What an exciting night! People cheering, fireworks exploding, music blaring. Baseball slugger Barry Bonds had hit the six hundredth home run of his career! I was there, and it was a thrilling experience. But what, you may ask, does Barry's remarkable feat have to do with your business?

Baseball is a game of statistics -- a game that appreciates and loves numbers. And that's what I was reminded of when I saw Barry hit number 600: how important goals are to all of us, how powerful it is to acknowledge when we've met certain targets, achieved certain levels of success. Numbers have power beyond their intrinsic meaning.

After all, Barry's 600th home run wasn't much different from home run number 599. In fact, his team (the San Francisco Giants) lost the game the night Barry hit his historic home run. And, in this year's close playoff race, every game is critically important.

But no fireworks went off for number 599. And while the 600th home run baseball will be worth nearly a million dollars, the 599th won? t be worth much. When you realize that only three other players in the history of baseball -- Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays -- have had 600 home runs, it helps you comprehend how significant Barry's home run is. It's a way to acknowledge how he measures up.

Milestones and goals are important to all of us, not just baseball players. We're motivated to work toward specific, numerical targets. They keep us going when we'd like to quit. They let us know when we? ve reached a certain level of achievement. They help each of us acknowledge how we measure up.

Yet small companies overwhelmingly ignore the powerful tool of setting -- and celebrating -- milestones. At most, some of us may set objectives as incentives for our sales team -- or perhaps set safety goals in our production plant -- but for most of our staff (as well as for ourselves), we rarely find ways to acknowledge our progress.

There are all kinds of achievements that you can set as milestones for your company. If you're new in business, one observance might be the first month -- or first year -- you make more money than you did as an employee. You can set goals for the number of new customers, higher profit margins, or the successful launch of a new product. The key is to set a specific target that is meaningful and important. Then get everyone in the company involved in reaching those goals.

Human beings have a need to be part of something bigger than ourselves -- to be part of a group, a community. When Barry hit his home run, we fans in the stands all were thrilled that we were there, that we were sharing in Barry's achievement. But, realistically, it's not my achievement. I didn't do anything to help Barry hit those home runs (except, perhaps, buy tickets to the game and cheer a lot). Yet, just being there -- being part of it all -- makes one feel that somehow you're part of something big, something memorable.

In your own business, set goals that get everyone pulling in the same direction. Don't just set individual or departmental targets. Company-wide goals help employees understand that their individual work makes a difference to others. That can be powerful.

Don't forget to celebrate! You don't need fireworks but always find ways to acknowledge success. Such celebrations can be simple, such as the Houston-based public relations company that gathers its staff together and rings a bell when it gets media coverage for a client. Or celebrations can be elaborate: When Kinko's names its "Branch of the Year," the president and top managers fly in and run the branch while the employees are whisked off to DisneyWorld.

You might even give everyone (or, if you work alone, then just yourself) a tangible memento of the achievement. It's nice to have physical reminders of your success. The San Francisco Giants gave all the fans in attendance a pin marking the occasion of Barry Bonds' 600th home run. I know I'll keep mine as a reminder of a very special night.

Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2002

Rhonda Abrams writes the nation's most widely-read small business column and is the author of The Successful Business Organizer; Wear Clean Underwear; and The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. To receive Rhonda's free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com.

logo