A small business owner talks to his advisor about his small business goals.
Running a business

Setting small business goals: A complete guide (+ free checklist)

What are business goals?

Business goals are specific and achievable objectives a business sets to guide decisions and measure success. These goals help businesses focus on what they want to achieve in the short and long term.

From setting mental objectives for the day to dreaming about passing a business milestone, goals are a big part of a business owner’s journey. 

Whether you’re a solopreneur looking to reach a new audience or a small business owner wanting to improve your cash flow, setting clear and realistic business goals can help with decision-making and motivate you to achieve them.

Learn the importance of setting business goals—possibly as part of a new year business strategy—and how to set achievable goals with the help of this free business goals checklist template.

Why you should set business goals

As a small business owner, you likely set a couple of goals for your business in the past. Whether you have a mission statement or a clear objective, it’s essential to understand the significance of setting business goals.

Setting clear and achievable goals impacts your small business's success and: 

  • Provides direction and focus: Business goals offer a clear sense of direction for your small business. They help your team understand what you want your business to accomplish, which can enhance focus and alignment within the business. 
  • Measures progress: Goals serve as benchmarks for evaluating your business’s progress and success, helping identify areas for improvement. 
  • Acts as motivation: A measurable and well-defined goal can motivate you and your employees by providing a target to strive for, increasing engagement and commitment. 
  • Facilitates decision-making: Clear goals assist in making better decisions by allowing you to assess whether a solution aligns with your business goals and objectives. 
  • Establishes accountability: Assigning goals to team members promotes accountability by clearly designating responsibility for working toward specific goals.  

Focusing on creating measurable business goals will also help provide a road map to a long-term mission or vision and contribute to the growth of a successful business.

How to set business goals 

Now that you understand the importance of setting clear goals for your small business, you need to learn how to set business goals effectively to align with your mission and vision. 

Setting goals solely for the sake of having an objective is unlikely to lead you to success. There are steps you can take to establish measurable business goals that have a significant impact on your business.

The five steps to setting realistic goals.

Here are some steps to help you set impactful business goals: 

1. Start with your mission and vision 

The first step in setting business goals is to think about your business mission and vision. If you have a team, collaborate with stakeholders to understand the primary reasons for setting these goals. 

To determine your business’s most important goals that will have a long-term impact, you can: 

  • Review your business’s mission, vision, and values to establish goals aligned with them. 
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats affecting your business. 
  • Identify the primary reason for setting these goals, such as increasing revenue, expanding market share, enhancing customer satisfaction, and improving efficiency. 
  • Consider where you want your business to be in the future, and envision your business 10 years from now. 

Once you have your main goals in mind, break them down into smaller actionable goals that you can achieve in a shorter time frame

2. Categorize your goals

Now that you have your primary business goals in sight, you can begin categorizing them. Dividing goals into categories helps you decide which goals and objectives to prioritize. 

Start by dividing your goals into short-term and long-term categories: 

  • Short-term goals: Goals set for the near future, typically within days, weeks, or months. They focus on specific, immediate tasks that contribute to a long-term goal and are generally easier to measure and assess.  
  • Long-term goals: Goals set for a more extended period, usually from one year to several years into the future. They focus on a broader vision and are more strategic and challenging to measure. 

To categorize goals into short-term and long-term, consider using the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework. This framework defines an objective (your long-term goal) and three to five measurable key results (your short-term goals). 

After dividing your goals into short- and long-term, consider grouping them into more specific categories, such as financial, operational, employee development, marketing, and customer service. 


If your business wants to improve cash flow in the next three years, this is your long-term goal. You can break it into smaller short-term goals, such as decreasing accounts receivable and past-due invoices.

3. Make them SMART

After your business goals are categorized, you need to ensure they are achievable.

An explanation of SMART goals, which is a goal that's specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.

