7 Tips for Setting Goals for Success as an Entrepreneur

Keith Krach
Aug 30, 2016 · 4 min read

DocuSign, one of San Francisco’s leading tech companies, offers an array of products and services that drive business transactions for its more than 85 million users worldwide. The former start-up e-signature company is now a major provider of cloud-based document transaction management platforms that allow instant access and interaction, anytime, anywhere. DocuSign currently assists almost a quarter of a million businesses in achieving their goals for greater operational efficiency.

Much research has shown that business professionals who create a set of conscious, well-thought-out goals for themselves and their companies are more likely to achieve long-term success. Companies that fail to innovate through setting and following through on defined goals tend to languish while their competition pulls ahead.

Here are a few pointers that many experienced entrepreneurs have cited:

1. Be SMART in defining your goals.

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based, and allow you to set a concrete plan of action. By laying out a set of defined goals within a specific time frame, you have a better chance of turning your blue-sky ideas into realities.

Experts across a wide range of business sectors have used the SMART system successfully in achieving their goals.

2. Get specific.

The “specific” component requires an entrepreneur to move beyond generalities and vague wish-fulfillment statements. Instead of “I want to get rich!” try “I want to boost my after-tax profits by 15 percent over the next two years.” Make sure that these specific goals are also achievable and realistic.

When your goal is this defined, it becomes easier to visualize the outcome. You’ll be able to figure out objectively whether or not you have achieved it, and along the way will acquire information to help you set additional goals for the future based on past successes.

Be careful not to get caught up in goals that are so large-scale, complex, and over-ambitious that they can’t be nailed down into a realistic plan. Big dreams are important for an entrepreneur when it comes to long-term plans and the rationale for making major decisions, but they don’t lend themselves well to the kind of defined goal-setting you’re focused on here.

Don’t neglect to establish regular check-ins — with yourself or with your team — to review goals and determine how well they are coming to fruition.

3. Do sweat some of the small stuff.

You will additionally need to pinpoint the kinds of resources (e.g., time, energy, and finances) that will be required along the way. Divide your overall goal into manageable sections so that you can continue to build on each smaller achievement.

It is particularly important in a large-scale, long-range project to define the smaller steps along the way. For example, if your goal is to increase profits, you may want to specify a number of sub-goals that involve items such as staff support, training, quotas, and rewards programs.

4. Focus on what success looks like.

Measurability comes into play when you designate the means you will use to know whether or not you have achieved your goals. For instance, you will likely want to compare your balance sheets quarter over quarter and year over year during the time period you decide upon.

By focusing on a realistic time period in which to meet your expectations, you are giving yourself the room you need should your plan require a recalibration or reevaluation.

While you may not achieve a 15 percent profit increase within a few months, taking the pulse of your efforts at predetermined points along your timeline will help you understand the best ways to direct your efforts.

5. Allow room for adjustments.

Stay open to new insights and opportunities that become apparent as you work through your plan. It’s fine to use new information to help you adapt as you learn better ways of getting to your designated goal.

6. Write it down!

Getting your goals and objectives recorded on paper or in an online document will help you develop your concepts. These written documents will serve you well as a reminder of your priorities and as a map of your route to fulfilling your intentions.

7. A few ideas for SMART goals:

Create or upgrade your online presence. Build a website that makes it easier for customers to interact with your products and services. Set benchmarks for identifying your version of success, such as a defined increase in the number of online purchases completed.

Increase your staff, either virtual or in-house. Decide which types of positions will be of critical importance in taking your company to its next level, and budget accordingly.

Diversify what you offer. If your company is service-based, strategize how to optimize that know-how by developing a new product launch. Or, if you are a manufacturer, examine the distinct benefits of your products and create new services based on those selling points.

Streamline operations by taking advantage of new technologies. DocuSign Transaction Rooms, for example, give you the flexibility, cost savings, and convenience of bringing all parties to a transaction together online so you can share and work on documents together. And because DocuSign’s security protocols meet or exceed those established by major national and international standards organizations, your goals for protecting the integrity of your operations just got more achievable.

Keith Krach

Written by

Former Chairman & CEO of DocuSign. Cofounder & CEO of Ariba, Chairman of Purdue University, Chairman of Angie’s List and VP, General Motors

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