Setting SMART Objectives

The ability to set stretching, realistic and achievable targets is an essential behaviour for high performing managers. In the past, I have found that goals and objectives can be so large that they can be hard to tackle and almost impossible for employees to achieve. Having business goals and knowing ‘where’ you want to get to is important, but it is equally important to know ‘how’ you are going to get there and keep track of your progress. The SMART acronym for objective setting became popular in mid 1950’s and I still like to use this today as it provides a simple formula to remember and a tick list which is easy to understand.

What are SMART objectives?

S – Specific: Objectives should be focused on the goal and include an action. For example ‘Produce, achieve, develop, implement”

M – Measurable: It is important for objectives to be measurable to allow you to identify whether or not they have been achieved.  The outcome of the objective should be able to be expressed as a number, percentage or frequency. A measurable objective will allow you to say whether the objective or target has been achieved and how many times.

A – Agreed: Objectives should be agreed at the outset. Agreed objectives will act as a motivator as employees will be more committed and ready to invest in an objective which they have agreed to.

R – Realistic: For objectives to be realistic, it is important to consider the skills and resources that are available. Whilst stretching objectives can motivate, if an objective is unlikely or impossible to achieve this will reduce motivation and commitment.

T- Timely: It is important to set a specific time by which the objective should be achieved. This also emphasises the need for measurable and realistic targets. Deadlines can act as a motivator (providing they are realistic) as they help to focus effort to the task at hand.

When SMART objectives become SMARTER

SMART objectives will provide a good framework to work towards hitting goals and they will allow you to identify whether you are on the right track.  However, more recently the SMART acronym has been extended and become SMARTER by adding on two more important characteristics:

E – Energising: Objectives and the process of setting them, should be energising. SMARTER objectives will help to create an engaged and motivate workforce, who understands the business goal and how, individually, they can play their part in achieving it.

R – Reviewed: It is important that objectives are reviewed at the agreed time.  If objectives have a long timeframe, it may be beneficial to review the objectives at specific milestones along the way.  By reviewing the objectives you can identify what has been learned and what could be done better next time.  If objectives have been met or exceeded, it is important to recognise and reward this so that the individual feels valued and appreciated.

One of the most important things to remember when setting objectives, is to keep them simple, easy to understand and achievable. To illustrate the benefits of SMART objectives, consider this ‘not so SMART’ objective:

‘To expand the offering of the business to include two new services and one new product line.’

This objective is too big, not at all specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or timely. It is necessary to break the objective down against each of the SMART characteristics to create a more easily understood and effective objective. After doing so, you may come up with an objective like this:

‘Develop two new services that will benefit 30% of existing client database and be attractive to encourage five prospective clients to engage with business by the end of the current financial year.’

This objective is now far more attractive and real. You could continue to develop the objective further and break it into even more manageable chunks, by focusing on each new service line specifically.

The above example clearly shows the merits of SMART and SMARTER objectives.  If you have set SMARTER objectives, they will be more easily understood by everyone involved and will give your team a good understanding of how they fit into the wider business plan and contribute towards the business goals.

SMART objectives will help to create a motivated, committed and focused workforce which will increase productivity and deliver results.

If you would like to know more about how to integrate SMART objective setting into your workforce, please email

Why apprenticeships are good for your business

An apprenticeship is a way for young people and adult learners to earn while they learn; in a real job gaining real qualifications.

Businesses benefit from growing their own talent and creating a highly motivated and skilled workforce.

The benefits of apprenticeships are:

  • They are a tried and tested way to recruit new staff, perhaps retrain, or upskill existing staff or people returning to work after a break;
  • The apprentice learns while they earn!
  • On the job training means minimum disruption to day to day business activity whilst getting the maximum impact;
  • Apprenticeships can be tailored to specific job roles making them flexible to the meet needs of your business;
  • Engaging young people and encouraging them to take up apprenticeships and continual professional development will assist your business with its plan for succession – hopefully your business will not suffer with an aging workforce;
  • Train up the future managers in your business;
  • Become an employer that inspires a future generation by passing on skills and experience;
  • Help improve your product or service with apprentice input;
  • Apprenticeships boost productivity to business by on average £214 per week.

An apprenticeship can take between one and five years to complete, depending on the role.  There are three levels of apprenticeship available:

  • Intermediate level apprenticeship (level 2) – equivalent to 5 A*- C GCSE’s;
  • Advanced level apprenticeship (level 3) – equivalent to 2 A-levels;
  • Higher level apprenticeship (level 4 and above).

There has never been a better time to hire an apprentice.  There is a wealth of support and assistance available to business to make sure they hire the right apprentice for them.

