Setting Your Sights
The importance of goals for a business and its employees
In the classic 1957 novel on the power of free markets, Ayn Rand expressed her philosophy of individualism and how it drives business when one goes about setting and attaining goals. In the nonfiction world, goal-setting is a key technique to guard against missed opportunities and cultivate business growth. But the act of setting goals can also seem abstract and overwhelming. Here, some top executives in Northwest Florida share how they set, and then go about achieving, their business goals.
Bentina C. Terry, Vice President External Affairs and Corporate Services
Gulf Power Company, Pensacola
Bentina Terry obviously knows something about setting goals. In her career, she quickly moved up though the ranks of Southern Company. At the age of 41, she has a law degree from University of Michigan Law School under her belt, is involved in Leadership Florida and serves on the board of the American Association of Blacks in Energy. For several years in a row, she has been ranked on Pensacola’s Independent News “IN Power List,” which recognizes the 50 most powerful and influential people in greater Pensacola. Terry was also one of the “Twelve Young Professionals Under 40” picked by the Pensacola Business Journal.
In her current position she has to balance a multitude of responsibilities, from regulatory affairs and labor relations to economic and nuclear development. Gulf Power serves 435,000 customers in eight counties in Northwest Florida.
850: With so many different aspects of the company under your command, what is your underlying premise for achievement?
Terry: Our top line goal is to provide the best internal service to the customer we can. We start with the initial premise that we are here to serve our customers. I have a very diverse subset, from overseeing lobbyists to the employees who maintain the building, so we have to use a feedback process to determine how achievable the goals are for those within my area. I work with the managers to make sure we provide support to make employees and the company successful.
850: How do you stay motivated and keep employees motivated to reach goals?
Terry: I’m fairly self-motivated. I enjoy it when I do a good job. I feel a sense of satisfaction of a job well done. For employees, we provide feedback. Sometimes, we can get all caught up in the daily work and don’t take a step back to recognize and motivate employees … and it is easy for them to get lost. We have to help them fully realize their value to the company.
850: How do you prioritize the goals?
Terry: In the beginning we set high-level goals. I get my entire management team, six high level managers and a budget person, in a room and talk about what we need to achieve as a group and how they relate to one another. This gets everyone thinking as a team so they recognize how certain goals can be reliant on another division or how they need to work in conjunction with another division. Sometimes, it feels a little bit like making sausage; it can be messy. We decide what goals are paramount for the next six months and then those that need to be met within the next year.
I also sit down with my employees individually and we set their goals and talk about how that relates to our larger goals. They have to know what is important to you and the company or, often, it can result in failure. The employee may not accomplish any goal because they are spreading themselves too thin.
Karen B. Moore, Founder, CEO
Moore Consulting Group, Tallahassee
Karen Moore knows a thing or two about personal and professional growth. When launching her public relations business almost 20 years ago, she took a big leap of faith. She opened a one-woman shop that now employs 25 people, has clients in 25 states and has offices in Tallahassee and Miami and an affiliate in Washington, D.C.
At 52 years of age, she has seen a lot of her goals realized, but that doesn’t stop her from constantly stretching to reach the next one. The firm was recognized as one of the 100 best businesses to work for by Florida Trend, an honor Moore says stemmed from good communications within the company.
850: Explain the technique you use to set and achieve goals.
Moore: We are very committed to setting goals for the company — and not just achieving those goals, but exceeding them. We have a host of goals, from financial to employee professional goals to marketing. What I find most helpful is we put them all on a strategic goal sheet and share them with everyone in the company. We analyze them weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually and benchmark against those goals. We examine how we are doing, if we are on target. In order to achieve our goals, all the employees ought to know what the goals are.
850: Experts say goals are only good if they are your own. How do you get employees to buy into the goals?
Moore: All employees know the goals. Everyone in the company has the opportunity to participate in setting the goals that apply to their area. The core leadership team — the CEO, the COO, CFO and senior VP — establishes the 30,000-foot goals. These are our three-year overarching goals. After that, the whole staff participates in the goal setting. They have buy-in at the beginning of the process, and we regularly communicate to every member in the company that if they have an idea, suggestion or comment, we want to hear about it.
850: Do you shift your goals to react to the business marketplace?
Moore: If we are not reaching them, we just keep trying. We don’t keep changing the finish line.
850: Why is it important to set goals?
Moore: If you haven’t got a goal set, you don’t know if you have met it or exceeded it. When we are looking at goals, we also benchmark ourselves against our competitors, both regionally and nationally.
Steve Riggs, CPA, Co-Founder
Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC, Miramar Beach
As a founding partner of one of the top 34 accounting firms in the country, Steve Riggs has 30 years experience in the field, including work as an Internal Revenue Service field agent handling complex corporate transactions. Riggs, 57, serves on the firm’s executive committee and heads its Miramar Beach office on the Emerald Coast. Since its small beginnings in 1986, Carr, Riggs & Ingram has grown to a 600-employee firm with offices in seven states.
850: What is unique about how you set goals?
Riggs: In CPA firms, we all have a framework. Accountants fill out daily time sheets and we have to account for our time down to the sixth of an hour. We must account for our time daily, weekly and monthly. With this
data, we can see how people work — how much billable versus administrative time they have in their work day. I am in a profession where everything is measured. At the end of the year, we know exactly how efficient an employee is. We meet with each accountant and set numeric goals at the beginning of the year. In this profession, we do set goals. If you meet them or exceed them you are rewarded, and if you don’t keep up with the pace we set then you are fired.
850: How do you prioritize the goals?
Riggs: It’s like a football team. It takes many different players to make it successful. Some people are good at certain aspects of a business. For example, someone may do really well with training people, so we have them cultivate new employees. Some of our star employees today took a while to get going. You just have to keep your eyes open and see how employees are doing. It takes a lot of talent, and that’s why in business we need people to do various things — and they all have to do them well.