Running for the sake of running is great, but I find that I always perform better when I have a specific route and destination in mind. That way, I know exactly where I'm going, even if that destination is back to my house. I always feel like I'm going toward something.

Similar to that, setting goals in your business will keep you moving forward toward the following:

  • Long term vision and direction. Goals define where you ultimately want to go and give you your direction.
  • Motivation. As you achieve your short term goals, you and your team will strengthen your operations, refine your processes and receive that extra boost to move onto the next goal. They give you something to visualize. If your goal is to retire to a beachfront house, you can visualize that house.
  • The ability to decide and prioritize. When you have specific, well-defined goals it will be easier to make day-to-day decisions in your business. For every decision you have to make, ask yourself: "Which option will help me achieve my long-term goal?" Usually the decision will be much clearer after that.

When you're setting your startup business goals, follow these four guidelines. 

1. Be specific.

"Some" is not a number and "soon" is not a time.

"We want to bring in as much revenue as possible as soon as possible" is too vague to be a goal. But, "We want to hit $1 million in sales by our fifth anniversary" is a concrete goal that gives you a solid timeline to follow.

Even the goal of being the most visited or best type of business in a defined geographical area within a certain time frame works because "most visited" and "best" still connote a number: one.

For example, being the No. 1 most visited coffee house in Mariposa County, California, within three years works as a specific goal.

2. Divide your goal into pieces.

Specific goals can be intimidating. When you're starting out, "$1 million in sales in five years" can seem monolithic and make you think it's impossible to tackle. That's where your short-term goals come into play.

By starting with specific numbers, you can easily do the math to break those big goals down into smaller, more palatable chunks.

If you want to reach that $1 million-by-five-year-mark, you can easily figure out how much you'll need to make per year, per quarter, per month, etc. These smaller numbers will give you something simpler to achieve and you'll be able to see results quicker.

For that Mariposa coffeehouse, you'll need to do a bit more difficult math and rely on some extrapolations. But, you should be able to do some research and figure out an approximation of how many times people visit the bigger chain coffee houses in Mariposa county, which will give you a number to strive for. (Because this is your own personal business goal, the accuracy of the numbers isn't really the important part. They're just to give you something to strive for.)

Once you have your number for average visits of the big coffeehouses, you can figure out how many people you'll need to draw in per year/month/day and how you'll go about doing that. (Opening another location, moving to a better location, expanding your offering, etc.)

3. Make your goals both feasible and measurable.

Crazy ambitious goals are good for keeping your dream going, but it's the realistic goals that will help you achieve that dream. And goals that are easy to reach are helpful when you're starting out, but they stymie growth in the long run.

A good goal should be at least 25 percent -- but no more than 60 percent -- achievable with absolute certainty. Only making them partially achievable with a degree of certainty will keep them challenging enough to push you forward while making you slightly uncomfortable.

You also need a way to measure your goals. Number of sales, number of repeat sales, number of distribution channels, revenue, transactions per team member, customer satisfaction ratio, etc. are all quantifiable and will give you an indication month to month if you are headed in the right direction.

4. Always follow your goals.

You cannot take a break from your goals or put them on pause. If you have a problem following your goals religiously, get yourself a "goal buddy" to hold you accountable. Meet regularly to check in with each other to ensure you're both staying on track and trying to attain your respective goals.

Choose someone who is as ambitious as you. That person could be trying to achieve their own goals or they could have already had success in attaining lofty goals.

Strategic business goals will act as a guide for you as you start your business. Set both short-term and long-term goals and make them achievable, but not easy. Having goals to strive toward will help your business grow and prosper.