Originally Printed in Northern Ontario Business, October 2015.
Although I have been out of school for many years, when September comes around, I still feel the excitement of the first day of school. Maybe not the hopes or fears that kids feel…but definitely a sense of an opportunity for new beginnings, or simply a perfect time to reevaluate my business and personal goals.
Like many of you, I like to make personal goals — whether it is to get back to the gym, eat better, or simply read more. Whatever it might be, it’s important to challenge ourselves. The same goes for your business. At regular intervals you should be evaluating your business, developing goals and planning your next steps.
Perhaps you want to expand your local business, change the menu at your diner, add a new product line, or move into a bigger retail space. One of the best ways to approach goal setting is to follow the SMART principle. SMART is an acronym used in goal setting and strategic planning, and means your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
In 2012, I set a goal to write my first book. I have counselled and assisted hundreds of entrepreneurs, and spoken to even more students about opportunities in entrepreneurship. I wanted to share my experiences and business knowledge with others interested in following their dreams. I made the following goal:
I am going to write a book to show people how to start their own business, sharing my personal lessons, stories and business knowledge. I will write the book in 3 months. I will self-publish my book as a digital ebook on Amazon.com, and promote my book using various strategies I have learned. I will sell 5,000 copies in the first 3 years.
I completed the book in three months. However, this is where the plan changed. While editing my book, I decided to remove a whole chapter. Since my book was still being finalized, I decided to turn the single chapter into its own ebook and publish it on Amazon just for the experience. “25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time” was born.
I learned everything I could about self-publishing and promoting your own books. I put a launch strategy in place, which included offering free copies of my book to Amazon customers. To my amazement, my promotional efforts worked extremely well. Over time my book sales accelerated, and within seven months I sold 2,000 copies. Less than nine months later I had sold 4,000 copies and in another two months I broke the 5,000 mark!
I tracked sales on a daily basis and modified my marketing strategy as I went. I was averaging over 300 sales a month – and in my best month sold over 500 copies. By setting a specific, measurable, relevant and time-bound goal, I achieved success. If I had simply decided to write a book, with no plan, I may have never finished.
In the end I did self-published my original book (Starting Your Own Business: An Entrepreneur’s Guide), but my chapter-turned-book has outsold it almost 10:1. Had I never adapted that single chapter, I might have never accomplished my goal, and never realized that I could be a successful self-published author!
Using the SMART principle I was able to set a goal that worked for me. When things changed, I adapted, but continued completing tasks required to reach my goal. To be honest, I didn’t know if I would ever sell 5,000 copies, but today I look back on this experience and I am so glad that I set such a challenge for myself.
So as you say goodbye to summer and start to focus more on your business, take the time to evaluate your existing goals, and if you don’t have any – make some.
In the end it works, and you will be feel a sense of accomplishment each time you reach your goal, not to mention reaping the rewards that come along with it.