Profit Power: Goal setting is critical, yet difficult to get right

December 17, 2019 -  By
Goal setting is important. Photo: SDI Productions/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Jeffrey Scott encourages entrepreneurs to set up what he calls “cascading goals.” Photo: SDI Productions/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Most lawn and landscape entrepreneurs enjoy setting personal goals. But many have a harder time setting their company’s strategic goals and helping their team set their professional goals.

There’s a gap. Why does this happen? Because goal setting is easy when you are naturally driven, and the only person being pushed to perform is you. But that’s not an easily transferable strategy.

You need your team on board, but it’s difficult for them to read your mind. Don’t make your people guess where the company is going, and what you want from them, and why you want it, and when you want it.

That’s why I teach landscape entrepreneurs to set up cascading goals, that connect company goals with position goals and ultimately with professional goals. Do this right and get the results that you need: steady growth and greater accountability.

There are seven steps to adopt to get this winning approach working for you.

  1. Start with why and get to how … quickly

As a self-driven owner, you know why performance matters. And you know your priorities. You don’t need to explain any of that to anyone else when you’re only working on yourself. However, when you set goals for your team, they need to understand the bigger “why.” Communicate the larger purpose and the reasons you are heading in a certain direction. Explain why you’re seeking better results in a particular performance area. Once you do that, you can move on to talking about how you’re going to get there together.

  1. Align personal goals with position goals

If your goals for staff are out of alignment with expectations, your organization won’t grow on a steady upward curve. Don’t make the mistake of setting each person’s goals based on their individual abilities right out of the gate. Define your company’s growth strategy first. And then define the goals you need each position to meet. Those should include expected performance boosts across a range of areas.

  1. Let people own their goal-setting

As you ask your team to set higher goals, share your perspective from where you have successfully met your own personal goals, and from where you have missed your goals. Let others set their own goals, and then give them feedback if you think they are too low, or even too high. It’s not enough to just set quarterly numbers for the coming year. Show how the short-term goals tie into the longer-term company goals. When you do this, you give people a deeper sense of purpose, which is empowering and energizing.

  1. Tap into positive peer pressure

Think of staffing as a high-performance engine that powers your company forward: How you hire and what position you put employees in will determine the success of your landscaping business. Give your team the coworkers that will raise the bar and raise the competitive spirit of their divisions. As I talk about often: When you are building a Destination Company, what you are doing is creating a high-performance, purpose-based culture that drives excellence, consistency and growth. 

  1. Incentivize skillfully

Goals get their best results by motivating people first. When you are setting revenue, staffing and profit goals, you increase the chances of success by creating appropriate incentives for your staff. People follow the money, and so every incentive you put in place becomes the overarching goal. Each incentive needs to drive the operational outcomes you desire, without having a negative impact on other people’s goals, or on the company culture itself.  Allow people to compete against themselves (hitting a desired target) and compete against others (to see who got the highest scores in a certain area.) Keep it fun, while keeping it company focused.

  1. Make customer metrics everybody’s business

When you create goals for your team, you must avoid feeding into silo-based thinking. Customer service is the worst place to see silo-based thinking rear its ugly head. If your customer-response metrics are only relevant to your customer-service focused divisions (e.g., sales and service), then they may work at odds with your other divisions. That is a mistake. Make customer service everybody’s business: ensure every division has a relevant, realistic customer metric that they need to be embracing and meeting.  

  1. Know where to say “No”

When you develop professional and business goals, it is just as critical to define for your team what you will say “no” to, as what you will say “yes” to. This is true for new client development, new initiatives, and new opportunities that arise.  Set your company strategy so clearly, that everyone knows what is a “yes” and what is a “no.”    

As you can see, goal setting gets a lot more complicated when you scope it out beyond your personal performance as a business owner. By setting cascading goals, and taking the time to make them meaningful for your team, you have the best chance of having your team achieve success and fulfillment. Hone your goal-setting skills and keep your company on track to perform at its peak for another successful year!  

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Jeffrey Scott

About the Author:

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in his personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners—members achieve a 27 percent profit increase in their first year. To learn more visit

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