Goal setting for this year and any year is not absolutely required. This article discusses how to run a successful business without goals.

I had a bad experience as a young man. In my corporate days, I remember the end of year roundup, and the head of the department stood up in front of the team, and by slide 21 of 75 people were dying in their chairs. The presentation on next year’s goals mainly was unintelligible and the rest contradictory. Towards the end of the presentation, he raised his inflexion and uttered, “Go for it, guys.” Then with those inspirational words resonating in our ears, we silently filed out of the room. Often bemused or amused that somebody had paid us to sit and squirm through the last two hours.

We left the presentation no wiser. The scatter diagrams and bar charts were soon forgotten, and we returned to our desks to resolve the long list of emails accumulated during the presentation. When you’re fighting fires and trying to cram a twelve-hour day into just eight hours, we all gave up on the goals for the New Year and resolved to try and extinguish today’s blaze.

Forget Goals and Keep Peddling

One day, I asked the boss how the goals were progressing at a team meeting. I qualified that request by adding my apologies for not contributing toward those goals because of my workload. The answer was that the goals were forgotten and that those of us in the Business as Usual units should keep our heads down and continue peddling. After the session, the boss reminded me not to ask any more awkward questions, shut up, and paddle even harder.

Move forward twenty years, and I’m a director in an SME training business that’s grown its turnover every year for the last ten years. That includes the dark days of the recession, and even now, post-referendum uncertainty, we have a steady and healthy growth of students from both home and abroad. Interestingly, we don’t have any goals, and we don’t have any timescales or budgets. So how do we do it?

Authentic Desire

Simple – we just run projects. But we only run projects that we’re committed to. Running a project that does not come into the ‘authentic desire’ category will never hit the table for discussion. We have Business as Usual projects which embrace our bread and butter niche course offerings, and we have a website, digital marketing and accountancy projects running concurrently. When dealing with subjective matters like web pages, we’re constantly split-testing the pages to see what works. There’s science behind it; it’s the same with digital marketing; we split-test all the campaigns and test and retest. (It’s all outsourced, actually). The accountancy software we use reconciles payments and income streams. We don’t like working with forced deadlines for VAT and Corporation Tax. But that’s out of our control, although the payments and reconciliation are easily within our control.

Be Your Own Pilot

I was not too fond of the corporate world because it was like being a supertanker captain. It takes a long time to change course. But because I was cleaning the galley, I never saw the light of day anyway. Big goals mean nothing when you don’t get to see the changes in a positive light. Making changes is like navigating a fast-flowing river in a kayak in a small company. You can feel every twist and turn when you put your paddle in the water.

Goals Must Be Authentic Desires

Projects are great, and we have clear success criteria, but we don’t set timescales for them. That means that some projects take longer than usual. But a project only fails if or when it is abandoned.

In summary, if you are goal setting for 2022 or at any other time for business or personal reasons, make sure that your choices are based on authentic desires. You’ll buy into them and be committed to their successful outcomes. Opting for goals that do not resonate with you will soon be forgotten, along with the bar charts and scatter diagrams. The only goal is to progress by doing work that you love.

Vince is a well-known speaker/trainer and has won a number of awards for leadership, education and development. He is a founder of the College of Public Speaking and works as Education Director managing all aspects of course delivery and content.