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

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:

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.

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 –

New Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeships starting Autumn 2015

This modern apprenticeship has been designed for employers by employers.  A group of 20 employers from all sectors and sizes of organisations put their heads together to ensure this meets their needs for better managers and leaders across their organisation.

This is a fantastic opportunity and route to develop existing managers who may have significant experience but little formal developments.  It also develops the next generation of talent, providing a new career path option for aspiring managers, who want to earn while learning – and develop their management and leadership skills within the workplace.  An overview the assessment criteria and entry requirements can be found in the link below.

Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship

All apprentices will achieve a degree in business and management and full chartered membership of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), as part of this apprenticeship.  The programme is available from this autumn and the Government will fund up to two thirds of the cost of the fees to meet the employer contribution. The apprentices will not pay any student fees and will earn as they learn.

Contact Debbie for more information on


Recruitment – hints and tips for a successful campaign

A business’ workforce is it’s greatest asset and this puts pressure on managers to make sure they have the right people in the right jobs.  So what happens when a manager identifies a gap in their workforce? It’s time to recruit!

Once managers have identified a need to recruit there are many questions to be answered; what are the tasks of the role? Is the job likely to be temporary/permanent? Could it be done part time/full time? If there is no one available internally to complete the tasks, then there is a need to recruit externally.

Having an accurate and up to date job description and person specification for the vacancy is an important first this will help managers write an effective job advert.

The job description should include the job title and position within the business and who it it accountable to, location, key tasks and responsibilities, qualifications required, an indication of the type of person the role would suit and any information on salary/benefits. It should give potential applications a good idea of what they would be doing, should they be appointed the role.

A person specification details the ideal skills and characteristics of the person for the role, divided into a list of ‘essentials’ and ‘desirables’.  Managers could include relevant qualifications, previous training or certificates.  The person specification may also include personal qualities such as being able to work in a team, or being self-motivated.  It is important to keep the person specification relevant to the job and remember that the Equality Act prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief.  It is not advisable to ask for a certain number of years experience as you could miss out on excellent candidates if they fall short of the length of experience asked for.  In addition, by specifying a certain number of years experience managers are also at risk of indirectly discriminating people.

Once managers have the job description and person specification, it’s time to write the job advert! Although the aim of the advert is to attract applicants, it is important not to embellish or exaggerate to attract applicants as this runs the risk of hiring applicants who are unsuitable, or become unhappy in the role – this can lead to increased staff turnover and ultimately cost the business. The job advert should include the job title and outline the key tasks and responsibilities of the role, the company name and brief overview of what the company does, the location, any role specific qualifications required, any key personal qualities required, salary and benefits, how to and to whom to apply and specify a closing date for applications.

Once the advert is written, managers need to consider where to advertise the position ensuring that the advert will be seen by the most suitable potential applicants. For example, it is unlikely to be effective to post an advert for an engineering role in a marketing magazine. You could consider advertising via the Job Centre, recruitment agencies, local and or national newspapers, subject specific magazines, social media or even schools or colleges.

Consideration also needs to be given to how applicants should apply for the job and this should be made clear in the job advert.  Are they to email a CV? Complete an application form? Write a letter of application?  There are pros and cons to each method, depending on the type of role which is being recruited. An application form allows you to obtain specific information from applicants, but it is important to remember to only ask for information specific to the job for which they are applying. For a more creative role, a letter of application may give applicants a better way to demonstrate their skills and experience.

By following this process, managers will have optimised the chances of their job advert reaching the most suitable applicants for the role.  The manager’s work is not yet done however, as following the successful recruitment campaign – it will be time for selection and to make sure the best candidate is chosen for the role! Keep an eye out for a future post with hints and tips on the selection process.

Tips to help you compile your questionnaire or survey, keeping it simple.

Sophisticated questionnaires and surveys usually require some professional expertise, but here are some tips to help you compile your questionnaire or survey and keep it simple.

What to include in your survey

Start off with an explanatory paragraph outlining the purpose of this questionnaire or survey and how their input will help your business. Use this space to indicate how long it will take to complete and the due date.

Include an exit or screening question – This question can identify if the responder has no interest or knowledge, if there is potential conflict or bias, or if this questionnaire or survey is not relevant to them.

Ask easier questions first – If there are some questions that are more difficult than others, then mix them up. The easier questions are generally quicker to answer leaving more time for the difficult ones.

