Smartsheet Contributor Kate Eby
November 7, 2022
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Learning how to set concrete, achievable business goals is critical to your organization’s success. We’ve consulted seasoned experts on how to successfully set and achieve short- and long-term business goals, with examples to help you get started.
Included on this page, you’ll find a list of the different types of business goals, the benefits and challenges of business goal-setting, and examples of short-term and long-term business goals. Plus, find expert tips and compare and contrast business goal-setting frameworks.
What Are Business Goals?
Business goals are the outcomes an organization aims to achieve. They can be broad and long term or specific and short term. Business leaders set goals in order to motivate teams, measure progress, and improve performance.
“Business goals are those that represent a company's overarching mission,” says David Bitton, Co-founder and CMO of DoorLoop. “These goals typically cover the entire business and are vast in scope. They are established so that employees may work toward a common goal. In essence, business goals specify the ‘what’ of a company's purpose and provide teams with a general course to pursue.”
For more resources and information on setting goals, try one of these free goal tracking and setting templates.
Business Goals vs. Business Objectives
Many professionals use the terms business goal and business objective interchangeably. Generally, a business goal is a broad, long-term outcome an organization works toward, while a business objective is a specific and measurable task, project, or initiative.
Think of business objectives as the steps an organization takes toward their broader, long-term goals. In some cases, a business objective might simply be a short-term goal. In most cases, business goals refer to outcomes, while business objectives refer to actionable tasks.
“Business objectives are clear and precise,” says Bitton. “When businesses set out to achieve their business goals, they do so by establishing quantifiable, simply defined, and trackable objectives. Business objectives lay out the ‘how’ in clear, doable steps that lead to the desired result.”
For more information and resources, see this article on the key differences between goals and objectives.
Common Frameworks for Writing Business Goals
Goal-setting frameworks can help you get the most out of your business goals. Common frameworks include SMART, OKR, MBO, BHAG, and KRA. Learning about these goal-setting tools can help you choose the right one for your company.
Here are the common frameworks for writing business goals with examples:
- SMART: SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This is probably the most popular method for setting goals. Ensuring that your goals meet SMART goal criteria is a tried and true way to increase your chances of success and make progress on even your most ambitious goals.
Example SMART Goal: We will increase the revenue from our online store by 5 percent in three months by increasing our sign-up discount from 25 to 30 percent.
- OKR: Another popular approach is to set OKRs, or objectives and key results. In order to use OKRs, a team or individual selects an objective they would like to work toward. Then they select key results, or standardized measurements of success or progress.
Example Objective: We aim to increase the sales revenue of our online store.
Example Key Result: Make $200,000 in sales revenue from the online store in June.
- MBO: MBO, or management by objectives, is a collaborative goal-setting framework and management technique. When using MBO, managers work with employees to create specific, agreed-upon objectives and develop a plan to achieve them. This framework is excellent for ensuring that everyone is aligned on their goals.
Example MBO: This quarter, we aim to decrease patient waiting times by 30 percent.
- BHAG: A BHAG, or a big hairy audacious goal, is an ambitious, possibly unattainable goal. While the idea of setting a BHAG might run contrary to a lot of advice about goal-setting, a BHAG can energize the team by giving everyone a shared purpose. These are best for long-term, visionary business goals.
Example BHAG: We want to be the leading digital music service provider globally by 2030.
- KRA: KRAs, or key result areas, refer to a short list of goals that an individual, department, or organization can work toward. KRAs function like a rubric for general progress and to help ensure that the team’s efforts have an optimal impact on the overall health of the business.
Example KRA: Increase high-quality sales leads per sales representative.
Use the table below to compare the pros and cons of each goal-setting framework to help you decide which framework will be most useful for your business goals.
|SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound)|
|OKRs (objectives and key results)|
|MBOs (management by objectives)|
|BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals)|
|KRAs (key results areas)|
Types of Business Goals
A business goal is any goal that helps move an organization toward a desired result. There are many types of business goals, including process goals, development goals, innovation goals, and profitability goals.
Here are some common types of business goals:
- Growth: A growth goal is a goal relating to the size and scope of the company. A growth goal might involve increasing the number of employees, adding new verticals, opening new stores or offices, or generally expanding the impact or market share of a company.
- Process: A process goal, also called a day-to-day goal or an efficiency goal, is a goal to improve the everyday effectiveness of a team or company. A process goal might involve establishing or improving workflows or routines, delegating responsibilities, or improving team skills.
