Small business success is driven by goal setting and action planning. If you want to move your company forward, you need to set targets, take aim, and chart a course to propel the business in the right direction on the right path. As a leader, your job is to not only create goals and action plans for yourself and the organization but also ensure that each individual team member is working toward established goals with actionable plans.

While big dreams and lofty ambitions may fuel your entrepreneurial spirit, it’s the practical process of effective goal setting and operationalizing your vision into strategies, objectives, and tasks that will bring your ideas and desires to fruition. 

Do you wish to grow your team exponentially this year? Are you anxious to remove yourself from day-to-day operations so you can focus on growth? Do you want to launch a new initiative next quarter? Then it’s time to set goals now and develop action plans to make it happen.

Laying the Goalsetting Groundwork

Before you get ahead of yourself, take some time to think carefully about where you are and where you want to go. You want to start with a clear destination in mind, but remember that your focus needs to be on what it takes to get there. 

We’re often told to look to the future and keep our eye on the target, but this ignores the fact that some goals are a long way off and neglects to address the importance of each critical step along the way. 

We recommend that you begin the goal-setting process by first determining exactly what you want to achieve, improve, or maintain (AIM). The best way to do this is by looking back over the obstacles you’ve overcome, the detours you’ve taken, and the progress you’ve already made. 

Take an assessment of where you are now and how you got here before deciding where you want to go and how you’d like to get there. At this point, you’ll have the groundwork in place to develop goals that will help you find your way.

Set Goals for Impact

We’re all familiar with SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-anchored. It’s a solid framework for setting structured goals designed to move you forward. 

But let’s take a look at another framework that focuses on setting goals for IMPACT. 

Creating impact is about having a marked effect or influence. It’s about creating change and moving the needle in a positive way. So thinking about goals in terms of impact, by using the six-step IMPACT framework, you can focus on making a difference in your business — from the everyday to the big picture. Here’s how:


1. Set your INTENTION. 

An intention is something you mean, or intend, to do — on purpose. You’ve determined that this is the thing that deserves your attention and energy. It may be helpful to think of it as the opposite of unintentional; you know the feeling of inadvertently doing something, without meaning to, by accident. What if, instead, you consider carefully where you want to focus your thoughts and actions. What do you want to get behind? 

The more clarity you have in your intentions, the more powerful they can be. We recommend creating a vision board or book that enables you to conceptualize the future — with your goals achieved — and picture yourself there. 

Share your vision, so your senior leadership, employees, and those closest to you are aware of your intentions. When people know your intentions, it helps them understand what’s motivating your decisions, which makes it easier for you to get buy-in, and makes it more likely that you’ll have a team working alongside you and rallying behind you. 

2. Make it MEANINGFUL 

All too often, the goals we make are strictly numbers-focused without thinking more deeply about what those numbers mean. Ideally, each goal should be something that you’re passionate about, something important to you — beyond the surface level. 

If you want to hit a certain revenue goal this year, ask yourself why that goal matters to you. An arbitrary number isn’t likely to feel very inspiring when the going gets tough. Do you want to double your revenue just to say you did it, or would you like to offer your employees a better benefits package? Or hit the Inc. 5000 list to prove naysayers wrong? Or give yourself a raise so you can take your family on a vacation? Or make a large donation to a community food bank? 

Do some journaling to get to the heart of what matters most to you. Think of defining moments in your life that made you feel bad or good; consider how your goals can help you move further away from or closer to that feeling, and use the meaning you find to motivate you.


There’s nothing wrong with having big audacious dreams, but it just makes good business sense to set practical goals that are within reach — even if that reach includes a big stretch. You can shoot for the moon, but you don’t want to invest time, money, and resources into a pipe dream.

“Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

When you examine each of your goals carefully, it’s important to make sure each one is realistically achievable given the skills, abilities, motivation level, time, and mindset currently available to you — personally and in your team. 

Your employees don’t want to have unrealistic expectations placed on them, and you don’t want to put undue pressure on yourself. By setting practical goals, you increase your chance for success, boost your self-esteem, and pick up the motivation to go after the next goal. 

4. Maintain ALIGNMENT

Each goal you set is part of a bigger picture. As you set out to achieve success, you’ll find that working in alignment makes a difference. 