Where to start:

  • Choose a training provider to deliver the apprenticeship programme that is right for your business;
  • Recruit the apprentice (the training provider can help you here);
  • Develop a training plan which reflects the apprentice’s need and yours;
  • Engage with the apprentice and ensure their needs and yours are met;

More information on how to hire an apprentice is available at:

During the apprenticeship:

  • Provide on-site training to support the apprentice. Most of the training will be on-the-job, working with a mentor to learn specific skills. Off-the-job training is provided by the training provider either in the workplace, or through day/block release away from the workplace.
  • Review and test the progress of an apprentice and provide feedback to them and their training provider

Apprenticeships are highly regarded within business. On completion of an apprenticeship, 90% of apprentices remain in employment with just over 70% staying with the same employer.   If you are considering  growth in your business and thinking about how to integrate young people into your workforce, then please contact me for some help and guidance or 0792 700 8440.

Thought provoking workshop in Melksham aims to reduce stress plus improve leadership and management skills

Two Wiltshire experts, Debbie Pepler of Peptalk and Matt Hill of Matt Hill Systema, have designed a workshop which will be delivered on Wednesday 16th March 2016 from 9.30am-4.30pm at the Melksham Town Hall.

Business owners and senior managers attending this workshop will:
• Learn how your body reacts in a stressful situation and what stress triggers to look out for in others;
• Have opportunities to discuss real situations and problems in the business; and
• Come away realising what is important to them and the business.

Not only do Matt and Debbie talk the talk, they have both walked the walk during their careers. They are experts on these topics and bring to you not just theory, but real scenarios and opportunities.

Located in Westbury, Debbie is a business coach  with more than 25 years hands on business experience – she has felt the pain business owners and senior managers feel with leadership and management challenges.

A full time instructor of Systema, based in Melksham, Matt offers an ancient martial art which has evolved into a complete health system. His clients report improvements after just one session of learning how to perform better under stress. He blends practical experience of some of the most stressful corporate and military environments with teaching experience at all ages and levels from children to FTSE board level executives.

Debbie says, “I see a lot of stressed business owners and managers, and am frequently asked about how best to manage stress in the workplace. Having an expert like Matt on board is fantastic as he brings together martial arts with his previous parachute regiment experience and corporate background and we integrate these with the principles of leadership and management.”

Prices to attend this workshop are £99.00 per person.

If you would like to book a place or require further information, please book here, or contact:

Feedback from Leadership and Management Seminar – November 2015

In November 2015, I ran a leadership and management course for 10 local business owners. The business owners are all members of the Business Growth Group, each with different experience. This allowed for lots of great discussion and sharing of thoughts and ideas. Here are some of the comments from the attendees about what they enjoyed and how they benefited from the session.

“Thought provoking 3 hours.”

“Relative to my business.”

“Open talk from students.”

“The thought provoking process about your business.”

“The specificity and use of examples from the room.”

“A lot of very useful and helpful reminders. Some very practical tips.”

“A very useful reminder of leadership skills.”

“The basic information was presented in an easy to understand way. Just reminded me on the basics.”

“I liked the open discussion where I could say something about my business.”

“First course of this type that I have done and I got more out of it than I thought I would.”

“Would recommend the course for any person starting out in a management position.”

Business Mentoring – Client Feedback

Feedback from a Freelance Writer and Editorial Consultant.

“Debbie’s business insight is invaluable. She got to the heart of the matter within minutes and has completely revolutionised the way I look at my business.”



Discussing Leadership and Management on BBC Radio Wiltshire

Following the news that the managers of the French Rugby Team, Swindon Town Football Club and Leeds United Football Club had lost their positions, Debbie was invited to comment on the Simeon Courtie show on BBC Radio Wiltshire Tuesday 20th October 2015.

Listen here to Debbie talking about important aspects of leadership and management.

Recruitment – Getting Ready to Sift and Interview

This post continues from my Recruitment blog – giving hints and tips to run a successful recruitment campaign. So what happens once applications close and you have lots of applicants to choose from? Firstly, you will need to conduct an initial sift of applications against your job description and person specification. If you have asked for ‘Essential’ qualifications, certificates, or personal qualities you can sift out any applications that don’t meet these requirements.

Once you have compiled a short list, you will want to find out more about the applicants skills, experience and competencies to understand who will be best suited to the role. Inviting applicants to interview is a good opportunity to do this.

Here are some top tips for before, during and after the interview to make sure the interviewers and interviewees get the most out them.

Before the interview:

• Review the candidate’s application and make a note of any areas which you wish to explore further and plan your questions accordingly. Roughly between seven and ten questions will be sufficient. These questions could include, finding out more about the applicants previous roles, duties, accomplishments etc.

