How to Chart Your Long-Term Business Goals

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Traction" by Gino Wickman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you set long-term business goals? How far into the future should you aim?

Companies need long-term business goals so they know where they’re heading and whether they’re on or off course. According to entrepreneurial expert Gino Wickman, every company must have a three-year goal, a one-year plan, and a ten-year target.

Keep reading to learn about the three types of long-term business goals.

Why Should You Set Long-Term Business Goals?

Long-term business goals take years to come to fruition which is why many companies don’t even bother setting them. But having a long-term outlook on where your business is heading can have a huge impact on your performance.

Your Three-Year Goal

Having a picture for how things will look in three years has two benefits:

  • Your employees know where the company is going and can help make your vision a reality.
  • It makes the one-year planning process easier, because with an eye on the three-year goal, you can determine what you need to do in the next year to stay on track.

In writing your three-year goal, focus on measurables and bullet points, not details—on the end point rather than the potential hurdles. 

How to Set a Three-Year Goal

  • Pick a date, preferably the end of a calendar year.
  • Determine what your annual revenue will be three years from now (one number, not a range). Your senior leaders need to be on board with the number.
  • Set a profit number.
  • Choose a key measurable (like number of large clients or quantity produced). For example, an oil company that supplies fuel to gas stations decided its measurable would be gallons delivered. A soup company decided to increase from 38 to 94 stores in three years.
  • Use bullet points to describe how the company will look (number of people, resources, office environment, systems, technology, product, clients).
  • Leaders should define their roles in that time frame, so everyone is aligned.

When the leadership team understands and agrees on all major points, share the three-year plan with employees.

Your One-Year Plan

The one-year plan, what has to happen this year, creates the traction for achieving your vision. Pick up to seven objectives for the year. When you have more than that, none stand out, your efforts are scattered, and you accomplish little. But when you focus on a few key things, you accomplish more.

How to Create a One-Year Plan

  • Set your future date. Set it within the calendar year regardless of where you are in the year. For instance, if you’re currently in July, set your future date as Dec. 31. After that, you can create a full one-year plan.
  • As with the three-year picture, set a revenue goal, profit goal, and a measurable consistent with your three-year measurable.
  • Choose up to seven priorities that should be completed this year to be on track to meet your three-year goal. They should be specific, measurable, and doable.
  • Budget for your one-year plan to ensure you have both the resources and a reasonable profit goal.

Your 10-Year Target

Companies need long-term business goals so they know where they’re heading and whether they’re on or off course. In Built to Last, Collins and Porras write that successful companies stand out in setting big, bold, long-term business goals, which the authors referred to as BHAGs: “big, hairy, audacious goals.” When you have a big, attention-grabbing goal, you start doing things differently in the present to get there.

To make such a mental leap, focus on ends rather than means. Think of your long-term business goals as the “end.” Like an athlete making a long jump, focus on where you will land. When you orient your thinking this way, solutions come to you that wouldn’t otherwise.

Examples of big, bold goals include: “$10 million in revenue with 15% net income,” “5 billion gallons moved” (an oil company), and “25% of target market.”

How to Set a 10-Year Target

Identifying a 10-year target may take some time. Discuss with your leadership team where you want to take your company. The goal should be specific, measurable, and clear (with no gray areas). 

Start by asking what the company’s revenue goal could be in 10 years. Once people start talking, firm up a target that everyone agrees on. The right target is one that generates energy throughout the company.

When your company is three years from achieving your 10-year goal, make it your three-year goal and set another 10-year target.

How to Chart Your Long-Term Business Goals

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  • How a first-time entrepreneur can gain the traction needed to grow
  • Why hard work and determination aren't enough for your business to succeed
  • The 6 key principles of the Entrepreneurial Operating System

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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