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Setting goals as a leader beyond the balance sheet

What do you want for yourself—and your business?

4-minute read

Being an entrepreneur is personal as much as it is professional, says BDC Senior Business Advisor Jivi Cheema.

While goals for businesses often include increasing sales, growing margins, accessing new markets and the like, Cheema says it’s important for entrepreneurs to think bigger—and broader.

“Your business is a vehicle for achieving what you want both personally and professionally,” Cheema says. “I always encourage leaders to set goals that will help them realize their full life vision, which goes way beyond the balance sheet.”

The personal and professional can work together

Cheema says most entrepreneurs understand the importance of setting business goals, and many also set personal goals for themselves, but she rarely sees entrepreneurs tie the two together.

“But it makes so much sense to do so,” she says. “When you set up your business and personal goals so they complement each other, you can significantly improve both your personal and your professional satisfaction.”

Three guiding questions

Cheema—who has a PhD in organizational and human behaviour and an MBA in leadership—starts by asking leaders three deceptively simple questions:

  1. What’s really important to you?
  2. What impact do you want to have on the world?
  3. How do you want people to remember you?

The answers can be as grand and lofty or grounded and modest as you like.

“Say you run a carpentry business, but your big, passionate, personal cause is children’s education,” Cheema says. “Then you might say you want your impact to be something that increases literacy for kids—and for people to remember you as someone who gave back to the community.”

As an alternative, Cheema suggests you might want to spend more time with your family, raising your kids as well-rounded people with strong values, and to be seen as someone who was always there when they needed you.

Whatever the case, those answers can then point toward personal goals that your business can help you achieve.

Connecting to your business

The next question Cheema asks is: What has to happen in your business so you can pursue your personal goals?

“Let’s go back to our carpentry business and the owner who wants to boost literacy for kids,” Cheema says. “A concrete goal might be to set up a company-sponsored program to take books into schools and read to kids. Well then, you know your business is going to have to be ready to operate without you while you’re away doing that. So you need good processes and a strong management infrastructure to keep the business running smoothly in your absence.”

Following the example through, Cheema says those goals could spur a hiring initiative, or some process work to clarify company systems and ways of doing things. These serve the business and also support what you want to achieve as a leader.

When you set up your business and personal goals so they complement each other, you can significantly improve both your personal and your professional satisfaction.

Monitor your progress

Whatever goals you pursue, Cheema advises setting a maximum of five personal and business goals. Any more, and it’ll be hard to devote enough focus and resources to each to advance them—and to keep track of your progress.

“Each of your goals should also include key performance indicators,” notes Cheema. “Specific, measurable indicators that you can track concretely to assess how things are going.”

She also stresses the importance of checking in on those indicators regularly—monthly is possible, or at least quarterly.

“You don’t want to leave it too long, because if you start to get off track, you want to know as soon as possible so you can make whatever adjustments you need to get you back on track.”

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