Goals and objectives are two terms that are oftentimes used interchangeably, which can present a problem for any prospective business opportunity or franchise owner who is trying to put together a home-based or other small business plan. This basic misunderstanding can particularly pose problems for the startup entrepreneur who is struggling to put together a cohesive planning document where one point logically supports another.
When it comes to goals and objectives, they are actually two related and yet very distinct things. To put it simply, goals are broad statements that are not necessarily specific, while objectives describe precisely what is to be achieved and when. Objectives oftentimes can be used to articulate how you are going to measurably achieve a loftier goal you have set.
For instance, you may set a goal of becoming the nation’s leading provider of a specific product―a non-specific and yet ambitious pronouncement that may or may not come true. Now, it’s time to think about the objectives you want to establish and meet in some concrete and measureable way that will enable you to reach that goal over time. Perhaps one of them would be to sell so many units of product in a given month, quarter or even over the course of a year or two. Or, it may be to acquire a certain number of customers per year and retain a percentage of them from one year to the next.
Setting goals is fun in that it tends to be a more emotional and broad-spectrum endeavor…pie in the sky type of stuff. Whereas setting concrete objectives that will enable you to attain your goals is all about doing the work and, some would say, being SMART―an acronym that stands for specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timed.