Talking Business

Marvin Carolina Jr.: Setting goals will help get your business where you want it to go

In his bestseller “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey says highly effective people “start with the end in mind.” As a small-business owner, you should do the same: Make business decisions based on where you want your business to be in five or 10 years. Ask yourself, before each decision, “Will this get me where I want to go?”

The first thing you should do is visualize how you want your business to look in the future. It does not matter how much or how little time you invest in this exercise. It can be 30 minutes. But be specific! Saying your goal is to make $500,000 in annual sales is specific. Saying your goal is to make a lot of money is not. Remember: Your business is yours, so you can make it look any way you want.

To grow your business and realize its potential, you have to consistently make good decisions. I have met far too many small-business owners who have admitted they are in the habit of making decisions that will get them to the next month. Practicing this short-sighted — yet popular — approach to decision-making will almost ensure you will not arrive where you intended.

Why are you in business? To make money? That is not a good reason to be in business because you can make money lots of ways. If providing the best product or service is not your primary reason for being in business, your competitors — who are trying to provide the best product or service — will eventually snatch your market share and drive you out of the market.

How do you work backwards? With goals. Elbert Hubbard, an American philanthropist, said it well: “Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.”

Highly effective people set goals. As a small-business owner you should set goals and communicate them to your employees. I recommend using SMART goals. There are variations on the SMART acronym, and those variations are similar, but I prefer each business goal be the following:

Specific: The more specific your goal, the better.

Measurable: Have tangible criteria for measuring progress.

Assignable: Decide who will accomplish what, and let them know.

Realistic: You must be willing and able to accomplish each goal given your resources and time.

Time sensitive: With no time limit, there is no urgency.

There are lots of paths you can take in business, and with each decision, you either keep your business on the path you want or take it down another. Like driving a car. When you leave home, for example, you know where you want to go, so at each intersection, you decide which street will quickly get you to your destination. Drivers know exactly where they want to go. Lots of small-business owners do not.

Marvin Carolina Jr. is a vice president for JE Dunn Construction. He can be reached at