To do that, ensure each of your goals is SMART, which means: 

  • Specific: Clearly define the objective and desired outcome. 
  • Measurable: Specify how you’ll measure success with specific metrics. 
  • Achievable: Ensure the goal is realistic, considering your resources and constraints.
  • Relevant: Confirm the goal aligns with your mission and objectives.
  • Time-based: Set a clear deadline for achieving the goal. 

Ensuring each goal follows the SMART criteria will make them clearer and more objective, helping you focus and motivate you to achieve each goal. 

For example, if your goal is to increase your e-commerce sales by 15% in the next six months as part of your goal to improve profitability, you have a SMART goal. This goal is specific and measurable, as it defines exactly what you want to achieve with a percentage increase. It can be achievable depending on your sales trends. It's relevant because it aligns with improving profitability, and you aim to achieve it in six months, making it time-based.

4. Prioritize and assign responsibilities

Not all goals carry the same level of importance. You should prioritize your goals based on their potential impact on your business and the resources needed to achieve them. Organize your goals in order of priority so you can focus on the most impactful goals first. 

After that, break down each goal into actionable steps and tasks to assign to your team. Identify who is responsible for each task and its associated goal to ensure accountability. If you’re a solopreneur, you can use this time to organize your tasks and create a schedule that will help you achieve your goals. 

5. Measure the progress

Once you start working toward your business goals, it’s essential to track your progress to ensure you’re on the right path and determine whether you need to make adjustments

Implement a system for tracking and reporting your progress, and review it regularly to adjust as needed. You can do this through a spreadsheet, a checklist, or project management software. Set reminders to monitor your progress, whether that’s on a monthly or quarterly basis. 

Consider using all-in-one software that houses all your business information, such as invoices, expenses, and financial statements, to easily gather data to analyze your progress toward your goals.

Stay in control of your cash flow

Explore the many ways to manage your cash flow with QuickBooks.

Types of business goals (+ examples)

You can set different types of goals for your business, which can vary based on their focus, purpose, and the area of business they address.

A list of examples of each type of business goal.

Here are some common types of business goals with examples: 

  • Financial goals: Focus on the economic aspects of your business, including revenue, cost management, and profitability. 
  • Example: Increasing annual revenue by 20% to boost business growth. 
  • Sales and marketing goals: Focus on expanding your customer base, improving brand visibility, and increasing market share. 
  • Example: Achieve a 15% market share within the next 12 months by launching a new marketing campaign. 
  • Operational goals: Focus on enhancing internal processes, productivity, and product and service quality. 
  • Example: Reduce inventory tracking errors by 50% by the end of the quarter by implementing a barcode scanning system.
  • Customer service goals: Focus on delivering a superior customer experience, such as setting targets for response times and satisfaction levels. 
  • Example: Enhance overall customer service experience by responding to customer inquiries within one hour. 
  • Employee goals: Focus on employees and hiring, including employee retention, satisfaction, and development. 
  • Example: Reduce employee turnover by 15% within the next year through a revised onboarding process and employee development training.
  • Social goals: Focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR), including carbon footprint reduction and charitable giving. 
  • Example: Achieve carbon neutrality within the next five years with a small business sustainability plan
  • Growth goals: Focus on expanding into new markets, opening new locations, and developing new products and services.
  • Example: Open an eCommerce store on a new platform by the end of the year.  

Each type of business goal serves a specific purpose within your business, guiding your business strategy and operations. You can set a combination of these goals, such as improving tax reporting speed or creating a new marketing plan, all contributing to your overall main goal.

A woman sits on a couch while filling out the small business goals checklist.

Run your business with confidence

Learning how to set realistic business goals can guide and motivate you to achieve each objective, regardless of its size. As your business evolves, reassessing your goals is equally important, as your priorities may change.

Tracking your progress and evaluating your goals with all-in-one software, like QuickBooks, makes it easy to monitor invoices, inventory, and profits daily, giving you a clear picture of your progress toward achieving your goals.

Business goals FAQ

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