BMNY is Responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on New York State Businesses. Find more resources at the Empire State Development homepage.
Structure and goal setting are the foundation of every successful mentoring relationship. While your entrepreneur likely has a general vision for where they want to go, they may not know the actionable steps they should take to get there. They’ll be looking to you to help them clarify and accomplish their goals.
To help you get started with your entrepreneur, we’ve prepared a 6-step goal setting process to guide you through your initial conversations.
1. Help your entrepreneur clarify what they want to accomplish.
Start by asking them, “What is the one bottleneck that’s stopping you from growing your business?” This will help align any goals you set with the core business problem they’re facing, rather than with less important issues or specific solutions that they may have jumped to prematurely.
They may come to the table with a simple answer, like “I’m not making enough money,” but that just speaks to the broad issue, not the root cause. Help your entrepreneur unpack the problem to arrive at a more specific answer, like “I’m not attracting enough customers to achieve profitability.” A focused answer like this clearly articulates their objectives and makes it easy to identify the appropriate goals—in this case, attracting more customers and increasing profitability.
2. Determine the feasibility of your entrepreneur’s goal.
Working toward a goal that can’t be accomplished will likely lead to frustration and disengagement, so it’s important to determine whether or not their goal is feasible given their circumstances. Start by asking them the following questions:
- Do you have the time and resources available to meet this goal?
- Are you fully dedicated to achieving this goal?
- Are you aware of the sacrifices this goal will require, and are you willing to make them?
If you feel like their goal is not realistic, be honest and encourage them to direct their time and energy toward goals they are more likely to reach or smaller milestones along the path to achieving the long-term goal.
3. Establish benchmarks for success.
Once you’ve determined that your entrepreneur’s goal is realistic, work with them to define what success would look like. Help them identify specific indicators of success—e.g., metrics like profit margin or number of new customers per month.
Next, take a benchmark of what those metrics have looked like up to now and assist your entrepreneur in setting a numerical target for each indicator that will tell them exactly how they’re doing at a glance—e.g., increasing daily sales by 30 percent or attracting ten new customers.
4. Set a realistic timeline.
Now that your entrepreneur has defined goals, key metrics, and targets, it’s time to set a schedule for achieving them. They may already have a deadline in mind, but it’s important to steer them toward an achievable timeframe.
Similar to when you were determining the goal’s overall feasibility, keep their circumstances in mind by asking the following questions:
- When are you prepared to start this project?
- How much time can you commit to your goal each day, week, month?
Based on these answers, assign a date to the numerical targets you’ve established—e.g., gaining those ten new customers in the next quarter or increasing daily sales by thirty percent within the next six months. Set a timeline that’s long enough for the goal to be realistic, but short enough for the entrepreneur to stay motivated.
5. Define strategies and map out the path to success.
Now that you have a target and a deadline in place, it’s time to help your entrepreneur define the actionable steps that will help them reach their goal.
Start by determining your overall strategy. For example, if their goal is to attract new customers, you could suggest that they:
- Engage a PR firm to get the word out about their service offering.
- Launch a search engine marketing campaign to increase the number of potential customers visiting their website.
- Develop an incentive program for referring customers.
Once you and your entrepreneur have agreed on the overall strategy, map out individual tasks in a calendar. Set specific “mini-goals” by day, week, or month—e.g., “launch my company’s Facebook page by the end of next week” or “hire a PR firm by the end of this month.” These mini-goals help keep momentum going to ensure that they can stay on track with their timeline.
6. Encourage your entrepreneur to track their progress frequently.
Once your entrepreneur has put their plan in place, make sure they are tracking their progress using the benchmarks you established together. When they can see how close or far way they are from hitting a target, it can be extremely motivating and encouraging. That will help keep them engaged and on the path toward achieving their goals.
Goal setting is a critical part of initiating a successful mentoring relationship. By following these practices, you can ensure a productive, rewarding experience for both you and your entrepreneur. Ultimately, it’s about finding a system that works best for your unique mentoring relationship, so feel free to use our suggestions as a starting point for developing a goal-setting process that makes the most sense for you.