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Productivity / Measuring success

Why short-term targets limit growth

Short-term targets are those we try to ‘hit’ every month, every day or every week. But they can limit business growth. Find out how.

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Short-term targets are common in sales where reps must reach a certain number of sales each month. You probably have short-term targets in your own business too:

  • Win three new customers every month
  • Invoice $15,000 in revenue every month
  • Make five calls to prospects every week

But there are three ways that short-term targets limit our sight and our ability to grow our businesses.

Short sightedness

To hit short-term targets you must work longer, faster and harder than normal. But it’s not sustainable and eventually you’ll burn out. Or you’ll tamper with your business, changing this and that, and ultimately increase complexity. More complexity produces poorer performance.

To find new prospects to call each week, you could easily chase the wrong type of client and end up doing work that’s not profitable or not enjoyable.

We can cure target-induced short-sightedness by working smarter, not harder. This means working ON your business, not just IN it. For example, use process improvement tools to redesign your marketing process, so it attracts more of the right prospects without extra effort from you.

"There will always be someone who does more and someone who does less. Comparing only makes you feel ashamed or anxious."

Tunnel vision

When you focus on numbers that must be met each week or each month, you risk other important things falling into the periphery. The harder you focus on those numbers, the more your peripheral vision weakens and the less of those important things you can see.

If you use discounting to meet your monthly revenue target, all you are doing is eroding profits and setting up the wrong expectations for customers.

Always remind yourself of the ultimate results you want, and the other results that contribute to reaching them. There will always be several results that matter collectively. Results matter more than targets.

Want more articles like this? Check out the measuring success section.

Wandering eye

When you set short-term targets, your eyes too readily wander to what other small businesses are doing. Comparing your numbers to other businesses takes the focus off doing your best in your unique way.

Who says five is the right number of customers to win every month? There will always be someone who does more and someone who does less. Comparing only makes you feel ashamed or anxious.

We can cure target-induced wandering eye by giving much more attention to our own progress and improvement over time.

What we need instead of short-term targets

If you want 20 sales per month, set a target of an average of 20 sales per month by the time you reach the end of the year. Then spend the year researching, testing and redesigning your sales process, until it naturally produces roughly 20 sales each month.

Focus on increasing process capability, thus needing no additional effort from you. The results you want will be an automatic by-product of well-designed processes.

What are your thoughts on short-term targets?

Stacey Barr

is a specialist in performance measurement, helping micro and small business owners to move their business results from where they are, to where they want them to be, using powerful, transformational measures.

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