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Goal-Setting: Expert Leads The Way

Monday, December 3, 2007

Goal-Setting: Expert Leads The WayGoal setting should play a huge role in every retailer's repertoire of business-building talents. But it's so easy to put off what seems like a daunting task, and to let go of goals once they're made. Don't despair! "Goal Guru" Jill Koenig, best-selling author, coach and expert on the subject of goal-setting, discusses strategies for establishing, organizing and measuring your goals. The result? 2008 can become your most successful retailing year ever!

Q. Why is it important for business owners to set goals, especially when their businesses are small?

A. The smaller the organization, the more [owners] need to focus on creating their own set of goals. When you're an entrepreneur and you're running you own little piece of the world, everything rests on your shoulders—shipping, customer service, accounting, marketing. You can get swallowed up by all those different responsibilities, and mental work [such as goal-setting] falls by the wayside. You don't just clock in and clock out …and you don't make a profit by simply being present [at the store]. That's why it's imperative that you become a master goal-setter for your business, so you're driving your business instead of it driving you.

Setting goals and knowing what direction you're heading in is like having a roadmap. You need to set goals so you can grow your company. Companies need targets for income, inventory [and more]. That's because [physiologically] the mind needs to have clear, specific targets in order to perform at certain levels. There is no one formula for goal-setting, but those businesses that do set goals are the ones that are the most successful. And those who have a clear mission of what the purpose is for their company are the ones who are going to thrive.

Oftentimes when entrepreneurs or Fortune 500 companies come to me, they are stuck or want to expand beyond the plateau that their businesses [have reached]. Whether a company is large or small, the principals for creating advancement out of where it is are still the same. The way to do it is through creating clear, specific goals—a step-by-step process for advancing. I suggest that clients spend no more than 10% of their energy focused on the problem, and spend 90% focused on the solution.

Q. So, if goal-setting is the solution, how do you suggest retailers create a structured set of goals?

A. There's a simple five-step formula that works for businesses and individuals:

1. Decide exactly what you want—in writing, with a paper and pen. This activates the reticular activating system in the brain which sends a command that says, "Go get it!" You can think about your goals consciously, but this takes them where the unconscious mind can go to work on them. [The unconscious mind] never sleeps, it works all the time. It can find things that the conscious mind doesn't have the energy to do. Write down your wants and ideals. Make your goals bigger than anything you have previously done. This will inspire you and cause you to stretch. When you're growing, you feel more alive and happier.

2. Affirm why you want [your goals]. These are the personal reasons about why you want something. The bigger the personal reasons, the more internal motivation you will give yourself. Once you define your goal, list 10 reasons why you want it. If you can only give one reason, I find that usually means you are not committed to that goal. The worst thing you can do is set goals that don't mean anything. Motivation comes from these goals. Figure out what matters to you—and then go after it. Again, put everything on paper.

3. Define the actions you need to take to achieve the goals. Write them on paper. In the beginning, it is important to get an idea of what it will take to make your goals happen. Oftentimes this is a living, breathing action plan. After it's written, your reticular activating system will constantly be [developing] new ideas, opportunities and new ways of doing things. You could have a goal and come up with 100 things to do to reach it. Once you start to get a list, prioritize what items are most important and need to happen first. If you tackle the list in order of priority, you will usually achieve your goal without having to complete everything on the list.

4. Schedule the actions in your calendar so you know what you need to do and when you need to do it. Actions for some goals, especially those for business owners, need to be done on a daily basis [e.g., monitoring, measuring or tracking a practice]. Sometimes there are things that other people need to do. List actions at the right time of day. Persistence over time is worth more than frantic activity that doesn't last. I call it "a goal a day." To avoid being overwhelmed, spread action steps out over time. Take small steps, have in mind what you can do today and tomorrow. You can speed up the steps when your mind gets at ease [with this process]. You can do a lot in a short amount of time but your emotional capacity can't always see that.

5. DO IT! Follow through and carry out your plan.

If you can create these five habits for every major goal, you'll succeed. It takes extra effort, focus and energy, but you'll be so glad when you do it. Our only limitation is ourselves. No one can stop you but you.

Q. Are there psychological advantages to setting goals?

A. Goal-setting brings clarity, positive feelings, peace of mind, hope and control to your life. Plus, your self esteem goes through the roof! The clarity of knowing what you want and how to get there helps you sift though countless potential distractions that come your way on any given day. A lot of people get distracted because they have a new idea every other minute, which can be their downfall. Not every opportunity that comes your way will be aligned with your goals. Sometimes, you will get a better opportunity. If you have clear vision, that will often attract things to you. Knowing your goals lets you invite the ones that will serve you and helps you reject the ones that won't.

Q. How often should retailers establish goals? When, and how, should they be reviewed, revised and measured?

A. Every individual should have a long-term vision for life. Imagine yourself decades from now and think, "Where am I?" "Who's there with me?" and "Who have I been blessed with?" Have a fantasy about your life and your company, and then work backward. Write some vague 10- year goals, then some vague 5-year goals. You don't have to have all the answers, or how you will [accomplish the goals]. Set some marks, or targets, far off into the future.

Then backtrack and focus on the next 12 months. Write a list of the top 10 one-year goals, the top 10 goals for each month and the top 10 goals for each week. Any goals that you don't achieve in a week can be carried over [to the next week]. The key is to measure your progress. You can't change what you don't measure. [For example,] if you know your goal is to achieve a certain amount in monthly sales, you can break that down for each week and day. You'll know from day to day whether you are reaching the average number that will reach your goals by the end of the month.

As a minimum, everyone should check in twice a year to take an inventory of [his or her] life and physical, financial, work, family and relationship goals. You might need to check in more often. People who accomplish the most check in every 90 days. That's not so overwhelming, and it's long enough to know if you're developing a pattern that's not serving you or your business. Most people don't give their goals enough of a chance. That's where measuring becomes important, so you know you're not doing the same habits that are not necessarily good habits.

Note: Koenig can be contacted at Koenig's free "Goal Setting" CD is available at

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