5 Goals You Should Set

By Paul Starkey
Published on: June 11, 2020

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“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  Zig Ziglar

Most of us have been told to set goals since we were teenagers, or even younger. “To get ahead you need to know where you’re going,” we were mentored. But when we look across the landscape of small business in America, we see far less goal-setting than we should.

That’s unfortunate, because setting the right goals can have everything to do with achieving a lot of success. In fact, without goals – without defining what a good performance might be for your company – it’s hard to ascertain how successful you have or haven’t been.

Good goals for any business are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-based (S.M.A.R.T.). We think there are five SMART goals for CI’s that every manager can use to take aim, take action, and measure success.

The five goals are:

Sales growth vs prior year. The market is growing; to keep up, your company needs to grow. Specifically, you should target a percentage increase over the prior year. 10 percent is a good number. 15 percent annual growth will double company size in five years. The resulting annual sales target should be divided by 12 to provide monthly milestones for your progress.

Gross Margin. This is the most important goal for any CI to manage. If your goal is 55 percent, it means that for every $100 in revenues, $45 is used to cover the cost of goods and $55 is left to pay all other expenses. We think the goal should be 58 percent or higher. Note that no other costs are included in the GM calculation. These costs are covered by the next two goals…

Compensation as a Percent of Sales. All your people costs, including benefits, payroll taxes, and subcontractors, make up your company’s total compensation expense. This is the single largest expense of every CI, and the #2 most important goal for a CI to manage. For a profitable outcome, these need to come in at 35 percent of sales, or less.

Major Operating Costs (MOC). These are the rest of your ordinary operating expenses, including rent and utilities, office expenses, vehicle fuel and maintenance, and marketing and selling expenses. The goal should be to manage these to 15 percent or less of company sales.

Net Operating Profit (NOP). This is what’s left over when you subtract Compensation and MOC from GM. In our example, 55 percent minus 35 percent minus 15 percent = 5% percent net. That’s an OK number but, for well-managed integration companies, it’s only 1/3 of the 15 percent NOP that we see as the threshold of an excellent operating result.

Of course, having the goals is only a first step. You must measure monthly to see how things are tracking to goal. We’d be honored to show you the easiest way to do that.

Keep it Vital.

Paul Starkey

Paul Starkey

Paul Starkey is a 23 year CI industry veteran who led control manufacturer ELAN from infancy to a 150 person company. He is a visionary, keen on innovation, pioneer of on-line training, and numerous product innovations. He is co-founder of Vital Management.

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