When you set a goal that’s out of alignment with your overall vision or mission, it can distract you or derail your progress. Your goals for the year should be based on what you’ve learned year over year to take you a step further down the path toward your long-term vision.

When you set a goal that’s out of alignment with your values, it can undermine trust, tarnish your reputation, and dampen morale. For example, if your values champion wellness or a family atmosphere, but you’re asking employees to burn the candle at both ends for extended periods of time to hit targets, the goal is out of alignment with your values. 

5. Take CONSISTENT action 

Achieving your goals takes commitment to consistent action. As Robert Collier said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” When you break big aspirations down into smaller steps, something that might seem daunting becomes doable. 

Putting time into achieving your goals every day, week, month, and quarter means you can look back at the end of the year to see how far you’ve come. Procrastinating or trying to tackle a massive feat all at once often means missing your target or barely making it, and likely putting unfair pressure on the people around you.

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

6. TWEAK the plan as needed

Last but not least, remember that goals are meant to be flexible, updated, and modified as needed. 

Don’t forgo a goal altogether if you get “off track” — just adjust course and keep on going! If you didn’t hit a deadline or reach a milestone within the projected timeline, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Be gracious with yourself; steadfast determination doesn’t have to mean all or nothing. 

Moreover, keep in mind that you don’t have to stick with something and see it through if it no longer aligns with your vision. If the going gets unnecessarily tough, you can quit. There’s no need to be stubborn about it; if something isn’t working out the way you hoped or expected, despite your best efforts, reassess and set a new goal.

“Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.” — Aubrey de Grey

Once you’ve created goals for IMPACT, you’re ready to put an action plan in place.

Creating an Action Plan

Regardless of your industry or the size of the business, an Action Plan can be a key tool in helping you and your team stay organized and accountable. 

Action Plans often serve as the “map” on the road to success that shows exactly how to reach your business objectives. It includes concrete steps and activities that are required in order to meet goals. And each goal is achieved by engaging in activities that are listed on the action plan.

When do teams create Action Plans?

Many times, action plans are created as a part of an annual plan or strategic plan. Sometimes an action plan is crafted with a single, particular business goal in mind. Action plans are also serve as an expanded “to-do” list for some; they dive deep and provide details about how a goal will be achieved, what resources are required, who is responsible, etc. 

Here is a short list of reasons that we’ve seen clients use action plans recently:

• Reorganizing job duties, writing job descriptions, creating a new position

• Creating/revamping a new hire orientation program

• Conducing salary and compensation analysis and making recommendations

• Employee benefits analysis and recommendations

• Creating a new employee handbook

• Choosing a new phone or email system for the company

• Investment decisions, (i.e., buying all new computers for the organization)

• Purchasing a company vehicle

What is included in an Action Plan?

Download a PDF version of this checklist + a sample action plan here.

✓ Description of the overarching goal or objective. Look to your annual plan or strategic plan to get started. Don’t have one? Just sit down and make a list of goals you have for your company for the upcoming quarter or year.

✓ List each Action that is needed on a single row, then dive deeper!

✓ Skills needed list. Are there specific skills that you will need in order to work to be successful in

a particular activity? If so, list it on the Plan!

✓ Resources required. What budget, tools and resources will people need in order to execute the

step in the Action Plan? Resources can also be people who will contribute to the task.

✓ Coach or mentor. Do you need a coach or mentor assigned in order to ensure the highest level

of success?

✓ Who is responsible. Who has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that the task is completed?

✓ Deadline. What is the deadline by which the task must be completed? Are there check-ins that you wish to schedule to ensure the task is on track? If so, list those in the deadline section too.

Partner With Your Employees to Attain Goals

Every small business can go further when everyone is working together as a team. When you have goals as a company or as a leader, it’s important to partner with your employees to create individual goals that contribute to the big picture. 

Allowing employees to set their own goals alone or taking a hands-off approach to goal setting, even with your high performers, is a mistake. Instead, you’ll want to connect their individual goals to your organization’s broader objectives, incorporate their personal objectives into their work goals, and make sure they know that you’re all in this together!

Does your company need help with goal-setting or facilitating goal planning meetings?

Contact us today for customized HR consulting or HR training & development services.