The Trouble With Goal Setting

goal setting and planning

It’s all fun and games until there’s roses to smell

goal setting planning small business the chesire cat

Confusions about Planning and Goal setting

I am confused.

I am confused about Planning and Goal setting. I don’t know anymore what’s right and wrong about Planning and Goal Setting. The more I read and the more experience I gain developing Goals and Plans with clients and for myself, the less convinced I am about them.

Goal Setting and Planning
Big Hairy Audacious Goal

I talk to my clients about Big Hairy Audacious Goals and I say to them: A Business without a Plan achieves everything in it, and I tell them that business plans must be ‘live’ documents and that we must forever be Planning, because Planning is a verb. I quote the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, who says to Alice: “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will do”. And I explain that we must have a direction or we won’t know what decisions to make. And I have written articles stating that life is about journeys in which our goals are like our compass course and hence, without clear goals we’re doomed to sail around in circles on those journeys.

And until not long ago I also had myself one of them Big Hairy Audacious Goals myself, yessiree, and I felt I was “Walking the Talk”.

Now before I tell you about my BHAG and what happened with it, I have to give you a bit of the back story.

Getting from here to there

About 12 years ago, I started learning about coaching. At it’s most basic, coaching is the profession of helping people get from where they are now to where they’d like to be.

Typically, the process involves setting a Goal for where the client would like to be by a certain date and then developing a plan for getting there.

A simple but powerful process.

And over the past 12 years, I’ve of course set various Goals for myself. I practice what I preach after all. But none of the Goals I set ever really hit the mark and none of them ever really engaged me at a deep level, and consequently I never really achieved any of those actual Goals.

But 2 years ago, I hit upon a Goal that I thought ticked all the boxes.

I’d turned 5 goal setting and planning 5 by then and I’d published my third book, about Fun in Business and I decided that I wanted to get the ideas in the book to a wider audience; I wanted to step onto a bigger stage.
And so, I set a Goal to be delivering a TED-Talk about Fun in Business on an international stage before I turned 65.

Here finally was a goal I could get my teeth into. It met all the criteria for effective and engaging goals. It was big, scary, measurable, personal, time framed, inspiring… It ticked all the boxes.

Singing a solo in my choir

And for a while, maybe a year and a half, I started doing all the stuff I needed to do to make the BHAG come true in 10 years’ time. I joined Toastmasters and engaged a speaking coach. I started looking for opportunities to speak more and practice the craft. I took singing lessons and I put up my hand to sing a solo in my choir.

And it was fun, I stepped out of my comfort zone (especially that solo), I learned a lot, I became a better speaker, I honed my message and that’s all been good.

But now, two years later? I’ve lost all interest in becoming a speaker on global stages. It’s simply not important for me anymore. It was a great Goal for a while, but now I’ve let it go.

Other things have become more important.

There are those who read this and know me, who will be quite confused to hear me say I dropped the TED-Talk-Goal. They’ll wonder if I’m ok, if I’m depressed maybe, they’ll wonder if maybe I am afraid of failure, or they’ll wonder that maybe I don’t have what it takes to achieve big Goals.

I feeeeel good (cue James Brown)

To those I’d like to say: Don’t worry, I feel really good about dropping my Goal.

Setting the BHAG was useful for me two years ago. It got me out of a funk and got me moving. It meant I engaged with my business and my life in new ways. It renewed my enthusiasm. It meant I started having more Fun in Business again (boom boom… I couldn’t resist that one).

But now I have no need for that it anymore.

Things that are important to me at the moment (in no particular order) are:

  • My relationship with my wife
  • My grandkids (the girls… They are adorable… Honestly)
  • Doing great work with my clients
  • Being part of my communities
  • Developing my friendships
  • My family in Australia
  • My family in Holland
  • My sourdough starter (it’s my ‘preciousssss’)

So I am without BHAG at the moment. I have smaller goals such as baking a sourdough with more air bubbles in it, and getting my house in Holland ready for AirBnB, having the grandkids stay overnight at our place in the new year, and to ensure that I continue to have Fun in the work I do with my clients. But I really don’t feel the need to achieve anything Big and Hairy in the foreseeable future.

goal setting and planning The TED-Talk-Goal got me moving a few years ago, when I needed to get moving. But once I got moving, I suddenly noticed the roses along the way and I started smelling them. Who wants to focus on Big Hairy Audacious things if you can smell some roses instead?

