Setting SMART goals for your operation

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

By Kari Burnett, PAg, Regional Farm Business Management Specialist

Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Swift Current


Business strategy planning is the first step down the road of successful farm management. Looking back at where you have been and learning from mistakes (and celebrating successes) is important, as is evaluating where the business is currently. But it is also important to look forward to where you want the business to be in the future.

Dr. David Kohl, a professor of agricultural business and small business management at Virginia Tech – talks about the importance of setting goals: “80 per cent of all people have no goals, 16 per cent have mental goals (those that are not written down), and the remaining four per cent have goals that are written down. The 16 per cent who have mental goals will encounter profits three times higher than those without goals. The elite four per cent with goals written down will make nine times more than those without goals.”

To be effective, goals should be SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).

Specific goals should answer the six “W” questions: Who (is involved)? What (do you want to accomplish)? Where (location)? When (a time frame)? Which (requirements and restraints)? Why (reasons/purpose/or benefits of accomplishing the objective)? This term emphasizes the need for a specific goal over and against a more general one. To make goals specific, they must state exactly what is expected, why is it important, who’s involved, where is it going to happen and which attributes are important.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as: How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? As the saying goes, if you can measure it, you can manage it.

The goal must be attainable. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals. You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps.

To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic, but you must truly believe you can accomplish the goal. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement! A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love.

Time bound goals are grounded with a time frame. A time-bound goal will usually answer the questions: When? What can I do 6 months from now? What can I do 6 weeks from now? What can I do today?

Once you’ve identified and set your goals you need an action plan to implement them. Ideas for actions to take may come from discussions with your family, from your neighbors, from planning tools, from farm publications, or from agency experts.

The final step after developing an action plan that is compatible with the goals set by you and your family is to evaluate and monitor progress toward these goals. Keep records and check your progress toward the goals you set. Goals themselves may need revision with time and changes in family life.

Having SMART goals won’t guarantee a farm profit but it does keep you on target when used in decision making and can greatly improve your chances of success.

Financial assistance may be available through the Farm Business Development Initiative to help you cover the costs of business strategy training activities or working with consultants to develop a strategic plan. For more information stop by the Swift Current Regional Office or contact Kari Burnett at (306) 778-8216 or by email at; call the Swift Current regional office at (306) 778-8285 or contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

Organizations: Agriculture Knowledge Centre, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture

Geographic location: Swift Current

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • harry
    August 21, 2013 - 18:01

    You may want to check out, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals, habits, and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It's clear, focused, easy to navigate, and most of all, really works!