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What are SMART Goals?

SMART Goals are a guide to help with setting goals. They are especially helpful for anyone who is learning to run their own business. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each part of the acronym has a set of questions you need to answer to ensure your goal is set correctly. SMART Goals help ensure the goals made are reachable in a set period of time. SMART Goals are a great way to start your business because of the concrete foundation they supply.

Why Should You Use SMART Goals?

SMART Goals are different from regular goals because they help you stay motivated and have a more structured outline. They are a helpful organizational tool to help lay out the foundation of your goals. Regular goals are just a simple statement you wish to accomplish, whereas SMART Goals structure the goal into five different categories and how to achieve each.


Your goals should be well-defined and clear. Not being specific enough will lead you to a messy layout. You want to be explicit so that anyone and everyone can understand even if they do not know what your idea is at all.

Try to answer the five W’s:

  • Who is involved in this goal? – This may just be you, a couple people, or your entire team.
  • What do I want to accomplish? – Do not make this a general statement. You could be looking for fundraising or launching your business. 
  • Where is this goal to be achieved? – It can be at a specific location.
  • When do I want to achieve this goal? – Set a specific date to look forward to.
  • Why do I want to achieve this goal? – Try to be specific here. Instead of saying ‘to drive the business forward’ you can say ‘to gain X amount of customers.’


You want your goal to be measurable to help you see how far you have come. The idea here is to make it more tangible. Quantifying your goals makes it easier to track and know when you have completed your goal. You do not want to get off track and lose sight of your project. Setting milestones will help you and your team remain on track by looking forward to the finish line.

You should ask yourself:

  • By how much/many? – Answer this with ‘I want X amount of _____.’ Example: I want 100 more customers.
  • What is my measure of progress? – You can do data collection or follow a checklist.
  • How will I know when I am finished? – Make a list of objectives that you can follow along with.


Your goal should be attainable and well thought out. What you want to do here is focus on the goals that are important. Do not be too ambitious with them. Here you will give yourself a reality check. Being too ambitious with your goals will not help you succeed. Start out smaller and then build your goals up. An unattainable goal will turn people away and will not motivate them.

The questions you should ask yourself are:

  • How can I accomplish this goal? – Figure out what you need to do to reach the goal. 
  • What resources are needed to attain this goal? – Make sure the goal is realistic and does not require items that are out of reach.


Being relevant is all about making sure all your goals align with each other. They should line up with the long-term objectives of your business. If they do not, you may need to rethink what you are doing. Think about the bigger picture of it all. Without looking at the bigger picture, you may lose sight of your core values.

You should be able to answer “yes” to the following question:

  • Is it the right time? – Make sure there are not more important tasks to be done.
  • Does it match the other needs of the plan? – It should line up with the rest of the project.
  • Is it applicable in the current environment? – Is everything as it should be or does something need to be altered?


You and your team should be on the same page of when the goal should be met. If you are not, things will get messed up and you will not accomplish your goals. Set a deadline for everyone to focus on working towards. Be sure the deadline is realistic. If your goal lacks realistic timing it will create issues for everyone. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What can be done today? – Is there anything you can do today to help?
  • What can be done six weeks from now? – What smaller goals can be accomplished?
  • What can be done six months from now? – What bigger goals can be accomplished?
  • When is the deadline? – Be sure to set a specific deadline.

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Charlotte Kane
Charlotte Kane Undergraduate Student, The Ohio State University

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Darshita Bajoria Undergraduate Student, The Ohio State University

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