Getting off your ass

I think this is what Goal setting should be about.

Goals are meant to be about getting inspired to get off your ass, and about directions to get off your ass into. Goals are not destinations to be reached (well the airholes in my sourdough are pretty important, but other goals? Not so much).

I get it now, achieving a Goal is not the Point, the Point is smelling the roses.

And that gets us back to the beginning of this article and my confusion.

I’m a business coach, I make my living from helping business owners achieve their Goals. It’s quite challenging to tell potential customers to: “Hire me, pay me lots of money and we’ll wonder off into the woods and smell some roses”.

Something tells me that isn’t going to be my most effective marketing strategy yet.

I don’t know exactly where these thoughts are going to lead me. But what I do know is that asking the question is important for me right now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts too. How do you think about Goals? Have you set big Goals, and actually achieved them? And then what? Is life about moving from one Goal to the next?

Thanks for tuning in to my confusion, and I’ll let you know how my sourdough develops from time to time.

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of The 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered


Book in my FREE Discovery Coaching Session (over Skype). Let me know your take on planning and goal setting. And I’ll help you discover how best to move your business forward with focus and direction.

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goal setting and planning

The Problem With Goal Setting


The Problem with Goal Setting

How to set goals that make a difference

If you enjoy this article click here to get a free copy of one of my “The Ten Truths” books for business owners

I’ve got a big goal:
TED In January 2024, I am delivering a talk to a global audience at a TED conference in either the USA or the UK, about Small Business, Overwhelm, Fun in Business and the Business Growth myth.”

I committed to this Goal a few months ago and let me tell you, as Goals go, it’s a big one. To achieve it I have to not only step outside my comfort zone, I have to shut the door behind me and stay there.

Until now I haven’t set many Goals for myself, and that may sound odd for someone who calls himself a business coach. Business coaches are supposed to be all about Goal setting and accountability.

And that is true, but most Goal setting operates from a flawed premise.

You see, the typical approach to goal setting goes something like this: Visualise what you really want to achieve and make it as real and concrete and measurable as possible and then create a plan to achieving that thing… And Bob’s your uncle.

What’s wrong

There are three things wrong with that approach:

1.    The world changes all the time.
2.    You change all the time
3.    And most of the Goals we set through that process are actually not very inspiring.

Let me explain:

Common examples of Goals are: “We’ve doubled our revenue” or “We’ve made $250,000 net profit” or “I can afford to buy myself thattropical-island Mercedes I’ve always wanted” or “I’m taking the family on a holiday to (insert tropical island resort)”.

Lovely Goals, wouldn’t you agree?

Sadly though, none of those goals are likely to have much impact on your business or your life.

Here is the problem:

Traditional Goal setting in business is crystal ball gazing. A Goal along the lines of: “100% profit growth in 2014” makes all sorts of assumptions about what 2014 might look like and about what your life might look like in 2014. It may be that the world economy dives back into a GFC type of crisis next year and a great achievement might simply be to survive. Alternatively the economy may experience a boom of some sort and doubling profit growth will hardly be much of an achievement.

And you yourself of course are even more likely to undergo change over the course of a year. The circumstances of your life can change radically, your health can change, you might fall in love or have babies. Any number of things can come up during a year and change what’s possible, desirable or important.


I worked with a client some years ago who owned a design agency, let’s call him Aaron. We worked together for a period of 9 months covering the last three quarters of the financial year. When we started work, Aaron decided that he wanted the business to grow 20% in the year, make $150,000 net profit, grow from employing 5 to 7 designers, move to a new office, pay himself 25% more salary, and sign a contract with a big financial institution.

A few months in I started noticing that Aaron was losing his usual enthusiasm and I checked in with him about that. It turned out that Aaron was getting worried that his goal wasn’t going to be achieved, because parts of his Goal turned out to be much more challenging that he had imagined. Specifically, the company was currently on track to only make $100,000 net profit.

