As a small business owner, says Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Coach, it's vital to develop your strategy and business goals. By creating a clear strategy and plan, you can design your course of action and mark out a path to achieve specific outcomes, helping you gain an advantage over your competitors. Measurable goals and an indisputable sense of direction is vital to keep both you and your business on track. But how do you achieve this?

My three top tips on how to create business goals:

1) Decide your goals – and go after them:

Every business will have unique goals in line with their own strategy and vision. Whether they concern customer growth, market expansion, income, development of a new product or service or anything else, all goals should be relevant to your business. For a goal to be effective, it needs to be very focused, rather than a general aim. Well-set goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Assign each one to an owner, work out what is a priority, and decide how to gauge whether it has been achieved “Timely” is where many targets fall down; all goals should be time bound. Without a limit to the time a goal can take to achieve, the goal is left ‘hanging’ forever. This approach can help keep your team members focused and on track, which can give you the added advantage of increased productivity.

2) Be firm, but flexible: It’s important to have specific goals and deadlines in place, but it’s also important that they are a true representation of what the goals for your business are and should be. Even with the best-laid plans, life happens. Your goals should (and must) adjust to accommodate key changes. It could be alterations in market conditions, team member changes, budget growth - anything. Re-evaluate your strategic goals regularly to make sure they still fit your long-term business plans and make sure you always have the ability to be flexible when necessary.

3) Establish your deadlines – and stick to them: Setting fair deadlines for yourself and your team is key to this. Make deadlines reasonable, but indisputable. Only allowing changes under extreme circumstances means that productivity is maintained. Missing deadlines often means additional project costs and reduced productivity, so avoid at all costs.

Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of and co-founder of

To hear more from Carl follow him on Twitter @carlreader or join “The Startup Coach” group on Facebook.