Success without stress: How simple goal-setting can support startups through challenging times

When it comes to running a business, protecting your wellbeing can too often fall so far down the list of priorities that you never get to it. The overwhelming demand on your time, particularly in high pressure points such as the New Tax Year, can be all encompassing.

Here, entrepreneur, wellbeing expert, podcaster and author, Adrienne Herbert, discusses why growth shouldn’t be at the cost of wellbeing.

While supporting both your business and your own wellbeing might feel impossible, the key to a thriving business is realising that actually, one fuels the other.

So, how do you achieve this level of both business and personal strength, without sacrificing your wellbeing or business’ success in the process? Research from Intuit QuickBooks has revealed that one in six small business owners lose sleep over the end of Tax Year process – so the last thing they need is a new, complicated wellbeing strategy to adopt.

So how about an old one? Setting goals. Yes, it really can be that simple. Goal setting is nothing new to the world of business, nor to our own personal ambitions. However, the only thing as universal as setting goals, is feeling like we’re failing to achieve them.

Ready, set, simplify

Understanding how to set realistic and achievable goals can prove critical to the health and success of any startup or small business, and the most important lesson is that less is more. Trying to meet all your ambitions at once is setting yourself up for failure, because it requires your attention to be spread too thinly. You will quickly become overwhelmed and frustrated.

By limiting yourself to one goal at a time, and making the goal as specific as possible, you will be much more able to dedicate the right amount of energy to taking the steps to succeed. Abstract, big picture hopes and dreams are great for daydreaming about your future, but less effective for inspiring action.

Set yourself something tangible – 5% increase in sales? 200 new social media followers? – and watch as your efforts reap rewards.

When you know what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, and how you can make it happen – progress is almost unavoidable.

Power of Accountability

Throughout the year, challenges arise for all small business owners. From the surge in demand around Christmas time, to the increase in admin during the New Tax Year, to unforeseen issues such as supply chain obstacles. Consistency can feel impossible during these periods, particularly when working towards set goals – and the natural reaction is frustration at being derailed.

But instead of pushing back, I encourage you to take these moments as opportunities for review. Establishing deadlines and checkpoints to assess the progress made towards goals and factoring an extra 10% to timeframes to account for the unexpected, provides the opportunity to evaluate what is and isn’t working, and consider what changes can be brought in for the next phase.

If a goal still feels out of reach by the time you reach a hard deadline, then you have given yourself the opportunity to close the chapter, assess the key takeaways, and move onto the next – instead of letting it dissolve into the abyss.

Backed by data

Thirty percent of small business owners find preparing for the start of the New Tax Year one of the most stressful and high-pressure times of year. As such, the idea of using this time to review how you and your business are performing can seem like an unnecessary burden on an already back-breaking time. But it might be worth making the time: the rich pool of information that comes from the year-end process can be vital to startups and small businesses, especially when setting goals for the next year.

The meticulous combing of accounts at year-end offers the ideal time to extract data and insights on business performance. This provides a useful reflection of how you have performed against your goals, and a guidepost for what goals to set for the coming year, and how to achieve them.

Embrace the experts

While most founders and business owners would agree that the tax reporting process lends itself well to establishing data-driven goals, just as many may also point out that interpreting the numbers is incredibly complex and causes significant stress. This personal impact cannot be overlooked – QuickBooks research shows many business owners report feeling more isolated due to the increased stress, and losing sleep over potential errors.

For many, reviewing financials and extracting insights is certainly not a motivation. My drive, for instance, is a desire to inspire and motivate people to make positive changes to their lives – the numbers matter to me because the more people I can reach the greater impact I can achieve. But no matter your own motivations, true strength as a business leader lies in embracing support from all corners.

When I am setting goals, I surround myself with people who will support and encourage me, and when necessary, challenge me – from friends to colleagues to fellow business founders; people that are willing to check in with me on my progress and offer a word of encouragement and counsel when needed. So, likewise, when it comes to aspects of my own goals that I don’t feel as confident with, I know there is no weakness in relying on others.

When it comes to successfully navigating the numbers, financial management software can provide real-time insights for forecasting, or an accountant can offer expert guidance that calms your concerns about compliance. When starting a business, too often we can feel it is our responsibility to do it all, but actually, understanding where you can benefit from professional support is not only an opportunity to future proof your business, but also to protect your own health and wellbeing.

Define your success

Launching and running a business is a nerve-racking and intimidating experience, but also one filled with excitement and opportunity. So don’t feel the need to go it alone – resist the urge to believe that “success” can only be achieved if you do it all yourself. You have complete control over the goals you set for yourself, but do not forget you also have control over defining what success means to you.

“Learn from your mistakes” is an overused trope for a reason: it is irrefutably true. We are all imperfect; each mistake provides an opportunity to learn and improve. Don’t be too hard on yourself in the tough times. Set goals to work towards, surround yourself with a well-balanced support network, recognise when you can benefit from expert guidance and most importantly, celebrate your wins! Challenges are unavoidable, but how well you are prepared for them, both personally and as a business, is all in the planning.