Yearly Planning and Goal-Setting- It’s Not Just for Bigger Organizations



Years ago in my career, I was the president of a small custom fabricating/molding company. If you had asked me back then about my yearly plans and goals, I would have rattled off reason after reason for why that type of planning doesn’t work for a small company.

In hindsight, what I once believed to be legitimate reasons for not using those strategies were actually poor excuses. Upon further reflection, you may find you are in the same boat as I was. Below are my past “go-to” excuses for avoiding goal-setting, along with my current words of wisdom that challenge those excuses. Does anything sound familiar?

  • We are too small for it to matter.
    • The size of the company is irrelevant. Any business can achieve positive impacts from achieving a set goal.
  • We don’t have time to plan.
    • The time used to plan for your company’s future is worth the rewards it could bring on. If you could save $50,000 by investing two days of your time, why wouldn’t you?
  • I know where I want to go, I don’t need to plan anything out.
    • Having goals in mind is a step in the right direction, but your team should be included in the plans as well. Goals also should be written down and thought through. After all, a goal not written down is just a wish.
  • We did a planning exercise a few years ago, but it was a waste of time.
    • Here it would be beneficial to look further into why the exercise wasn’t helpful. There is a good chance your answer resides in one or both of the following reasons:
      • You tried to be too precise, thus making it an overwhelming ordeal.
      • After you finished, you rolled up the documents and never looked at them again.

Chances are you’ve heard these excuses before, or even used them yourself. In my role as Business Solutions Specialist at The Center, I talk with a lot of small manufacturers and I cringe every time I hear the same excuses being used that I rattled off years ago.

Operating a business without any plans or goals is like driving cross country at night. You will eventually get to where you’re going, but you won’t see beyond your headlights so you will likely miss great opportunities along the way. I would like to challenge you to instead drive in the daytime; put your excuses aside and begin making goals and plans for the upcoming year.

To make this process as effective as possible for you, I have gathered some of my most useful techniques for approaching goal-setting and planning. Read on for proven methods that can be applied to your company.

  1. Start small. You don’t have to boil the entire ocean at once. Start with a short, manageable list of two to five goals for your company to achieve and continue from there.
  2. Include your key team members in the process of establishing next year’s goals and plan for them together. Goals that are developed independently then passed on to the team are rarely fulfilled. 
  3. Set periodic (quarterly or monthly) goal/plan review meetings for the year upfront. Add them to the calendar for all those involved. This limits the possible excuses for not getting action items done in time.
  4. Make sure your goals are SMART:
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Realistic
    • Time-Bound

A few examples of SMART goals that your company could develop include:

  • Increase revenue from X category by X% within X months
  • Reduce overtime by $X in X months
  • Increase on-time delivery to X% within X months
  • Launch a new website in X months under a budget of $X

Developing set goals and plans for your company is not something you must, or should, do on your own. This leads to my final and most valuable suggestion: Hire someone from outside of your company to facilitate your meetings and discussions. Investing in a facilitator, like one of our experts at The Center, greatly changes the dynamic of the overall activity, as they increase active participation and reduce the “just agree with the boss” line of thinking. An outside facilitator can provide your business with clear and fresh ideas gathered from past experience with companies similar to yours that were once in similar situations.

Your business, no matter how small it may be, can greatly benefit from some goal-setting, whether it is done on your own or with an expert’s guidance. As Brian Tracy, famous motivational speaker, once put it, "Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor." Make 2018 the year you put your excuses aside and discover the power of planning.


Dave Nelson, Senior Business Solutions Manager
Dave joined The Center in 2013 as a Senior Business Solutions Manager. Working directly with manufacturers in Wayne and Monroe counties, he enjoys helping small and medium-sized companies reach their full potential. Dave is a seasoned professional with expertise at identifying/opening new market opportunities and increasing market penetration in existing markets. He also has extensive experience in generating/growing new business and selling intangible services.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

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