Know your goals

5 Apr 2010

Dr Tom Cooney, director of the Institute of Minority Entrepreneurship, Dublin Institute of Technology, says you must know where you want to be within a given time period when you start out in business.

“Never use more than three years as your timeframe, anything more than that is just guessing. Some people are uncomfortable with three, so I advise them to start with one year. There is an increasing body of evidence which highlights that people who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them than people who don’t, or just have them in their head,” he says.

Decide on your destination

Cooney uses the analogy of a car journey when talking about the strategy of setting up a business. “If you are going somewhere in a car that you’ve never been before, the first thing you decide on is not the route, it’s the destination. Then you work out your route. Along the way you’ll have challenges, an accident or traffic jam, for example, that might cause delays.

“You then need to consider your options. Should you sit in the car and maintain the journey, knowing you’re on the right road but it will take you longer? Maybe you should take out the map and look at alternative routes that will still get you there but you’re not so sure of? And the third option is to turn around and go home again.”

In business it’s the same thing, he says. “You’ll face challenges; obstacles to achieving goals. You can either maintain your plan, know it’s going to get you where you want to be, but in a longer time. You can take it out and revise it. Or you can decide you don’t want to face up to it and quit.”

“The point about all of this, if you don’t have a route map worked out, you’re a Sunday driver. You’ll have a nice day out, but you’ll finish back at home again.”

Be patient

People can often be impatient when starting a business and want to reach certain milestones, but Cooney goes back to the car journey to illustrate why this isn’t wise.

“You have to understand when you travel somewhere by car that you have to pass certain landmarks. You can’t achieve your goals overnight, so stop wishful thinking, and hit the milestones when the timing is right. If you’re impatient you’ll make rash decisions like breaking the speed limit. Running a business is the same as driving a car, it must be balanced with patience and good judgment.”

Photo: Dr Tom Cooney, director of the Institute of Minority Entrepreneurship, Dublin Institute of Technology

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