looking for more ways to create the space needed for such creative exploration, which can lead to the development of innovative products, services, or solutions.
Differentiation goals aim to set the business apart from competitors by offering unique value propositions or distinguishing features.
Employee development and engagement goals revolve around nurturing a talented and engaged workforce. Reaching such goals can happen in any number of ways, including dedicated budgets for professional development, forming lifestyle/interest groups within the organization, and (perhaps most importantly) a key focus on performance feedback through truthful, specific, and positive conversations.
- Short-term goals (90 days — we call these Rocks)
Example: Launch process to hopefully become designated a Great Place to Work® — or at least learn what we need to do to become one.
- Medium-term goals (1–3 years)
Example: 2023 Company Goal: Designated a Great Place to Work.
- Long-term goals (4–10+ years)
Example: 2030 Goal: Meaningfully supporting 3+ million people across the world.
Let’s look at the three types of goals outlined above.
When it comes to short-term goals, research strongly suggests that organizations tend to scale best when they embrace a 90-day goal-setting cadence. There’s just something about the nature of teams and staying closely aligned that tends to start fraying around the 90-day mark. We see it here at Ninety every quarter, so we always look forward to our Quarterly Planning Meetings to reconnect, stand back, reflect, and create new Rocks.
Of course, as with any best practice, there are always exceptions, and shorter-term goals may be needed in early-stage businesses grappling with product or market fit or those facing some sort of crisis. If you’re not in either of those categories, we’re confident you’ll find a 90-day cadence optimal.
With regard to medium-term goals, we like establishing 1-year and 3-year goals that we reset once a year. The 1-year goals are very clear and tend to be around broader themes associated with taking our organization or some part of our product or service offering to another level. Our 3-year goals provide our colleagues with what we hope is a compelling story about our aspirations. These goals not only create alignment at the Senior Leadership Team level but also provide context in terms of where we're going and why we're taking on these 1-year goals and Rocks. Just as importantly, 3-year goals provide our team members with a general sense for the opportunities they could potentially be involved with over the years to come.
Of course, some goals may need several quarters to achieve, if not several years. As an example, we have been working on becoming SOC2 compliant for multiple quarters, and the entire effort may take as long as two years. We still approach these goals 90 days at a time, using the phrases “Phase X” or “Part X” to denote a multi-quarter Rock.
As for long-term goals, we also believe that it behooves any organization to dream big, to create the kind of goal that feels a little scary but exciting at the same time. The kind of goal that serves to unite and inspire organizations to achieve greatness. We call these goals Compelling and Audacious Goals, and we’ll get into them a bit later.
Now, here’s a thought that’s pretty easy to get behind — our individual well-being is helped significantly if we have something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. Creating short-, medium-, and long-term goals is hugely helpful in terms of something to do and something to look forward to, and since most of our goals require teams, they also contribute to our social needs as well. Who wouldn’t love that?
Ready, Set… Goals!
We all know that success doesn’t just happen on its own. Setting goals that are clear, compelling, and actionable puts you on the path to repeatable success. Whatever journey a visionary sees for their business, goals are necessary pins on the map toward that ideal destination.
To that end, we recommend the following process for setting business goals that enable and inspire growth:
- Step away from day-to-day operational duties to see the big picture.
- Review and consider the company’s long-term vision.
- Seek input and feedback from team members… and make the goals SMART.
- Share these goals with the organization to create awareness and action plans.
In business, after all, growth and success are often synonymous. Companies need to achieve a certain level of growth to attract and retain great team members. Finding the correct level of tension to put on a team by establishing appropriate business goals is critical.
How to Write Business Goals and Make Them SMART
Several core disciplines are associated with creating rock-solid business goals. One of the most important is making those business goals SMART. Doing this ensures there's no question of whether or not a goal is accomplished. Here’s what it looks like:
- Specific — Create a one-sentence description of what success looks like. So, not just “increase revenue” but, instead, “Increase the revenue attributable to our exclusive line of sustainable products by 10% because it will help us create a halo effect over our other business categories.”
