Not unlike the recipe for your mum’s famous chocolate cake, the recipe for business success calls for various ingredients and steps plus time and patience. It requires short-term work (baking) to yield long-term results (happy tummies).
In business, short- and long-term goals are used tactically to help a business move forward. But what are they? And how are they set? We’ll define and compare short-term and long-term goals and show you 15 examples of what they look like in business.
It’s all in the name — long-term outcomes are what your company wants to achieve in the long term. They’re high-level goals or strategies you want to accomplish in the coming years, driving you closer to your vision. Good long-term goals should be adaptable to technological, political and other environmental changes.
No exact period defines long-term goals, but most organisations think of them as goals you aim to achieve in the next one to ten years. While ambitious, they inform short-term goals and day-to-day business flow and vice versa. Knowing a general direction is essential, but keeping a bottom-up approach that supports adaptability, creativity and more input into decision-making is still crucial.
The term ‘short’ is key in describing short-term goals. They define business goals you want to achieve in the near future, which can span from a week to a year, depending on the project and organisational preferences. They focus on the present, promoting productivity and good time management.
Short-term goals are clear, easily actionable and geared toward individual or team efforts rather than overall strategy. That being said, short-term goals should still be set with long-term strategy in mind — to set short-term goals, you need to know generally where your business is heading. In simpler terms, short-term goals are the steps you need to take to get where you want to be and a tool to check you’re heading in the right direction.
Short-term and long-term goals may differ, but it’s not quite David and Goliath. Below we’ve listed three key factors that set short- and long-term goals apart.
The biggest difference between short-term goals and long-term goals is their purpose. Long-term goals are strategic — they’re a plan for the future of the business. Short-term goals contribute to business success but have more to do with your current performance.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to defining what’s considered short-term or long-term, but generally speaking, short-term goals are more likely to be measured by weeks or months and long-term goals by years. Long-term business strategies require many short-term goals to meet.
Short-term goals and long-term organisational goals are also different in adaptability. Short-term goals are typically more clearly defined and actionable, whereas long-term goals are flexible to changes in strategy.
Looking for some real-world examples to help you write business goals? Using the SMART methodology — which requires goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound — we’ve compiled some examples of long- and short-term business goals that are easily adaptable.
A long-term marketing goal might sound like this:
And the short-term goals that support this long-term strategy might look like this:
The following might be a long-term finance goal:
And to support the long-term strategy, short-term finance goals may look like this:
Long-term HR goals would include:
Whereas the short-term HR goals for the long-term strategy may look like this:
A typical goal for long-term sales growth may look like this:
In contrast, the short-term goals for sales might be as follows:
An example of a long-term customer service goal might be:
Whereas customer service short-term goals are more likely to be specific:
Whether you’re 20 years into trading or in the early stages of business, getting past the ‘vision’ part of goal setting is not always easy. You may know where you want to be, but getting there is the hard part.
A goal-setting framework like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) bridges the gap between vision and strategy. It uses short-term targets to support medium- and long-term goals.
If your long-term vision is to grow revenue, your quarterly OKRs may look like this:
Objective: Improve monthly sales revenue
Set, share and track goals without a hitch using user-friendly software like Tability. Tability's easy-to-use tools and check-in emails support team buy-in, making it easy for your business to adopt it. Give it a go with a free trial today.
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