I’ve never been quite sure how I feel about setting business goals.
When I started blogging in early 2009, I probably would not have been able to articulate a single business goals. But even if we don’t state them in words, we humans do naturally set goals for ourselves.
At that time, my goals probably included posting consistently, teaching people what was important to me, and figuring out if there was an audience for a book idea that I had. (That was the reason I started blogging: to figure out if I could make money as an author. Then I realized writing a book is a terrible way to make money! I grew to love building a community and serving my readers, and blogging became a passion.)
After a few years, I focused more on building a business intentionally, instead of accidentally.
I learned a lot from colleagues in blogging and embraced the philosophy: “Fake it ‘Till You Make It!”
At Ultimate Bundles, Ryan Langford was always a huge proponent of those SMART goals:
The M for “measurable” was a challenge for me.
I began assigning numbers to my goals. But many times, I would fall short.
The grand disappointment made me think numeric goals were a terrible idea. We don’t seem to be in charge of what the numbers end up being, even if we work our hardest and smartest.
Was I a business failure? All faking, no making?
I’ve never been someone who was willing to take big risks, especially financially.
I have trouble making quick decisions, and I value the people around me so very much, both their opinions and their feelings.
On the surface it doesn’t seem like I’m cut from the right cloth to be a successful entrepreneur!
But after 12 years of adjusting how I do things, I figured out a lane that works for me.
It’s right down the middle, very balanced, just like my mission at Kitchen Stewardship has always been: to help people find the balance and stay healthy without going crazy.
Now that I’m building another business sharing my passion with fellow entrepreneurs as an entre-coach, I get pretty excited about teaching people how they can build a wildly successful business while making decisions and taking risks at medium speed.
If you’ve ever heard that the best entrepreneurs make twice as many decisions even though half of them are wrong, and you thought “That sounds very uncomfortable to me”, try medium-speed-entrepreneurship on for size.
Here’s how it works.
1. DO set goals, and don’t be afraid of big ones.
I mentioned I’ve bounced around a lot on the subject of goals.
- Should we have goals?
- Should we skip them because it’s frustrating to miss the mark?
- Should they be numerical and quantifiable or quality goals?
- Should they have to do with tasks that we accomplish or the end result?
My “balanced” lane down the middle ended up: YES, set big goals.
Many call them B-HAGs: Big, Hairy, Awesome Goals. Don’t be afraid to shoot high, even if you miss.
How should those goals be written: Quantifiable or qualitative?
It is helpful to have a number in mind, but you also should have another metric of success that’s much more within your control.
Focus on tasks or habits you can accomplish no matter how Google’s algorithm changes and even if big news events distract everyone from your launch. That way, you definitely have something to celebrate.
Is it okay to set a goal of a certain dollar amount on a launch or a certain number of new subscribers for a lead magnet?
But sometimes, you’re bound to be disappointed.
If you set parallel goals to reach out to X number of new affiliates each week or share your new lead magnet once a week in 5 different places, now YOU are in control of achievement. The only thing getting in the way of missing a goal is your own weakness.
My personal weakness with goals is simply forgetting that I made them!
I learned years ago that if I start every team meeting by reading through my quarterly or yearly goals, I’m more likely to focus on them, simply because they are top of mind once a month. That life hack alone may change your business this year if you share my squirrel-brain weakness!
I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that having goals helps you stick to your priorities as a business person. It’s not perfect. But it’s important to have something to keep you accountable.
My Big 2020 Speaking Goal
Last year, at the beginning of 2020, I had a big goal to land a TEDx talk. I followed a system, had a lot of support from my team, and by May I had reached that goal.
It was a champagne-popping moment!
The next related goal, sticking with metrics completely within my control, was to focus for six weeks on writing the best talk ever.
I did not let myself go to sleep unless I had done my speaking exercises and, once the talk was written, I practiced it at least once a day.
I was meeting my goals, had lots of great feedback from my audience and local friends, and I was over-the-moon with how the talk and slides had come out.
And then *cue ominous 2020 music*… nine days before the event, even in sleepy little North Dakota, it was postponed because of Corona concerns.
Devastating! My goal was obliterated with one email.
But here’s how entrepreneurs work: we don’t allow a goal to be completely out of our control. After licking my wounds, I took it right back.
I filmed that talk on my own on a beautiful stage in my hometown (the only event they’d run since March 2020).
I took a big risk that turned out to be a medium-sized risk. More details on that in the next section.
Now my next goal is that I will not rest until that talk gets at least 100,000 views. More on that in the final section!
I say to you today, entrepreneur to entrepreneur: don’t let anything get in the way of your biggest goals.
Keep trying, and be creative with your pivots.
Sometimes, you’ll even reach those B-HAG numerical goals.
Last June, Kids Cook Real Food, my company, offered a free virtual summer camp to meet the needs of families who were reeling from so many summer activities being canceled in 2020.
I had a somewhat secret goal to get 10,000 families participating.
Of course I wasn’t sure if we could make that happen, but we followed our checklists and did everything in my team’s control to make it the best event possible.
We reached 10,500 families, and I couldn’t have been more tickled!
Far more important than the numbers, however, are the stories of how cooking together as families changed people’s weeks and years, and ultimately their lives, as their children are now equipped with life skills to head into adulthood healthier and more independent.
