SMART and SWOT: two ways to stay focused

Large corporations often use academic style tools to improve their processes and it should be even more important for small businesses. These large companies have such a large pool of customers and opportunities that there is actually a greater margin of error with no discernible effect, and yet large corporations are much more inclined to adjust through analysis than small companies. Let’s face it, small business owners are short on time and often too busy trying to stay afloat, especially in tough economic times. So let me remind you of a few little things you can do that will help you and your employees regain focus.

Most motivational speakers and self-help experts emphasize the idea that goal setting is critical to success. It helps you focus your efforts, and after all, focus is a key ingredient for success. This is where SMART goals come in. But, before we discuss SMART goals, let’s take a look at another acronym, SWOT analysis. The reason is that doing a SWOT analysis is a great way to think about discovering and framing your goals. SWOT analysis is a way to examine where your business is performing at a specific point in time.

It allows you to see your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats at a specific point in time, and then you can build your goals around building on your strengths, ways to overcome your weaknesses, becoming strategically aware of your opportunities, and thinking about how to minimize your threats. A SWOT analysis can be easily established in a matrix of four cubes. In the top quadrants you list your strengths and weaknesses and in the bottom two quadrants you list your opportunities and threats. Once you have analyzed the situation and have a clear understanding of it, you can begin to formulate your goals.

This is where SMART goals come into play. The acronym stands for goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time framed. In other words, these are goals that will cause change if they are met, and they are also goals that can be met. First, they must be specifically designed to improve the situation as described in your SWOT analysis. They should be goals that specifically address each of the four quadrants.

Second, they should be measurable goals, a certain number of new customers or an additional revenue target. Then they must be achievable, that is, goals that you can really achieve and then they must also be realistic; in other words, goals that you are likely to achieve if you apply yourself to them. Finally, they must be goals that have a deadline; goals achieved within a specific time frame.

Now that you’ve done this exercise, it’s important to make sure that each employee is aware of their part in achieving these goals. The more they buy into the idea, the more likely you are to achieve the success you want.


SWOT analysis


SMART goals
Realistic and Relevant
Limited in time.

I suggest you continue using these tools all the time. What I mean is keep them always available to look at and measure. Likewise, it is important to update them periodically to ensure that the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats have not changed. As markets and competition change, these things can change over time. It would be wise to change your objectives to meet the changes in your SWOT analysis.

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