Whether it is a New Year’s resolution, an annual employee evaluation or a brainstorming session on how to improve business, goals are an integral part of our lives. Often we set goals that seem attainable, but then we forget to revisit our objectives. There is, however, a way to break the cycle. Set SMART goals:


Specific — General goals are easy to set, but can be difficult to accomplish. For instance, we set a goal of improving our company’s internal controls. What kind of internal controls can be improved, and how? A better goal: We want to improve our cash management by segregating duties within our accounting department.

Another goal could be streamlining our payroll process. How? A better goal: We need to bring in a professional bookkeeping firm to show us the best practices in payroll. Or we will contract payroll services out to an outside firm.

Measurable — At Ketel Thorstenson, we work with several Black Hills nonprofit groups. Often they tell us they want to increase fundraising efforts. It’s a good goal, but hard to measure. Is your goal to raise more dollars, have more events or recruit more volunteers? How many dollars, how many events, how many volunteers? If you make the goal measurable, you know what to strive for and can monitor your progress.

Attainable — Do you and your staff have the necessary skills and time to accomplish your goal? For example, your company is considering expansion to Williston, Bismarck or some other North Dakota city. After you find a location, appoint a manager and hire a staff, can you still expect a reasonable return on that investment? If expansion is your goal, you might set your sights on a more easy-to-reach location or a partnership with a firm that is already doing business in North Dakota.

Realistic — You have a good idea of what you and your staff are capable of, and can set goals that are challenging but still within reach. It can be discouraging to set a goal for your company that will never be accomplished. The same can be said for a goal that is too easy to achieve. Motivate your employees to elevate their performance by setting a challenging and realistic goal.

Timely — Open-ended goals can be procrastinated when other objectives seem more important. Your company may want to have an overall goal of increasing billable hours by 10 percent over the period of a year. Set a monthly benchmark of a 1 percent increase so the yearly goal does not seem as aggressive.

An organization that sets S.M.A.R.T. goals also sets itself up for success. Continually strive for improvement, and you’ll find yourself achieving goals you never thought were possible!