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Are your goals SMART?

By: Kari Burnett, PAg, Regional Farm Business Management Specialist, Swift Current

January 2017

As we begin 2017, there is always review of the year just past and looking forward to the new one. Some people set resolutions or goals for the year ahead. Time after time when I ask farmers if they have set any goals for their business the answer I hear is “to make money” or “to be profitable”.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these goals, they lack the detail that makes them a SMART goal.

To be effective, goals should be SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).

Specific goals should answer the six “W” questions: 

  • Who (is involved)? 
  • What (do you want to accomplish)? 
  • Where (location)? 
  • When (a time frame)? 
  • Which (requirements and restraints)? 
  • Why (reasons/purpose/or benefits of accomplishing the objective)? 

This term emphasizes the need for a specific goal over and against a more general one. To make goals specific, they must state exactly what is expected, why is it important, who’s involved, where is it going to happen and which attributes are important.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as: How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? As the saying goes, if you can measure it, you can manage it. 

The goal must be attainable. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals. You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps.

To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic, but you must truly believe you can accomplish the goal. But, be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement! A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force.

Time-bound goals are grounded with a time frame. A time-bound goal will usually answer the questions: When? What can I do six months from now? What can I do six weeks from now? What can I do today?

Dr. David Kohl, a professor of agricultural business and small business management at Virginia Tech – talks about the importance of setting goals: “80 per cent of all people have no goals, 16 per cent have mental goals (those that are not written down), and the remaining four per cent have goals that are written down. The 16 per cent who have mental goals will encounter profits three times higher than those without goals. The elite four per cent with goals written down will make nine times more than those without goals.”

Having SMART goals won’t guarantee a farm profit but it does keep you on target when used in decision making and can greatly improve your chances of success.

Financial assistance may be available through the Farm Business Development Initiative to help you cover the costs of business strategy training activities or working with consultants to develop a strategic plan. For more information contact the Swift Current Regional Office at (306) 778-8285 or contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377. 

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