So, you’ve outgrown your old goals—congrats!
You’re finding that your goals no longer serve you, and that’s almost always a good sign. Your agency is growing—and you and your team along with it—so it’s time to take a good look at your next steps.
After all, if someone asked you five to ten years ago where you’d be now, you probably didn’t believe you’d be here. Chances are, you’ve out-accomplished what you thought you would at that time. That’s incredible, and we’re super proud of you.
But where do you grow from here?
Whatever your visions for the next phase of your life and agency may be, they have a great chance of becoming a reality—with some concrete planning.
That’s what we’re here to help you with today. We’re all about developing your agency’s goals using the SMART Method.
Why “loose cannon” goal-setting isn’t effective
When you set goals like, “I want to make more money,” “I want to scale,” or “I want to secure bigger projects,” you’re setting yourself up for failure.
It’s not that these aren’t reasonable goals to aspire to and achieve. The problem lies in both the phrasing and the lack of specifics.
Think back to the last time you tried to set a New Year’s resolution. No matter what it was—losing weight, quitting smoking, reading more—you probably gave up the ghost in three to six weeks unless you had a specific roadmap to achieve what you wanted.
Let’s be clear: This type of vague goal setting does not make you a bad person, nor does it mean your agency will blow up in an atomic cloud. It just means that you’re human! And for humans, it’s pretty tough to see a goal through from start to finish.
It’s why you need a plan, and a SMART one, at that.
How do I define my agency goals the SMART way?
The SMART system first appeared in the early 80s, and it’s been helping people establish functional goals ever since.
SMART is an acronym that can be broken down into each aspect that an effective goal should have. A goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Let’s see how we can apply each SMART principle to your agency’s goals as you redefine them.
Creating a specific goal versus a vague, generalized desire allows you to move forward purposefully. For example, “I want to scale” doesn’t give you the same idea and sense of direction as “I want to increase my current client list by 20%.” The latter is better because you’re setting precisely how much you need and want to achieve.
Making goals measurable gives you a number to put in your pocket, phone, or bathroom mirror. If you’re choosing to increase your number of clients by 20%, you can take what you’ve already achieved, see what 20% of that would be, and start planning.
20% is a reasonable goal. 50%, unless your current client list is under 5, is probably a bit too much to ask for. What can you actually do?
Keep yourself as far away from the impossible as you possibly can—make goals that have about a 70% probability of being achievable. This creates a little bit of stress to push you forward, like a dangling carrot just out of your reach. Your goal is to challenge yourself towards something that’s not a lazy or cheap reward.
Of all of the SMART principles, being realistic is the most important. Here’s where you have to be a little bit more honest with yourself. The first three concepts are easy to dream and do, whereas this aspect of SMART goal-setting forces us to see what we can do with what we have.
Take a look at what you’re doing now. Sure, you could take on 20% more clients, and that’s specific and measurable. But are you already stretched thin to the point of exhaustion? When was the last time you spent a weekend away from your desk? Would adding more clients do more harm than good?
Adjust your goals based on what you can achieve and what you’d need to achieve them. 20% might be out of your reach with your current workload, but if you could increase your clients by 40% and cover the cost of an outsourced contractor to help you achieve your goals, then you’re golden.
It’s important to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to finish a task—no one will be able to change the direction of their business in a day.
But adopting an “it’ll happen when it happens” attitude isn’t the answer, either.
What quantity of days, hours, or weeks will allow you to make a change in your agency? Start by talking to others who have made the same changes, and see if their answers sound reasonable to you.
Upping your current number of clients by 20% is excellent. Upping the number in 6 months, thereby forcing you to be proactive and meet your deadline, is even better.
Additional “do’s” and “don’ts” for turning your goals into your new reality
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to structure your goals in a way that helps you achieve them. The SMART method is a guideline—not the be-all and end-all. It is, however, proven to be pretty effective.
In addition to making your goals specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and time-bound, consider adding these “do’s” and “don’ts” to your goal-reaching process.
DO: Create a visual reminder
You’d be amazed at how much more easily you can focus on achieving your goals when they’re always in your line of sight! Stick a goal reminder on your desk, in a picture frame, or on your mirror, and watch how your subconscious gravitates to making them a reality.
DON’T: Base your goals largely on factors outside your control.
Creating goals based on market demand or even figures in your bank account is a dangerous game. We can never predict how different the world will be a few hours from now, let alone in the future. Focus on creating goals that rely mainly on what you’re able to change.
DO: Develop accountability partners or an accountability group
When you share your intentions with others cheering for you, it adds an extra layer of motivation to reach what you’re aiming for! Consider joining a group (like our Digital Agency Owners’ Community, for example!) or meeting up virtually with a few other professionals you admire. Hold each other to what you say you’ll achieve.
DON’T: Compare your journey and progress to others’
Everybody’s agency grows and changes differently! Whether it’s through luck, circumstance, or technique, there’s a good chance that some agencies are growing more quickly than others. Don’t let that discourage you or distract you from what YOU want to achieve!
You’re doing a great job—and you’re doing it your way. Redesign your goals based on building an agency that is even more true to your ideals, and it will translate into success.
DO: Celebrate each step along the way
You’re working towards the best version of yourself and your agency, and that effort is incredible. You’re establishing goals that are built for success. But success, as you know, doesn’t come overnight!
As often as you’ve heard it, your agency really is all about the journey, even more than the destination. You’ve come this far—and you’ll keep moving forward—but don’t forget to pop the champagne every once in a while at different points on the road.