Be careful how you ask the questions – be clear and give multiple options but avoid the following:

leading questions that encourage a particular response;
ambiguous questions that can be interpreted in different ways;
multiple questions with a question, i.e. would you prefer and tell me why. Your responders may not realise they need to give multiple answers, therefore you may not receive a consistent answer;
complex questions that include technical terms confusing the responder.
Consider the type of questions you are going to ask:

Open ended questions give the person interviewed a chance to explain how they feel about the product or service you are proposing;
Closed questions invite a yes or no response;
Multiple-choice questions must be carefully designed so that the options given reflect the information that is needed, i.e. ‘would you use this service weekly, monthly, other timeframe, or not at all?’
Rating questions, i.e. ‘how would you rate the quality of this product on a scale of one to five, where 1 is very poor, 2 is poor, 3 is average, 4 is very good and 5 is excellent?’
Don’t make the questionnaire or survey too long – try not to annoy the responder by taking up more of their valuable time than they have been led to believe. Try not to ask questions that are not relevant to the purpose of the questionnaire or survey.

Be careful who you ask – friends and family are great, but they are more likely to give answers that are meant to please rather that an answer that will add value to your products and services. If your questionnaire or survey is about business, then ask only the group of people that matter most to your business – your clients.

What additional information would you like? Take this opportunity to obtain additional, or correct contact details from your customers and clients, or ask for demographics to help determine the characteristics of your target market, i.e. age, gender, income, job type, location etc.

Think about how you will analyse the responses – what will you use and how will you interpret the information? – Entering the responses into a spread sheet will make it easier to understand the frequency, averages, percentages and to show the data in graphs and tables. You could also consider using Pivot tables and Google docs.

For more information and advice about compiling your questionnaire or survey, contact Peptalk on 0792 700 8440, or

Planning a questionnaire or survey as part of your market research strategy?

Conducting a survey or questionnaire is one of the most popular methods of undertaking market research.  Sophisticated questionnaires and surveys usually require some professional expertise, but here are some tips to help you compile your questionnaire or survey and keep it simple.

Before you start, be clear about what you are looking for.  Answer the following questions:

  • What does the business need to know?
  • Why does the business need to know this information?
  • What will the business do with this information once they have it?
  • What impact will there be on the business if this particular market research is not conducted?
  • Who will make up your sample?  Whose views will you be seeking?  From the x number you send out, what would be an expected response rate??
  • How will you administer your questionnaire or survey?  This includes circulation (post, email, personal interview, web etc), receiving (post, email, personal interview, web etc), inputting and analysing the information.
  • How will you incentivise in order to boost the response?  What’s in it for them?  Remember this can be used as a ‘soft’ sales tool for your business, therefore an opportunity to let customers experience how great your product or service is.

For more information and advice about compiling your questionnaire or survey, contact Peptalk on 0792 700 8440, or

A New Year and a great time for reviewing the performance of your business!

A New Year brings to us all a fresh start.  I hope over the festive season that business owners had an opportunity to take a few days out to rest up and reflect on the previous calendar years business achievements.

For some Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s),  31st December may have been the end of financial year, so 1st January starts afresh with an updated business plan, some new goals, targets and a fresh action list.

For others, 1st January may be the start of the last quarter for the financial year, so time to review performance over the past three quarters and to understand what needs to change in order to meet the goals set.

How can we be sure we are on track?  Perhaps business owners had great intentions on tracking the performance of their business over the last year but never got the basics underway to do so.   Follow these simple steps to implement some metrics to tracking the performance of your business.

  • Ensure your business data is accurate;
  • Are your goals and targets falling in line with the business plan;
  • Keep the metrics simple, understand what you want implement and the information you expect to receive;
  • Dedicate a resource to track the data and produce a simple, but meaningful report;
  • Decide what you would like to do with the information you receive from the metrics.  Put it on the wall; tell the sales team; tell the stakeholders.  Good, bad or indifferent – something needs to happen.

Remember that tracking the performance of your business aids good business decisions.

If you are a business owner and need help understanding how best to track the performance of your business, then Peptalk can help.

Are you scheduling time to work on your business?

How many of us are scheduling time in our diaries each week to work on our business?

And if we are, what tasks are we committed to achieving and are we aware of the desired outcome for that scheduled time? The tasks, do they include social media, marketing, following up from networking meetings, general admin, reviewing business performance, book work and even reviewing the ‘plan’?

If your desire is to grow your business, scheduling these things in your diary are all important. If you feel overwhelmed by how you can achieve some of these tasks and continue to work in your business, then consider outsourcing some of these tasks. There are some excellent social media, marketing, book keepers, accountants, HR experts about and if they are not what you are looking for then consider delegating some of your tasks to a virtual assistant.

Better still, if you don’t enjoy doing any of these tasks then why are you doing them? You would be much happier if you were able to get on with what you are good at in your business!