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Post: 9 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Business Goals



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Goals setting and goal accomplishment are important parts of entrepreneurship and business. That is why it can be so devastating when a business fails to reach its goals.

One reason why this happens is due to errors that were made during the goal-setting process. For entrepreneurs and business owners, growing their businesses is a top priority. That is why avoiding mistakes during the goal-setting process is important whether you are a new or seasoned entrepreneur. In this article, we’ll look at some mistakes leaders make when setting business goals.


Goals Aren’t Clear Enough

One of the most common pitfalls entrepreneurs face when setting business goals is the lack of clarity. Clear goals are the compass that guides a business toward success. Vague goals, such as “increase sales” or “improve customer service,” lack specificity and are difficult to measure or achieve. Instead, goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, a clear goal would be, “Increase sales by 20% in the next quarter by expanding our digital marketing efforts.”

Your goals should be clear to you and your team. You should also continue to talk about your goals in meetings and with colleagues to make sure everyone is on the same page. Also, share information about the goals as well as progress reports with your team consistently.


Too Many Goals

Most entrepreneurs may be able to rattle off a list of goals when asked. We want our businesses to grow in revenue, we want them to have an impact, and we want our teams to be efficient and work together. We also want work-life balance as well as a dozen other things. Having multiple goals is not a bad thing. However, having too many business goals can decrease the odds of accomplishing any of them.

Setting too many goals can be counterproductive. When entrepreneurs spread their focus too thin, they risk not achieving any of their objectives to their fullest potential. It’s essential to prioritize goals based on their impact on the business. Focusing on a few key objectives ensures that resources and efforts are concentrated where they will make the most significant difference. This approach leads to more effective and efficient goal attainment.

In recent years, the concept of task switching or multitasking as beneficial for productivity has been shown to be a myth. Trying to focus on more than one thing at a time reduces your productivity by as much as 40%. The same can be true when it comes to splitting focus over too many goals. 

When setting goals, try to focus on the vital few that will make the most impact and are the most meaningful. 


No Time-Frame for Completion

Setting goals without a specific timeframe is akin to sailing without a compass. Timeframes instill a sense of urgency and purpose, transforming abstract aspirations into concrete targets. When entrepreneurs neglect to set deadlines, they lack the means to evaluate progress, resulting in stalled initiatives and missed opportunities.

Moreover, a defined timeline facilitates the breakdown of overarching goals into smaller, achievable milestones. This methodical approach not only makes large objectives more manageable but also ensures a consistent pace of advancement.

Time-bound goals also enable entrepreneurs to synchronize their objectives with broader business strategies and market trends. For instance, launching a product in alignment with seasonal demand or industry events can be crucial for its success. Additionally, deadlines foster a culture of accountability and commitment, driving teams to focus and prioritize effectively.

It’s important, however, for entrepreneurs to set realistic timelines that consider the complexity of tasks, resource availability, and potential obstacles, ensuring that goals are challenging yet attainable.


Unrealistic Goals

Setting goals that are too ambitious can be as detrimental as not setting any at all. Unrealistic goals, while seemingly aspirational, can create an environment of constant failure and frustration. 

Entrepreneurs need to strike a balance between challenging their teams and setting attainable business objectives. One of the dangers of unrealistic goals is the potential to misguide the allocation of resources. Overcommitting time, personnel, and finances to unachievable goals can detract from other crucial business areas. 

What is worse is if these goals aren’t reached even though so many resources were allocated to them. The consistent falling short of these goals can erode confidence in yourself, investors’ confidence in the business as well as the morale of employees. Eventually, this will affect your customers.

It is important for entrepreneurs to know that there is a difference between setting stretch goals and setting unrealistic goals. Stretch goals can help a business accomplish things that they wouldn’t have been able to if not challenged enough. However, unrealistic goals can be a trap that sets the business up for failure.

Entrepreneurs should learn to set realistic yet ambitious goals. This involves understanding market conditions, evaluating internal capabilities, and learning from past experiences. It’s also beneficial to establish a feedback loop, allowing for regular assessment and adjustment of goals. 


Setting Negative Goals

Entrepreneurs often inadvertently set negative goals, focusing on avoiding undesirable outcomes rather than pursuing positive achievements. While it’s important to be aware of potential pitfalls, a goal-setting strategy centered around negativity can be counterproductive.

Negative goals, such as “avoiding customer complaints” or “reducing employee turnover,” can create a defensive, risk-averse mindset. This approach stifles innovation and growth, as it emphasizes playing it safe over seeking new opportunities.