- Measurable — These are the metrics used to determine success or failure. The number might move in accordance with certain business conditions, but there won’t be any surprises when the time comes to review the goal’s outcome because you’re tracking the key data on a regular basis.
- Achievable — This is an accounting of existing competency, commitment, and capacity. Are the resources in place to achieve the goal? And do those resources have both the skill and desire to bring the goal to the finish line? If yes to both, we like the odds of reaching that goal!
- Relevant — Here, we create the connection between this goal and a longer-term goal. This is where we examine if the goal ladders up to the company’s vision or purpose.
- Time-bound — This is a precise description of the goal’s deadline. As businesses tend to review everything through the lens of quarterly results, a three-month timeline for many goals is appropriate to create something with enough time for action but not too much time to reduce any sense of urgency.
Compelling and Audacious Goals: VERY Long-Term Business Goals
There’s great satisfaction in setting and achieving the kind of business goals that keep things humming in an organization, the kind of goals that lead to sustainable success. Then there's a whole different type of goal. The type of goal that is both scary and invigorating to consider and has a timeline to completion of 4–15 years, maybe even longer. These are what we call Compelling and Audacious Goals (CAGs). These CAGs are designed to force people outside their comfort zone.
Wayyyyy outside of it, in fact.
They’re vitally important, however, if you consider that all the goals you set and achieve in the near term can set a foundation for something truly epic. Something almost laughably unrealistic on the surface, but worth pursuing as a potentially viable opportunity that aligns with a company’s purpose. That’s where the work and spirit of a visionary truly show up: the idea of reaching for something that is so inspiring, it will galvanize every team member and keep them excited for what the future may hold for the organization and each of them individually.
When we think of these kinds of goals, the goals that have made a mark on history, there are some notable examples:
- Starbucks — Become the most recognized and respected consumer brand in the world.
- Amazon — Every book ever printed in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.
- Microsoft — A computer on every desk in every home.
- Stanford University — Become the Harvard of the West.
- NASA — Put a man on the moon. (And today, surely, the focus is now on Mars.)
What a CAG might look like for any organization will depend on a few factors. How mature is that organization? What is their recent track record of achieving the short- and long-term goals they’ve set? How close is the founder to letting go of the vine — leaving the organization’s teams to handle day-to-day work — and shifting thoughts and efforts to the next big idea?
Strategies to Reach Business Goals
Another gem here from Bezos, who once said, “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” Similarly, organizations should be unwavering once a goal has been set, but it’s entirely appropriate to change or marginally tweak the tactics, measures, and objectives that support that goal. In business, things don’t always move in a linear fashion; there are times we need to adjust along the way to ensure we have a fighting chance to reach the goals we’ve set.
Use Weekly Team Meetings to Raise, Discuss, and Resolve any Issues (or opportunities) that might relate to the established business goals. Ninety offers not only a time-tested agenda for such meetings but also the ability for team members to vote on the Issues they find to be most pressing. This helps the team come to a mutual decision about what to tackle first when considering how they’ll reach the goals they’ve laid out.
Another way to ensure the accountability needed to achieve success is to use the RACI model and outline the Roles and Responsibilities for any given project or goal. RACI helps identify who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed on elements related to the business goal. It ensures commitment at all levels by everyone involved and establishes clear lines of communication for status updates by identifying the right people who can provide those updates.
Establishing Milestones Leads to Success
Okay, so we’ve discussed a few tactical measures to get us closer to achieving the business goals we’ve set. But what about communicating the progress? After all, people want to celebrate the wins when goals are reached, and there are often many people involved in seeing that goal through. In fact, many different people might own particular steps, or Milestones, without having true ownership of the goal itself. It’s important to consider what these Milestones are, who should be accountable for them, and when they need to be completed to ensure the end result is one of quality.
When it all comes together and a goal is reached, we use a State of the Company Meeting to recognize the results. This is where organizational leaders are creating an outlet for communication, a status update delivered in celebration. That level of communication and transparency keeps the energy up, the commitment strong… and the likelihood of success all the more assured for any goal that’s set.
And before you know it, the organization will have transformed itself into a goal-scoring machine.
Track Your Goals, Align Your Team, and Drive Growth with Ninety.io
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