You can hear some of their stories in my DIY TEDx Talk, The Power of Teaching Kids to Cook, right here, and more of the background of summer camp and the talk in my interview with Pat Flynn on the SPI podcast here.
Even at medium-speed, we changed a lot of lives.
2. Make medium-speed decisions.
I did some professional development with one of those business experts who repeats certain phrases a lot. One of his is, “Move fast, break stuff!”
Every time he said it, I felt kind of gross, that “my feet are sticking to the floor” feeling.
I don’t like breaking things!
I don’t like cleaning up after things that are broken!
I teach my kids that it’s okay to fail and we all make mistakes, but part of growing up is learning to look ahead and fail in less spectacular ways.
“Move fast, break stuff,” makes me feel like I’m in the wrong profession, if that’s what it takes to be a business owner.
You know what? The greatest thing about entrepreneurs is that we make our own way.
We make our own rules.
I think we can make decisions at medium speed, break less stuff, and be just as happy and successful.
For example, people get uber-impressed about me filming my own TEDx talk. It seemed like a huge risk and a massive undertaking (and it was).
But the decision-making process was kind of slow. From the day my speaking coach planted the seed of the idea in my head to the day I filmed it was two full months, with 3-4 weeks just to lock in the decision.
Here’s how I work:
- I consider the risks.
- I ask lots of questions.
- I collect more and more data and information.
- I futurecast about the worst that might happen and make sure I’m willing to shoulder that risk.
- I ask more questions. In this case, to people who volunteer running TEDxBismarck, where I will be speaking summer 2021
- More questions: I did a lot of hunting to get my price down from one quote of $6,000 to what I ended up spending, which was only in the three digits.
- I ask trusted friends and colleagues for advice. Sometimes this causes the “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome. But ultimately, I know I’m in charge of my own decision. It’s so helpful to hear other people talk it through as well.
Spending a few weeks asking all these questions and collecting data resulted in a very low-budget, high-production performance.
And ultimately, the risk became pretty low for me when I asked the straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back question to the TEDxBismarck crew: “Do I have to write an entire new talk for next summer?” When they said no, risking another six weeks of my life working hard on a new talk became a non-issue.
For me, it’s all about mitigating the risks, whether that’s lowering the price, decreasing the time investment, or increasing the chances of success. If I can push little balls forward in any of those arenas, my actual project feels less risky.
Do I miss out on some opportunities because I make medium-speed decisions? Probably.
But I also miss out on extreme burnout and the anxiety my particular personality would fall prey to if I was constantly making the wrong decisions.
So be encouraged today that not all entrepreneurs quit their job and jump headlong into a new business!
We don’t all work 80 hours a week, building two businesses at once at the expense of our health and family.
And we don’t all make quick decisions, half of which are wrong, like the most successful CEOs out there.
Plenty of small-business owners have built wildly successful businesses at medium speed, and their health and family are the real victors here.
Because to me, my fellow humans are the most important — bringing us to the last part of being a medium-speed entrepreneur.
3. Use human capital.
I’m an extrovert and a social being, and ever since I got into blogging in 2009, I’ve always reached out to others, and I’m never afraid to ask questions.
This might drive some people nuts, but it allows me to do the other things I do as an entrepreneur so well.
Why do I set big goals? Because I surround myself with incredible people reaching their own big goals. They inspire me.
How do I make decisions at medium speed and mitigate my risks? I have a network of colleagues who give me great advice, and I’m not afraid to keep asking questions and collecting data.
That takes building trust. And that’s what human capital is all about.
In fact, I’m leaning on as much human capital as I can to try to reach that 100,000 view goal for my cancelled TEDx talk. I’ve asked (still in the midst of asking, actually) everyone I know to share, from high school and college acquaintances via social media, to anyone who’s ever interviewed me or vice versa, to the small businesses where I bought my makeup for the production!
My goals were within my control:
- “Spend 30 minutes a day this week reaching out on Facebook.” I’m at over 300 individual “begs” in just over 4 hours…
- “Send 5 pitches for podcast interviews.” I’m at 15 pitches and 4 followups with more to go!
- “Follow up a second time with everyone from last week.”
This goal is still in process, and moving frustratingly slower than I had hoped, but I’m okay playing the long game.
I’m a medium-speed entrepreneur, after all.
To be the best entrepreneur you can be, I highly encourage you to build a community.
Be generous. Give advice as freely as you’re willing to ask for it.
And never be afraid to ask a question! Chances are that even if someone is slightly annoyed, they’ll still look back with admiration.
Twelve years after starting blogging, I’m really good friends with some people who were “big dogs” when I started. They shake their heads and grin when they talk about how I came onto the scene unafraid to approach anyone asking, “How did you do that? How does that work?”
I’m humble enough to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing. And now that I’m on the other side, less of a rookie and more of an expert, I always try to give advice to those who ask.
I’d love to connect with you, too, and I have a little gift I’ve put together to help you benefit from another sort of human capital: building a great team.
Learning how to let go of my control freak nature and train a team member to take care of my email has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as an entrepreneur. (Of course, it took me a number of years to release this process!)
Grab my Power of Email Delegation Cheat sheet over at kidscookrealfood.com/entrepreneur, and I look forward to connecting with you further.