Also, the more time Aaron spent looking into opportunities with the big institutions, the less excited he was feeling about working with them. While on the other hand, Aaron’s business had recently landed a job with a mid-size engineering firm and the early signs were that this was exactly the kind of client, Aaron and his team enjoyed working with.

Yet Aaron was down on himself for not being able to stick to his Goal.

The unknowns

I explained to Aaron that the thing to understand about committing to a Goal is that it is designed on the basis of information we have available at the time we create the Goal. If it turns out later that the information was flawed in some way, it makes sense to adjust the Goal in line with the new information.

For Aaron to continue to chase contracts with big banks when he’d come to the conclusion that there were better opportunities available elsewhere would be stupid.

winston Churchill is reported to have replied when he was accused of changing his mind:
“Yes, I do that when I find I’m wrong… What do you do?”

Maybe Aaron needed to explore the engineering industry further instead of the big finance world, and maybe, feeling frustrated about making $100,000 profit instead of $150,000 was not all that useful either.

No more firm Goals?

Does that mean that we shouldn’t have firm Goals anymore? On the contrary. Well framed firmly defined Goals can be an enormous help to staying out of Overwhelm and into having more Fun in business and building a business that sustains you for years to come. However a Goal to make $150,000 profit, will not motivate you. It might sound exciting, but it is an arbitrary number and whether you make $100K or $150K is not interesting to your brain, especially not your sub-conscious brain.

Out of your comfort zone

The only truly motivating Goal, a Goal that pushes you out of your comfort zone and keeps you there, just like my Goal to talk at a TED- conference, is a Goal that is about your own growth as a business owner, as a manager, as a leader, and as a person.

comfort-zoneWhat that meant for Aaron was that he changed his Goal to this:

“On 30 June the business is humming, everybody is having a ball, our cash reserves are growing, our strategies are in place for next year and I am walking the talk of being a true business owner.”

As soon as we framed this Goal, Aaron found his enthusiasm again.

Aaron achieved all his Goals that year and threw a big party on the 30th of June.

The day after the party Aaron and I designed a new Goal for the next year that was just as inspiring as the last one and Aaron and his business have continued to thrive ever since.

Not ready

Back to me and my Goal. It has taken me a while to set and commit to such a big Goal. The reason it took me a while is simply that I wasn’t ready. Now I am and I’ve found the same level of enthusiasm about my Goal that Aaron had a few years ago about his Goal.

So… how far do you want to grow as a business owner in 2014, and what Goal are you prepared to commit to?

I’d love to hear… drop me a line, and… I look forward to seeing you in the audience in 2024.

roland Cheers,
Roland Hanekroot

Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have more FUN running your business and build a business that sustains you for years to come. A great first step is to come along to one of my monthly Small Business Masterminds workshops or webinars… follow this link

The Purpose of Your Business

Have you ever asked yourself:

Why does your business exist

and why would anybody care?

If you enjoy this article click here to get a free copy of one of my “The Ten Truths” books for business owners

What does it take to make a success of your small business… how can you avoid adding to those frightening statistics about failure rates of small business?

In this series of articles and associated webinars and workshops by Roland Hanekroot you will learn the basic concepts and get the knowledge need to become a successful ‘Business-Owner’, as opposed to a struggling ‘Business-Doer’.


The format of each episode in the “First Steps” series is to explain the basics of the topic and then in line with the principles of New Perspectives business development programs, to suggest some “First Steps” you can take straight away to put the knowledge into action.

The Purpose Question

In the fourth of these articles we’ll look at Purpose and ask: What is the Purpose of your Business?

conscious-capitalismContrary to what most people think, the Purpose of your business is not to make lots of money.

As John Mackey, author of the book “Conscious Capitalism” (More info here) and founder of “Wholefoods Markets” says: “Thinking that the purpose of business is to make money, is like thinking that human beings are on this earth to eat. Eating allows us to fulfil our purpose in life and it is the same for business. Profit allows Business to make good on its Greater Purpose”

Shame really, because life was so much easier when us business owners could just focus on “maximising shareholder value”, but in the 21st century we have to rethink the Purpose of business.

Allow me to illustrate what I mean with one of my Business Bedtime Stories.

