Reverse Goal Setting For Business Owners


We explain how to use the simple, yet powerful technique of reverse goal setting if you are a business owner.

Reverse goal setting is a mindset used by many successful business leaders across the world. Any business owner can use this unconventional approach.

Reverse thinking to improve your goal setting can be used to significant effect if you areĀ starting or buying a business.

If you are thinking of starting or buying a business this article may also help you decide – Thinking of owning a business-would you be successful?

The forward goal setting approach

The classical approach to goal setting is to consider your current position and plan steps logically “forward” into the future.

You consider all the facets of your business and other internal and external factors that will have an influence.

Your goals inevitably will be based upon what you think you can achieve, based on a set of assumptions. The goals can include stretch targets or challenges to push your business along.

Your business plan is built upon a series of steps or building blocks using your origin as the foundation.

New or inexperienced business owners often think in this logical forward-thinking way. We are often encouraged to think in this way when writing business plans.

This approach works well to achieve a defined outcome using planned resources, similar to a project management style.

Reverse goal setting

Some successful business owners, however, don’t think in this traditional way but in a reverse mode. They start by imagining a position or condition that they would like to achieve in the future. Then, they work in reverse to come up with the steps to achieve their goal.

Core strengths and capabilities, along with opportunities that they see in the broader market, all go into the mix.

Often, they seek inspiration from other industries or best practice benchmarks that help them set an ambitious framework of goals.

Initially, they are less concerned with a defined outcome or even the resources they might need. They are more focused on what they might be able to achieve rather than how they will achieve it.

They are more focused on what they might be able to achieve rather than how they will achieve it.

What is the difference between forward and reverse goal setting?

In the forward-thinking style, the hidden trap is your current circumstances, and resources constrain your thinking.

You might underachieve on your potential because your current position is dominating your mindset.

This traditional method is also internally focused and incremental.

The reverse thinking method focuses on what you want to achieve rather than your origin and current resources.

Plans and visions are, therefore, not constrained by your current limitations. Much larger ambitions and achievement can result.

It also provides the opportunity to think more creatively and consider the direction that the business should take.

It is more externally and cross industry-focused as you set targets using best industry practices and new ways of thinking.

What about a reverse goal setting hybrid?

Great businesses need vision and ambition for effective goal setting, married with excellent execution.

Use reverse goal setting to help you form the vision and direction of your business.

When it comes to working out how to get there, then a traditional, forward goal setting approach will help you with implementation.

Who should use reverse goal setting?

  • If you are starting a business from scratch, then you need to set goals.
  • Similarly, if you buy a business or a franchise, then you need to set goals.
  • Of course, if your task is to improve or turnaround an established business, then you will also need to set goals.

So, it works for all businesses.

Goal setting is essential whether you are focusing on improving a business, or pivoting toward a new strategy or starting fresh.

Your team’s skills

Some people are capable of both forward and reverse thinking.

If you find you have a disposition for one or the other, then balance your business planning and ideation process by involving someone with the opposite or complementary skill set to you.

Very few SMBs have either useful improvement or strategy plans, so improving your goal setting represents a great opportunity.

If you are considering owning a business, perhaps you should start thinking in reverse too-you don’t know where it might get you.

Understanding Business Ownership

Learning how to use reverse goal setting in business planning is an essential part of the success equation.

Avoiding procrastination is also important in improving your goal setting.

If you are thinking of becoming a business owner, our free business readiness test has helpful information about what it takes to succeed.


Brendan Barrow Co-Host

The Should I Own A Business Podcast

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