The Guide to Business Goals: S.M.A.R.T Goals Template

Trying to figure out a way to make those big startup business goals reachable? The S.M.A.R.T. business goal template will get you there!

August 18th, 2017   |    By: Emma McGowan    |    Tags: Strategy

Trying to figure out a way to make those big startup business goals reachable? Not a fan of visual mapping or assigning each of your goals to a hierarchy?

Well, you’re in luck. Setting S.M.A.R.T goals is a tried and true method that has worked for a lot of people.

The idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals traces back to 1981 — so the meaning has changed a little big over the years.  Originally, the acronym stood for

The Guide to Business Goals: S.M.A.R.T Goals Template





Time bound

Over the years, different meanings have been added to those letters, but we’re going to stick with the old school, for now.


Let’s start with “Specific.” When you’re figuring out if your goal is specific enough, ask yourself the five “W” questions: Who, why, what, where and which. For example, on Mindtools they suggest asking:

  • Who is involved?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where is it located?
  • Which resources or limits are involved?


For “Measureable,” you have to ask yourself what unit of measurement you’ll be using and when you’ll know when it’s been achieved. So, for example, your unit might be customers, with the goal wanting to  “10x the number of customers.” You’ll know you’ve reached the goal when — you got it —  your number of customers is 10 times what it was when you started. Ask yourself:

  • What is my unit of measurement?
  • How will I know when I’ve reached it?


“Achievable” is pretty self-explanatory, right? Basically, in the real world, will you be able to actually achieve this goal? So as an example of a goal that’s probably not achievable for most of us: “Get Elon Musk to refocus his attention from going to Mars and instead fund my startup.” (Not gonna happen.) However, “Get a top VC to lead my round” is probably more realistic and achievable. Ask yourself:

  • Is this goal really achievable?
  • What will it take for me to achieve this goal?
  • What factors are standing in my way?


For the “R,” we’re going to ask if this goal is “Relevant” to a few things. You want to think both big picture and micro on this one. Ask yourself:

  • Is this goal relevant to my field?
  • Is this goal relevant to my other goals?
  • Is this the right time to go after this goal?
  • Is this goal worth the effort it’s going to take to get there?

Time Bound

Finally, you need to ask if the goal is “Time Bound.” This means it’s not something that you could conceivably work on for the rest of your life, without making any progress. For example, “memorize all if the number Pi” is not a time bound goal. However, “finally learn calculus” definitely is.

If you’re trying to figure out if a goal is time bound, ask yourself:

  • When will it be completed?
  • What can I have done in one year?
  • In six months?
  • In one month?
  • Tomorrow?
  • Today?

The S.M.A.R.T. business goal template is just one way to reach your goals. It’s a useful way to break things down into manageable chunks. However, if you don’t think it’s quite the right fit for you (or you just want to try a couple different methods — nothing wrong with A/B testing, after all), check out: Visual Mapping.

About the Author

Emma McGowan

Emma McGowan is a full time blogger and digital nomad has been writing about startups, living with startup people, and basically breathing startups for the past five years. Emma is a regular contributor to Bustle,, KillerStartups, and MiKandi. Her byline can also be found on Mashable, The Daily Dot's The Kernel, Mic, The Bold Italic, as well as a number of startup blogs.

Follow her on Twitter @MissEmmaMcG.

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