Be SMART about goals

notebook and pen
(Death to the Stock Photo photo)

Establishing goals, both short-term and long-term, is an important part of managing a business. Goals help you decide what you wish to accomplish and, if done well, can contribute to the long-run success of your business. 

Goals should be written

According to Gail Matthews, professor of psychology at Dominican University in California, people are 42% more likely to achieve goals simply by writing them down. A study conducted by Matthews divided participants into five groups, each with different instructions. The first group had unwritten goals, the second had written goals, the third had written goals and written action commitments, the fourth had written goals and actions and gave them to a friend, and the fifth group gave their written goals and actions to a friend and provided weekly updates about progress. 

Which group do you think did best? The results of the study showed that 76% of participants who wrote down their goals, actions and provided weekly progress to a friend successfully achieved their goals. This result is 33% higher than those participants with unwritten goals, with a success rate of only 43% of goals achieved. 

Develop SMART goals

Your written goals should be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and timed, or SMART, for short: 

Specific — Goals should focus on a specific problem or need. 

Measurable — There must be some means of tracking achievement of goals.

Action-oriented — Actions will be the pathway to achieving goals. 

Realistic — Aim high but keep goals within the realm of possibility. 

Timed — Goals are only useful when they are current. They should include a realistic timeline and a completion date. 

Types of goals

Goals can be divided into three types: personal, production and business. Let’s look at each type. 

Personal goals, as the title implies, are goals that an individual wishes to accomplish. Other people in the business may share the same goals. Communicate your personal goals with your employees as scheduling adjustments may need to happen to ensure all tasks are completed. Example SMART personal goals include: serve in a leadership role at church in 2022; attend 90% of daughter’s basketball games in 2021; improve management skills by reading two employee management books in 2022. 

Production goals generally focus on one specific part of the overall business. It would not be uncommon to have multiple production goals. Focus on those that make the most impact. Examples SMART production goals include: participate in the OSU Extension Farm Business Analysis & Benchmarking Program in 2022; increase milk production 10% in two years; conduct a forage analysis in 2022. 

Business goals are often bigger in scope and more challenging. These goals are especially important for the long-term success of the business. Example SMART business goals include: attend an OSU Extension Farm Succession Workshop and develop a transition plan in 2022; assemble and meet two times in 2022 with a management advisory team; reduce overhead expenses 1% per year for five years. 


Goals are only dreams if no action is ever taken. Develop goals that are SMART, put them in writing and share with others. Ask those you share your goals with to help hold you accountable for doing what’s necessary to achieve your goals. When you accomplish a goal, great! If you fall short, evaluate what prevented you from achieving the goal and make revisions.


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