Every entrepreneur has a goal of what they hope to achieve, but the more important question is: "What do they really want to accomplish?"

That's what a stretch goal is; a concept I discussed at length in my book The Growth Dilemma. In other words, it's a goal that's closer to the outer limits of your expectations rather than something that reasonably you can be expected to be achieved.

My own experience has shown that entrepreneurs often are too conservative with their goals and, by going a bit outside their comfort level, can achieve much greater results.

Setting Goals in Motion

I recently met a 50-year-old woman who is the single proprietor owner of a successful pet sitting business. She's been in business for about a decade and reached a longstanding goal of $100,000 in net income. She has a handful of independent contractors working with her who now handle most of the individual pet-sitting visits.

I asked her what her stretch goal is, and she said she'd like to double her net income.

I then asked what's preventing her from reaching that goal.

She noted a few things, including being the single parent of a teenage son (who's now in college and has a car, eliminating some time constraints), the need for better time management, difficulty finding good help, and the need for an office manager.

My ears perks up at the last item. Turns out the woman literally works seven days a week, not necessarily doing pet sitting visits, but managing her independent contractors, keeping track of scheduling and dealing with clients.

Aside from being exhausting, all those tasks are preventing her from spending much time promoting her business -- the thing she wants to do and the clearest way to more revenue.

I asked her why she hadn't hired an office manager and heard a familiar refrain: She didn't have the money to do so.

I suggested she consider a $30,000 Small Business Administration-backed loan, which would offer a good interest rate and reasonable repayment terms, and allow her to hire an office manager.

I could see the business owner was a bit worried about going in debt, even if she agreed in principle with the idea. At this point, she hasn't looked into obtaining a loan.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

If the pet sitting business owner doesn't end up getting that loan, there no shame in that. Her business is legitimately profitable, enjoys a good reputation and is growing organically, albeit slowly. She's also free from debt.

The flip side is that the business' ceiling is rather limited - and the woman's going to be working many more hours than she might otherwise.

"Fortune favors the bold" is the translation of a Latin proverb, and it rings true here. That means taking calculated risks that, when they pay off, pay off big.

I'm not calling for anyone to be reckless -- a stretch goal isn't some pie-in-the-sky dream - but if there's a reasonable chance for unexpected success, you should go for it.

Our case study seems to be a perfect example of someone who should pursue a stretch goal. She's well established in an affluent community. Pet sitting is a growing business that isn't cyclical -- and people do love their pets. With her son grown, her parenting distractions have diminished.

All that's needed is a stretch.

Published on: Oct 17, 2018
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