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Financial Management: 5 tips for setting realistic workplace goals Print Email
Written by Chris Brown   
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 10:06 AM America/New_York

Motivation through goal-setting can lead to greater success

ChrisBrown-RamseySolutionsThere was a time I wanted to beat Oprah—but didn’t.

In 2011, I decided to cross an item off my bucket list by running a marathon. But I needed some support, especially since I got a late start on training. So I announced on Twitter that I was running the ING Marathon in Miami with only nine weeks of training! Then I gave all my followers permission to hold me accountable.

Well, their questions were effective—and a little annoying—because I actually finished the race! As a result, I had a huge sense of accomplishment, but I also learned an important lesson about setting goals that also can apply to running a business.

You see, while I asked for accountability for my training, I never asked for accountability regarding my time. My goal was 4 hours and 19 minutes. Why? Because somebody told me Oprah had finished a marathon in 4:20. I learned later that Oprah actually ran a marathon in 4:29. All I could think was, “Oprah is awesome, but she’s not beating me!” But she did—by a lot.

I started the race with tons of adrenaline pumping through my veins. People were cheering, and I had 65,000 other runners to borrow energy from on a warm Miami day. Around mile 3, I was thrilled to be hanging with the 9:15 pace group. If I could stay with them the whole race, I would absolutely crush Oprah!

Everything went according to plan until mile 13. That’s when things fell apart—and when I realized a huge gap in my goal-setting. I had never defined my goal of beating Oprah’s time for anyone else, and that detail haunted me.

I started at a 9:15 group because I knew that I would naturally slow down to the 9:30 group and then the 9:45 group and then the 10:00 group. I knew I would fade, so I made it part of the plan. What wasn’t part of the plan was how quickly I faded. I went from a 9:15 pace to a 10:00 pace within 10 minutes of mile 13. From there, all I could do was progressively adjust my goals until I finally landed on one I could hit—breaking five hours. I eventually finished the race in 4:52. Oprah’s time was safe because I couldn’t maintain my pace.

You might feel the same way about your business sometimes. Consumers and competitors can pass you more quickly than the pace groups that flew by me. You plan but run out of juice. The key to maintaining a strong pace—and ending up where you want to be—is setting solid goals.

You have probably read books and attended seminars about goal-setting, but you have to put what you know into practice. During the marathon, I skipped some important goal-setting steps. Now I can set better goals in the future—and inspire you to rethink how you set business goals.

Here are five tips for setting realistic—and successful—goals:

1. Goals need to be specific. A goal to run a marathon someday sounds good, but it’s vague. I needed to say, “I’m running the ING in Miami nine weeks from now.”

If your goal as a Christian retailer is to be successful or to serve people or to grow, you’re being too vague. Instead of saying, “My goal is to be successful,” say something such as, “My goal is to increase net sales.”

2. Goals need to be measurable. Making a goal measurable doesn’t just add clarity. It also ups the level of accountability—and it lets you know if your business is hitting or missing the goal because you have a standard for comparison.

Increasing net sales is great, but how will you know if you’re winning or losing? Attach something measurable to it: “My goal is to increase net sales 20 percent.” If you don’t hit the 20 percent mark, you can go back and figure out why you fell short.

3. Goals need a time limit. A 20 percent increase in sales doesn’t mean much unless you give it a deadline. Decide when the goal has to be met or you will wander.

For example, “My goal is to increase net sales 20 percent next quarter” gives you some real boundaries. You know then that you’ve got three months to make it happen.

4. Goals must be your own. The only reason I completed the race is because I wanted to—not because anyone else wanted me to finish.

If you want to raise sales by 20 percent next quarter, make sure that’s a goal you and your team can get behind. If not, you’ll run out of steam well before the finish line.

5. Goals must be in writing. My tweet about training for the race was in writing, so it was effective. But my goal of beating Oprah never left my head.

The more places you put a goal in writing, the more accountability you and your team will feel. It’s like casting vision again and again. Print off copies saying, “Our goal is to increase net sales 20 percent next quarter” and put them on copiers, on each desk, on mirrors in the bathrooms. Write the goal in your journal and make it your screen saver. Be sure it’s in writing!

The pace of business never lets up. You’re always in a race. And these five principles will help you turn your goals into reality.

Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and speaker, carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide. “Chris Brown’s True Stewardship,” available on radio stations across the country, provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbrownonair, on Facebook at or online at