If you shudder at the word “goal”, this post is for you. Honestly, just a few years ago, it would have made me shudder, too! As I’ve grown both personally and professionally, I’ve developed a more holistic approach to setting business priorities that has worked really well for me. But first, let’s talk about a couple of the mistakes that tend to come up when business owners sit down to set goals for the first time.
Traditional Business Goal Setting Mistakes:
Goal Setting Mistake 1: Creating a specific goal around a metric you can’t control
There are a lot of things in business that we can’t directly control. For instance, how many leads end up in our inbox, who books, or how much revenue a launch will bring. Solely setting goals that are specific to factors like this are setting female business owners up for failure because we can’t know or control that particular outcome. While those specific number goals do have a use (prepping for a specific project or launch), they aren’t helpful for big picture business planning. So if you set those specific goals, make sure they are a smaller part of an overall set of business priorities!
Goal Setting Mistake 2: Using an arbitrary number without data
Whether you call them resolutions or goals or priorities, we are often encouraged to put specific numbers on the things we are striving for. And we can have a tendency to pull a number out of thin air. A wish, essentially. But there’s no genie in a bottle for business owners and those arbitrary numbers can have unintended negative consequences.
Picking an income goal or launch number out of the air is setting yourself up for failure. One example of poor goal setting that I see happen time after time is picking a number of followers you want to have on social media. I’m in a few photography Facebook groups and EVERY December, each group is littered with posts that sound like this:
“Hey guys, I’m just 50 followers away from 5,000 followers! Please follow me and I’ll follow back!”
So what’s the big deal here?
I have to ask:
Why did you choose 5,000 followers in the first place?
What happens at 5,000 followers?
What do you promote on that channel?
Do you have an ideal client or demographic?
If someone is just following you to help you reach a number, will they actually engage with your account in future?
Would those people in a peer group actually be potential customers/clients in the future?
Maybe! But in a lot of cases they won’t be. Instead, you may end up with a bunch of followers who also happen to be your competition. (In this example, other photographers.)
If those other photographers do engage with your content, social media algorithms will continue to show your content to other photographers all over the world, while showing YOU content from your competition that you’ve followed back.
As a result, you’ll be swimming in comparison syndrome and your ideal clients (local moms) won’t even know that you and your beautiful work even exist.
See what I mean? This is just one scenario, but no matter what you call it, you must have data to back up your business decision making! One poorly chosen goal can create a spiderweb of consequences that hold you back.
Setting an arbitrary goal can also artificially limit the outcome or prevent you from pivoting.
How to Set Holistic Business Goals for Your Woman Owned Business
It’s important to have direction in our business. In order to make great business decisions, gather accurate and relevant data, then use that data to set business priorities that direct where you put your energy going forward.
(And if at any point you feel paralyzed by indecision, remember that you are the CEO of your business! You can re-evaluate at any time and pivot if needed)
I’ve found that there are two important categories of business data to consider – mind data and heart data. Both are EQUALLY important, especially for women in small business.
These are the numbers. The cold hard facts. Grab your calculator, build a spreadsheet, crunch the numbers. Whether it’s income metrics, client stats, or a referral chart, find out what worked and what didn’t. Here are some great questions to ask during your data exploration:
- What are the most important metrics I need for this system or process?
- Are those numbers healthy or could they use improvement?
- What worked really well about this system or process?
- What needs polishing in order to be more effective?
- What new system or process do I want to implement in the next period?
Ask these questions for each segment (marketing, client experience, admin, etc) of your business! Don’t do anything with the data yet – we are just compiling right now.
Ok lady, put away the calculator! It’s time to reflect. As female business owners, we often find our personal lives entwined with our businesses. (For many of us, that’s why we started businesses in the first place!) So it’s important to check in on your personal priorities as well as your business plans.
(Note: Setting priorities can happen for whatever time frame you want, so that’s why I use the term “period” instead of quarter or year!)
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What felt GOOD last period?
- What didn’t work so well last period?
- How are you feeling about life overall?
- What are your personal priorities for the next few years?
- What is the overwhelming emotion you feel from the last period?
- What project, opportunity, etc from the last period do you want to see MORE of?
- What project, opportunity, etc from the last period do you want to see LESS of?
- Where do you see your business in 5-10 years? (I know that sounds cliche but it really is a good big picture question.)
This looks different for each of us, but my own personal priorities caused a huge pivot in my business plans for 2023 and beyond. For me, being available to help my family is a top priority and that affects the way I want my business to function in the future. My priorities are shifting from focusing solely on my in-person brand photography business, to growing a few different income streams including but not exclusive to in-person business branding photography so that I can be available for family members who live farther away. This will lead to significant changes in what I focus on and how I spend my time!
Use the Data to Inform your Business Priorities
Now it’s time to create a framework of business priorities that will inform your projects and tasks. The heart data you gathered will help you understand the direction you want to take your business, and the data will tell you what areas you need to double down on (or ditch), in order to achieve that vision.
Make sure that the priorities you’re setting highlight factors that you can control!
Here’s an example:
Instead of saying, “I’m going to work with this many new clients in 2023.” say,
“I want to work with more new clients this year as we are saving for a house and preparing for increased expenses. Networking worked really well for me last year, so I’m going to double down on that avenue to grow my contacts.”
“I did notice that while my inbox had a healthy number of quality leads, I only booked 5% of them. There’s a disconnect between the words on my website and my inquiry communication. So I’ll work on updating my systems for better follow up with leads and possibly hire someone to help me rework my inquiry strategy.”
Take your new or updated priorities and put them in a document or project management system so that you can break each one down into projects, to do lists, and deadlines.
Creating priorities like this allow your feelings and desires to balance the numbers and help direct future investments. It will also set your business up for success and keep your plans open to exciting opportunities and bigger than expected wins!
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Amy Lawson is a business branding photographer for female business owners. While currently located in Wisconsin, she’s a born and raised New England girl with a love of mountains and good seafood. When she’s not strategizing for her clients, you’ll often find her planning her next travel adventure, from the comfort of her couch.
If one of your business priorities is your online presence, download my free first impressions checklist! https://