- Problem-Solving: Problem-solving goals address a specific challenge. Problem-solving goals might involve removing an inefficiency, changing policies to accommodate a new law or regulation, or reorienting after an unsuccessful project or initiative.
- Development: A development goal, also called an educational goal, is a goal to develop new skills or expertise, either for your team or for yourself. For example, development goals might include developing a new training module, learning a new coding language, or taking a continuing education class in your field.
- Innovation: An innovation goal is a goal to create new or more reliable products or services. Innovation goals might involve developing a new mobile app, redesigning an existing product, or restructuring to a new business model.
- Profitability: A profitability goal, also called a financial goal, is any goal to improve the financial prospects of a company. Profitability goals might involve increasing revenue, decreasing debt, or growing the company’s shareholder value.
- Sustainability: A sustainability goal is a goal to either decrease your company’s negative impact on the environment or actively improve the environment through specific initiatives. For example, a sustainability goal might be to decrease a company’s carbon footprint, reduce energy use, or divest from environmentally irresponsible organizations and reinvest in sustainable ones.
- Marketing: A marketing goal, also called a brand goal, is a goal to increase a company’s influence and brand awareness in the market. A marketing goal might be to boost engagement across social media platforms or generate more higher-quality leads.
- Customer Relations: A customer relations goal is a goal to improve customer satisfaction with and trust in your product or services. A customer relations goal might be to decrease customer service wait times, improve customers’ self-reported satisfaction with your products or services, or increase customer loyalty.
- Company Culture: A company culture goal, also called a social goal, is a goal to improve the work environment of your company. A company culture goal might be to improve employee benefits; improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across your organization; or create a greater sense of work-life balance among employees.
What Are Business Goal Examples?
Business goal examples are real or hypothetical business goal statements. A business goal example can use any goal-setting framework, such as SMART, OKR, or KRA. Teams and individuals use these examples to guide them in the goal-setting process.
For a comprehensive list of examples by industry and type, check out this collection of business goal examples.
What Are Short-Term Business Goals?
Short-term business goals are measurable objectives that can be completed within hours, days, weeks, or months. Many short-term business goals are smaller objectives that help a company make progress on a longer-term goal.
The first step in setting a short-term business goal is to clarify your long-term goals.
“My practice is to start with an aspirational vision that is the framework for my long-term goals and to compare that ‘better tomorrow’ with the realities of today,” says Morgan Roth, Chief Communication Strategy Officer at EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases. “Once that framework of three to five major goals is drafted and I have buy-in, I can think about how we get there. Those will be my short-term goals.”
Bitton recommends using the SMART framework for setting short-term business goals to ensure that your team has structure and that their goals are achievable. “Determine which objectives can be attained in a reasonable amount of time,” she adds. “This will help you stay motivated. Your organization may suffer if you try to squeeze years-long ambitions into a month-long project.”
Short-Term Business Goal Examples
Companies can use short-term business goals to increase profits, implement new policies or initiatives, or improve company culture. We’ve gathered some examples of short-term business goals to help you brainstorm your own goal ideas.
Here are three sample short-term business goals:
- Increase Your Market Share: When companies increase their market share, they increase the percentage of their target audience who chooses their product or service over competitors. This is a good short-term goal for companies that have long-term expansion goals.
For example, a local retail business might want to draw new customers from the local community. The business sets a goal of increasing the average number of customers who enter its store from 500 per week to 600 per week within three months. It can meet this goal by launching a local advertising initiative, reducing prices, or expanding its presence on local social media groups.
Small business owners can check out this comprehensive guide to learn more about setting productive goals for their small businesses.
- Reduce Paper Waste: All businesses produce waste, but company leaders can take actions to reduce or combat excessive waste. Reducing your company’s paper waste is a good short-term goal for companies that have long-term sustainability goals.
For example, a large company’s corporate headquarters is currently producing an average of four pounds of paper waste per employee per day. They set a goal of decreasing this number to two pounds by the end of the current quarter. They can meet this goal by incentivizing or requiring electronic reporting and forms whenever possible.
- Increase Social Media Engagement: High social media engagement is essential for businesses that want to increase brand awareness or attract new customers. This is a good short-term goal for companies with long-term marketing or brand goals.
For example, after reviewing a recent study, a natural cosmetics company learns that its target audience is 30 percent more likely to purchase products recommended to them by TikTok influencers, but the company’s social media team only posts sporadically on its TikTok. The company sets a goal of producing and posting two makeup tutorials on TikTok each week for the next three months.
