Where do you want your business to be in a year's time? Whatever type of business you have, setting clear goals and keeping these in mind will help you stay on target and keep you moving forwards in the right direction.

Whatever professional challenges you're facing in 2019, read through these small business goals to get ideas for how to solve them. Every business is unique, and what works for a new startup might not benefit a more established business, but you should find a few ideas to help keep your business on target.

Have a clear vision

What is the purpose of your business? A strong sense of purpose and clarity of vision will help to keep you and anyone who works for you on track. This should inform what you do every day and the decisions you make to move towards this destination.

You need to know the 'why' of your business before you work out the 'how' and develop strategies to achieve it. Set your sights on the big win right from the beginning.

Be single minded

What is the single most important activity you need to do every day to achieve your goal? When you've identified this core task, it should be the primary focus of your business and occupy as much of your attention as possible.

While there will always be other tasks that need your attention, you should avoid multi-tasking or trying to take on too many things in your small business if they don't directly contribute to your goal. Delegating or outsourcing activities to other people will clear your schedule and free your mind to concentrate on the big picture.

Set quarterly targets

Businesses that set and review targets are more likely to achieve success. While you should have long-term goals in mind, startups in a fast-changing industry often find it more useful to focus on the immediate future, setting clear and measurable targets every quarter or even every month to keep them on their toes.

These goals aren't set in stone and should be reviewed and adjusted as you gain experience and learn what's best for your business. While your goals should be realistic, they should also be set high to encourage you to succeed.

SWOT up

To get a clear sense of where your business is right now and the obstacles you need to overcome, perform a comprehensive SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). This should be done regularly as your needs and situation change to make sure you're making the best decisions for your business.

Alone or with business partners or employees, think about:

  • what you've achieved
  • what you've learned
  • what you need to do better
  • what your priorities should be
  • what strategic issues you're likely to face over the next year or quarter

Get on top of finances

What financial issues did you face in 2018? Are these still relevant this year? Take stock of your running costs, other outgoings and debt so you have a clear idea of your financial situation.

When you've identified the specific areas you need to improve, you should implement specific strategies for each of them. This could mean setting strict budgets, cancelling services you don't need, boosting efficiency through technology, paying off debts or other solutions to improve your financial health.

Boost productivity

Are you as productive as you could be? If you sometimes fall behind schedule or you're not achieving everything you want to, you should identify all areas where time and effort could be saved and spent on adding value to your business instead.

This could include:

  • eliminating distractions while you're supposed to be working
  • organizing your desk and files so you always know where everything is
  • delegating tasks with clear instructions and expectations
  • automating or scheduling processes such as invoicing or social media posts
  • setting deadlines to motivate action and encourage prioritization

Take on staff

If you're having to spend a lot of your valuable time dealing with distractions like admin or marketing, it could be time to start hiring one or more employees. This will free up your time and attention to focus on growing your business.

Of course, hiring staff means adding to your operating costs, so this decision needs to be made with care. You should discuss it with your accountant and a lawyer to make sure you're aware of your responsibilities as an employer and decide whether you're prepared.

Go paperless

Every small change you make in your business can contribute to the big picture. Going paper-free in your office might not seem like a big deal, but it could have many benefits, such as:

  • saving money on ink and paper supplies
  • saving storage space
  • improving efficiency and organization
  • improving your reputation with customers and suppliers if you're in an industry where sustainability is important.

Digital documents can also be more secure than hard copies, as long as you make sure they're protected behind strong password and always keep backups.

Research the market

How much do you know about your industry, your customers and your competitors? Market research is the first step to increasing your market share as you learn about who your customers are, what they want and how you can satisfy them.

If you don't have the time or resources to conduct interviews with customers, you can get an idea of how your online business is performing by checking out Google Analytics and your website statistics. It's also important to keep up with current trends and changes in the industry and to consider how these might impact on your business so you can adapt accordingly.

Know your audience

One of the most important parts of market research is identifying who your customers are. No business appeals to everyone, and knowing who you're writing for will help you to target marketing activities more effectively and to tailor your products or services.

Your target audience might be a very specific demographic or several target markets varying in age, occupation and income. Creating a persona to represent each of your target audiences will help you to meet their needs and market more effectively to that group.

Develop your brand

What makes your business stand out in the crowd? Branding helps to establish your company in a crowded market and to build familiarity. It should also communicate your brand values and be consistent across everything you do, from social media posts to letterheads.

To help your branding stand out, consider hiring a professional graphic artist to design your logo and copywriters to write your website and other materials to a professional standard. Research your competitors and other businesses you admire to see what they're doing and decide what visual style, colors and tone of voice are appropriate for your business and your target demographics.

Grow your website

Your website represents your brand online, so it needs to be created and managed with care. If it looks shoddy, unprofessional or old-fashioned, this will reflect badly on you. The good news is, you don't need to be a techie to have a professional-looking site when you use an easy website builder like Limecube with customizable themes.

Once your website's up and running, it shouldn't just sit there waiting for clicks. Adding a business blog will give you fresh, regular content to share on your social networks, driving traffic to your site and helping you to perform better in Google. You should also review your old web pages on a regular basis to make sure they're still current and consistent with your brand values and tone of voice.

Embrace social media

Social media is the best free marketing tool for any business. Creating profiles for your brand on Facebook, Twitter and other relevant platforms and posting regular updates will increase awareness of your brand and drive traffic to your websites. You can also sign up to advertising deals to have your ads delivered to your target customers.

If you're publishing blog posts, videos or other regular content on your websites, share these on your social profiles to get clicks and build a reputation as an expert in your field. You can also interact with other professionals on platforms such as LinkedIn.

Get active in networking

As well as networking online, it's important to get out there and meet other professionals by attending conferences and seminars. This is also a chance to keep up with the latest developments in the industry and learn what challenges and opportunities to expect in the year ahead, as well as to generate leads if you're a B2B company.

Mark upcoming industry events in your calendar and join local community groups to get your name out there. You can make an even bigger impression by signing up as a guest speaker in your field of expertise.

Rethink your marketing strategy

Effective marketing is vital for building interest in your brand, driving traffic to your site and generating leads and sales. If you've already engaged in marketing, conducting an audit of these activities and their results will show you which are the most successful and which need to be rethought.

If you're new to marketing, working with a digital agency or hiring an experienced copywriter will ensure that your websites and social media posts reach more people and rank higher on Google and other search engines.

Make time for personal development

You can improve your business by improving yourself. Even if you consider yourself an expert in your field, there's always more to learn, especially in a dynamic industry that's constantly changing. Setting aside at least a couple of hours in your busy week to build your skills, boost your knowledge and network with other business leaders can feed back into your core business.

Take a well-earned break

Hard work is admirable, but all work and no play leads to burnout and exhaustion that can affect your business' performance. Just because you're self-employed, you can still make the most of weekends as a time to relax, reflect and refresh for the next week. A longer holiday can be a reward and motivation for hard work at the end of another successful year.