Setting goals: how taking risks can help your small business grow

Sometimes it helps to be more modest with your goals and ambitions, but Karen McLellan of Haines Watts explains why taking calculated risks is key to helping your business grow.

We often end up questioning the goals that we have set for ourselves: are we being overly ambitious, or do we need to aim higher in order to grow?

As an entrepreneur, taking calculated risks is often paramount to the successful growth of your business. Because of this, learning to recognise the ambitions that we hold, contextualising them in reality and then choosing when and how to strive for them is an important skill to put into practice.

Begin with honesty

Setting ambitions should always start as an honest conversation with yourself.

Identifying and placing distinctive values on the goals you hope to achieve both in your own life and in your business. While these may shift over time, having a defined starting point is invaluable when it comes to setting goals that can be met, but that will nevertheless move the dial.

Through my own experience – and guidance from those with much more experience than me – I gained the confidence to set aspirational goals for myself, allowing me and my business to keep moving forward at pace.

Managing your ambitions shouldn’t be about limiting yourself or your team to something you think will be attainable, something inherently safe. Instead you need to give yourself permission to be brave and trust that even though it isn’t easy, you may not be setting the bar too high.

Of course, at the same time it is equally important to be realistic in how you achieve what may be lofty goals, breaking them down into smaller strides.

Failure is a stepping stone

As a business owner, many people look to you for both guidance and reassurance.

Having a clear plan helps to ensure you have a few more answers to the questions you need to tackle every day. Planning can add the granular detail to ensure that each step you take seems a little less daunting, as well as bringing focus to the direction you need to take.

It is easy to get caught up in worrying about the effects of a misstep – the role of a leader comes with a lot of pressure. But things aren’t always going to go perfectly, and you may not always achieve what you set out to do the first time around.

Failure is a key learning experience as long as it’s treated as a stepping stone which leaves us better equipped for future challenges. I wouldn’t be where I am now without a few failures along the way.

Danger in the comfort zone

When thinking about your ambitions and setting goals for yourself, what you want to achieve in the future should never just be based on your current skill set.

Personal growth shouldn’t have an end point – if an ambition feels to be outside your current capabilities or comfort zone, does that inspire or deter? Hopefully the former. Familiarity is, after all, the enemy of creativity. Setting new and challenging goals enables us to grow and evolve, to learn new skills and broaden experiences and specialities.

Cooperation with others can also help bolster your experience and knowledge, helping to increase your skill set and build towards your goals over time.

The process of mentoring was incredibly useful for me and my personal development as well as the growth of my business. Having access to an external point of view was instrumental in helping to validate my objectives. You often know more than you think you do; but having someone to voice your thoughts and concerns to can often provide the reassurance you need to keep moving forward and advancing your ambitions.

If you don’t take the ownership of your ambitions, no one else will. Once you have them in mind and have confidence in them, other people’s belief and support will simultaneously grow. It’s rare to stumble upon free opportunities, so being able to recognise the need to put the effort in is incredibly important.

Having drive, determination and resilience are key to being successful as a business owner. Most hope that their business will continue to grow and evolve. So why should we not hope for the same thing for ourselves? Managing your ambitions and setting realistic goals for yourself can help to channel your energy and make those goals increasingly achievable.

Karen McLellan is managing partner at Haines Watts

Further reading on goal setting

The companies that are evolving to meet their customers’ goals

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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Business Growth

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