What Are Long-Term Business Goals?
A long-term business goal is an ambitious desired outcome for your company that is broad in scope. Long-term business goals might be harder to measure or achieve. They provide a shared direction and motivation for team members.
“Long-term planning is increasingly difficult in our very complex and interconnected world,” says Roth. “Economically, politically, and culturally, we’re seeing sea changes in the way we live and work. Accordingly, it’s important to be thoughtful about long-term goal-setting, but not to the point where concerns stifle creativity and your ‘Big Ideas.’ A helpful strategy I employ is to avoid assumptions. Long-term planning should be based on what you know, not on what you assume will be true in some future state.”
Tip: You can turn most short-term goals into long-term goals by increasing their scope. For example, to turn the “increase market share” goal described above into a long-term goal, you might increase the target weekly customers from 600 to 2,000. This will likely take longer than a few months and might require expanding the store or opening new locations.
Long-Term Business Goal Examples
An organization can use long-term business goals to unify their vision, motivate workers, and prioritize short-term goals. We’ve gathered some examples of long-term business goals to guide you in setting goals for your business.
Here are three sample long-term business goals:
- Increase Total Sales: A common growth profitability goal is to increase sales. An up-and-coming software company might set a long-term goal of increasing their product sales by 75 percent over two years.
- Increase Employee Retention: Companies with high employee retention enjoy many benefits, such as decreased hiring costs, better brand reputation, and a highly skilled workforce. A large corporation with an employee retention rate of 80 percent might set a long-term goal of increasing that retention rate to 90 percent within five years.
- Develop a New Technology: Most companies in the IT sphere rely on innovation goals to stay competitive. A company might set a long-term goal of creating an entirely new AI technology within 10 years.
Challenges of Setting Business Goals
Although setting business goals has few downsides, teams can run into problems. For example, setting business goals that are too ambitious, inflexible, or not in line with the company vision can end up being counterproductive.
Here are some common challenges teams face when setting business goals:
- Having a Narrow Focus: One of the greatest benefits of setting business goals is how doing so can focus your team. That said, this can also be a drawback, as such focus on a single goal can narrow the team’s perspective and make people less able to adapt to change or recognize and seize unexpected opportunities.
- Being Overly Ambitious: It’s important to be ambitious, but some goals are simply too lofty. If a goal is impossible to hit, it can be demoralizing.
- Not Being Ambitious Enough: The opposite problem is when companies are too modest with their goal-setting. Goals should be realistic but challenging. Teams that prioritize the former while ignoring the latter will have problems with motivation and momentum.
- Facing Unexpected Obstacles: If something happens that suddenly derails progress toward a goal, it can be a huge blow to a company. Learn about project risk management to better manage uncertainty in your projects.
- Having Unclear Objectives: Goals that are vague or unquantifiable will not be as effective as clear, measurable goals. Use frameworks such as SMART goals or OKRs to make sure your goals are clear.
- Losing Motivation: Teams can lose sight of their goals over time, especially with long-term goals. Be sure to review and assess progress toward goals regularly to keep your long-term vision front of mind.
Why You Need Business Goals
Every business needs to set clear goals in order to succeed. Business goals provide direction, encourage focus, improve morale, and spur growth. We’ve gathered some common benefits of goal-setting for your business.
Here are some benefits you can expect from setting business goals:
- More Clarity: Business goals ensure that everyone is moving toward a determined end point. Companies with clear business goals have teams that agree on what is important and what everyone should be working toward.
- Increased Focus: Business goals encourage focus, which improves performance and increases productivity.
- Faster Growth: Business goals help companies expand and thrive. “Setting goals and objectives for your business will help you grow it more quickly,” says Bitton. “Your potential for growth increases as you consistently accomplish your goals and objectives.”
- Improved Morale: Everyone is happier when they are working toward a tangible goal. Companies with clear business goals have employees that are more motivated and fulfilled at work. Plus, measuring progress toward specific goals makes it easier to notice and acknowledge everyone’s successes.
- More Accountability: Having tangible goals means that everyone can see whether or not their work is effective at making progress toward those goals.
- Better Decision-Making: Business goals help teams prioritize tasks and make tough decisions. “You gain perspective on your entire business, which makes it easier for you to make smart decisions,” says Bitton. “You are forming a clear vision for the direction you want your business to go, which facilitates the efficient distribution of resources, the development of strategies, and the prioritization of tasks.”
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Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change.
The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.
When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.Try Smartsheet for free, today.