Your Client's are Terrible Goal Setters

Our clients are terrible goal setters. Most don't set goals. Those that do don't write them down. If they write them down they don't look at them. And if they look at them they have no way of knowing objectively whether the goal has been accomplished.

We talked last week about the four questions you should be asking your clients to convert them to consulting customers. Goals was one of those questions. As you begin to talk about goals with your clients you will find out how good or terrible they are at setting them. You can provide incredible value and create customers for life if you teach your clients how to set and use goals effectively.

The first step is getting them to limit their focus to just two or maybe three areas. Plenty of research has shown that people who set fewer goals are more likely to accomplish them. This also has the effect of forcing your clients to prioritize their activities. By limiting them to just to or three goals you are essentially forcing them to decide ahead of time what activities and areas will take a back seat.

Step two is getting the goal in a good format. This means writing it down according to the following formula:

From X to Y by when.

If the goal doesn't fit this formula I typically don't let clients off the hook until they can make it fit. Here are some examples of goals I have helped clients set.

  • To go from $3.6 million in revenue to $4.2 million in revenue by the end of the year.
  • To increase market share from 12.5% to 18% by December 31, 2018.
  • To increase new sales per salesperson from $900,000 to $1.5 million by December 31, 2017.
  • To increase retention from 81.5% to 83.5% by December 31, 2017.

There are some goals that will still qualify for this formula even though they do not strictly fit the "from X to Y" portion. Examples of these might be:

  • To publish our first book by the end of the year.
  • To hire a new general manager by June 30, 2017.
  • To have every employee complete a written, comprehensive training program by the end of the year.
  • To find and move into a new facility by the end of the year.

Even though these goals do not fit the strict formula it is easy to see how they are all objectively measurable and have a deadline. Objective versus subjective measurability is incredibly important. The outside world should be able to evaluate the data or ask a couple of questions and determine whether or not you have hit the goal. It should NOT be up to your subjective evaluation to say whether you have reached the finish line or not.

Step three is reviewing the goal on a regular basis. Personally I don't think you can do this too often. I like to review my goals once in the morning and once in the afternoon. They are always top of mind. When I sit down to think about my priorities for the week I have reviewed my goals 14 times during the past seven days. You can bet I will be thinking about them when I decide where I should be spending my time and energy for the next seven days. If I'm reviewing my goals twice a day I will also start each day trying to get a little closer to the finish line. Any my activities for the day will show it.

If you are having a conversation with your client about goals make sure you take the time to educate them on what makes a good goal and how to put it into practice effectively. They will think you are a genius, and you will forever set yourself apart from other accountants and CPAs who fail to take this kind of proactive approach.

If you have questions about how to start these conversations or need some help troubleshooting and getting your clients on track just reach out and I'll be happy to give you some tips.