Positive goal setting, in contrast, is about channeling efforts and resources toward the achievement of desirable and constructive outcomes. For instance, rather than aiming to “not lose any clients,” a more positive goal would be “to enhance client satisfaction through improved service delivery.” This shift in focus encourages proactive strategies for growth and improvement.

Positive goals tend to be more inspiring and motivating for teams. They foster a culture of optimism and forward-thinking. Entrepreneurs must frame their objectives in a manner that promotes a positive outlook, encouraging their teams to aspire and innovate. This doesn’t mean ignoring potential problems but rather addressing them in a way that focuses on growth and improvement.


Underestimating the Resources Needed

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs and business leaders set goals without thoroughly assessing if they have the resources to accomplish their goals. Having the financing, human capital, and time necessary to accomplish business goals is crucial for a business to succeed. One report notes that 82% of small businesses fail due to cash flow problems. This situation often includes not having enough cash to maintain business operations.

Underestimating the resources required to achieve goals is a trap many entrepreneurs fall into. Whether it’s time, money, personnel, or other resources, an accurate assessment is crucial. Failing to allocate sufficient resources can lead to incomplete goals and can strain the existing resources of the business. A realistic evaluation of what is required to achieve a goal ensures that plans are feasible and sets the stage for success.


Not Researched Enough

Without thorough research, goals are based on assumptions rather than facts. Entrepreneurs must invest time in understanding their market, competition, and own business capabilities. This research will inform more realistic and attainable goals. It also helps in identifying potential obstacles and opportunities, allowing for more strategic planning and execution.

Companies that do not take their market research seriously will face the consequences when trying to accomplish their goal. This goes for startups, small businesses, and even major brands. In 1990, Coors, the company known for its alcoholic brands like Miller, Fosters, and Coors Light, tried to hop on the trend of bottled water which was reaching new heights of popularity at the time.

Coors released Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water, its attempt to capture some of the bottled water market. However, they relied too much on their brand name and did not thoroughly do their market research.

This led to confusion by the public about the product. Customers wondered if the beverage was a mix of beer and alcohol or if it was simply water. The company failed to realize that customers may not want to reach for a bottle of water with the name of a beer company on it. The project was a failure and the water was eventually discontinued.


Setting Vanity Goals

Vanity goals are goals that look and feel good but are not really important to the growth of your business. When goal setting, mistaking vanity goals for the type of goals that will grow a business can be devastating if they are realized. This is because the leaders and team would’ve spent time, energy, and financial resources on something that didn’t really matter.

Entrepreneurs need to make sure that their goals are meaningful and relevant to their greater business goals and their direction. For example, a business owner may realize that their TikTok following is increasing daily. A good feeling, for sure. However, they notice that this increase in following never leads to an increase in email subscriptions or sales. If the entrepreneur decides to focus on getting 10,000 followers instead of setting a goal to reach 10,000 newsletter subscribers, the goal would be considered a vanity goal.

Vanity goals should not be completely discarded. It is perfectly fine to have goals that make you feel good. However, throwing your time and energy into them will cause you to lose focus on more important goals. That lack of focus can lead to those other, more important goals, never being realized. 


Not Learning From Past Failed Attempts

A big part of entrepreneurship and business is experiencing failure. The key to this unavoidable aspect is what we do with that failure. One of the mistakes entrepreneurs make when setting goals is not learning from past failed attempts. The error comes because entrepreneurs never truly understood the reasons why the past failures occurred. Leaders who do not take accountability for past shortcomings will be more likely to repeat the mistakes that caused the past failures.

The good news is that leaders do not need to fail themselves in order to learn. Entrepreneurs can learn from the failed attempts of other people. When setting goals, read about others who have attempted the same goals. You can go to sites like Reddit and see if there are any lessons you can learn from the posted threads.

You can also tap into your network, get feedback about your goal and ask good questions concerning your goals.

  • What worked for other people?
  • What would they do differently?
  • How did the failure impact them and their business?
  • What didn’t work for them?



Setting business goals is a critical step for any entrepreneur, but it’s equally important to avoid these common mistakes. By setting clear, realistic, and well-researched goals with a proper timeframe and the necessary resources, entrepreneurs can pave the way for their business’s success and growth. Remember, goal setting is an ongoing process that requires continuous evaluation and adaptation to ensure alignment with the evolving business landscape.



Thomas Martin

Tom is a member of the Editorial Team at StartUp Mindset. He has over 6 years of experience with writing on business, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He mainly focuses on online businesses, digital publishing, marketing and eCommerce startups.

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Find Your Way · Goals · Grow Your Business · Your Mindset

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