A Business Bedtime Story

(The ‘Business Bedtime Stories’ are real world case histories that illustrate the different aspects of business that the various New Perspectives Business Coaching programs deal with. See it in pictures here)

Once upon a time… a long long time ago in a country not unlike Australia… John owned a cornershop in the inner city of Sydney…

Running a cornershop in the inner city is hard, there are corner shops everywhere and then there are the 7-Elevens and city express stores and even Woolworths and Coles get in on the act from time to time.
The hours are insane, profitability is minimal and the Competition is just crazy.

John often caught himself thinking: “How can I escape this trap of deadly competition with my neighbours, so we can all have a better life?”

Working with me as his business coach, John came to realise that the only way to escape the competition trap was to make the competition irrelevant.
supermarketThe way to make the competition irrelevant is by making yourself truly unique, by creating something that is completely different from everything else out there.

And so he did, John decided to become “The Best Small Supermarket in Sydney”.

The day he made this decision, everything changed. Sydney has great corner-stores, handy convenience stores, big Coles and Woolworths, sexy delis and grocers, but there is only one “Best Small Supermarket in Sydney”.

2 Years later, John opened a second store, a year after that his third and a year later again his fourth. John’s customers love him and love his stores, profits are many times what they were 3 years ago and John is creating something really special in the Inner City of Sydney.

And John and all his satisfied customers lived happily ever after…

The End

Lessons from John:

So let’s have a look at what we can learn from John:
First: Competing on price is not a strategy for sustainable success of your business.
Second: In order to avoid having to compete on price, you need to be clear about the Purpose of your business.
Third: The Purpose of your business has to relate to your customer’s needs.

The Problem with Profit

start-with-whyFocusing on profit as the Purpose of your business, has one major flaw: Your customers have no interest in supporting you to make money. They are quite happy for you to make a profit, but only after you have met their needs first.

There is a beautiful video on Youtube by Simon Sinek (watch the video) another bestselling business author and management guru. In the video Simon states that “People don’t buy What you do, they buy Why you do it”.

In other words, your customers want you to explain to them why your business exists, what it is on this earth for and why they should care.

In working with my clients to find the deeper Purpose of their business, I always ask them those questions first and invariably I get the following three answers:
1.    We do great work
2.    At a great price
3.    And we give great customer service

Undoubtedly true, but first of all your customers expect those three qualities as a bare minimum, a starting point and secondly, your competition makes exactly the same three claims. Have you ever met a business owner who proudly claims to produce and average product at an average price with average customer service?

This is why you must find the deeper Purpose of your business.

Here are some example of deeper business Purposes:
1.   An Architect’s business: Architecture that Inspires
2.   A furniture factory: The Most Beautiful Tables in the World
3.  An Electrical contracting business: You’re in Safe Hands

table If you were in the market for a table, wouldn’t you like to check out the furniture factory at number 2? Of course you would… I know I did.

You might be interested to know that all three of these businesses have been wildly successful and bucked their respective industry trends for years now.

How do you find it?

The process of finding and developing the deeper Purpose of your own business starts with asking yourself the following 7 questions:

1)    What are my 5 most important personal values, as they relate to business?
2)    What core beliefs do I hold about my business and industry?
3)    What do I get really excited about in business; what do I get out of bed for; what am I passionate about?
4)    What do I want my business to be the best in the world at?
5)    Who are my ideal customers?
6)    What do my ideal customers need or want that they are not getting at present?
7)     How can I address all 6 questions above and develop a long term sustainable, profitable business model around that?

I encourage you to involve others in brainstorming these questions with you. Working your way through them will put your business on an entirely different footing, I guarantee it.

This is the topic we will be talking about at the November Masterminds ‘live’ workshop as well as the Masterminds online webinar, both on 14 November. If you would like to attend either the webinar or the workshop, register here

Your First Steps:

As mentioned at the start of this article, here are some resources and actions you can take right away, that will get you started on implementing the principles I discussed.

Go to the resources page to find the following resources that will help you clarify your Purpose and Passion in your business:
1)    The Simon Sinek Video about the “Why” of your business
2)    An article from business guru Jim Collins about the importance of “Vision”
3)    A worksheet and tool I have created to help you step through the 7 questions above.