• Find a suitable venue for interview, somewhere where there will be no interruptions/distractions and a comfortable environment for the interviewers and interviewees.

• Provide water, (to help alleviate nervous, dry mouths!) and perhaps a pen and paper should the interviewee wish to make any notes following questions at the end of the interview.

It is important to make your interviewee comfortable and feel at ease so that they can perform their best during the interview. Allow plenty of time for the interview, and enough time in-between interviews to make, and tidy up notes that are taken.

During the interview:

• Make your candidate feel at ease by introducing the interviewer(s) and giving a brief overview of the company.

• Begin with questions about the candidate’s present/previous role. This will allow them to settle in to the interview and gain confidence through speaking about what is familiar to them.

• Ask open ended questions (What? Where? When? How? Why?). This gives applicants the opportunity to provide as much evidence as possible to demonstrate that they would be able to complete the duties of the role as outlined in the job description, or meet the personal qualities on the job specification.

• Keep questions relevant to the job role and avoid unnecessary personal questions, to ensure compliance with the Equality Act.

• Take notes discreetly during the interview. Consider having a designated note taker in the interview if appropriate. It is important to remember that interviewees can request to see any notes taken under the Data Protection Act, therefore keep them relevant and don’t write down anything you wouldn’t want them to see.

After the interview:

• Go through your notes making sure that they support your decisions. Interview notes should be kept for a minimum of three months after the interview – the timeframe for complaints to be raised in an Employment Tribunal. If you haven’t kept the notes, then the Tribunal may draw a negative conclusion in a discrimination complaint.

• Write to the successful applicant as soon as possible offering them the job.

If you haven’t found a suitable person for the role, then don’t appoint. In the long term it will be far more efficient to start the recruitment process again, than hire someone not right for the job.

Feedback from Leadership, Management and Managing Stress Seminar – October 2015

For the second time, Debbie Pepler teamed up with Matt Hill from Systema in October 2015 to offer a full day seminar designed to improve leadership and management skills.  When attendees were asked what they liked most about the workshop we received this feedback:

“ The friendly approach”

“I’ve taken a lot from this day and will use more in my work than I thought I would. Very good.”

“Very relaxed discussions, not too much being talked at.”

“Being able to discuss and breakdown each element.”

“Really glad I took the time to attend the seminar.”

Where to turn if the bank said no and your business is a start up.

Where to turn if the bank said no and your business is a start up.

We all have dreams and aspirations. Sometime these can become goals we want to achieve in life.

It is frustrating when you’re ready to develop your business idea; you need some help from the bank and they say no. They said NO!! Oh what to do?

Meet Fredericks Foundation!  Here in Wiltshire; one of Fredericks 18 areas around the UK, they provide finace via a CDFI (Community Development Finance Institution); and are suppported by a Client Services Manager that will help you with the process.

Dreams are allowed at

Wiltshire Charity provides finance and support to local business

Fredericks Foundation will consider you for a loan if you can demonstrate that you have made a genuine application for funds to your bank or a mainstream lender – and that you have been turned down.

Fredericks loans come as a package – along with the money there is also the opportunity to have an independent free business mentor to help the business be successful. Peptalk is proud to be one of the many volunteers helping Fredericks clients dreams become reality.

Contact me today if you would like more information –

Feedback from Leadership, Management and Managing Stress Seminar – July 2015

Combining their expertise, Debbie teamed up with Matt Hill from Systema to deliver a seminar to a group of a dozen business owners and senior managers with a key emphasis to enhance leadership and management skills and techniques.

When attendees were asked what they liked most about the workshop we received this feedback:

“The interaction with regards to the breathing exercises and how informative the powerpoint presentations were.”
“Very friendly mix of people with a wealth of knowledge which was very interesting to hear.”

“It was a very valuable seminar and I came away with a lot more knowledge.”

“Good mix of people, interesting exploring leadership & management – would like more time to explore!”

“I think the session could have been longer, it was good listening to other people’s experiences.”

“Personalities, positivity & passion”

“Fantastic delivery and the importance of the combination of the breath – stress in work.”

“The mix of input – gathering practical understanding of business – engaging in activity – learning!”

“Nice size/number of people”

“A wonderful combination – great to have physical mixed in with sitting and absorbing new info! Great!”

“Good mix of internal/external aspects, worked well together.”

“Systema breathing and how to relax”

“Breathing techniques, Diary management – time for reflection”

“Clear and precise presentation, group interactivity. Discussions with other managers from different companies.”

“Good refresher on lots of management information – tips for stress management much appreciated.”