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Establishing Long Term Goals for Startups

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By Garrett Spence   |    September 25, 2015   |    2:50 PM

The Art of Setting Long Term Business Goals

Many startups are stuck in the short term. It’s understandable — focusing on the future is difficult when you’re simply trying to get your business off the ground. While this mindset is necessary when a business is starting out, startups should also be thinking about their long term health.

Read more to learn about goal setting tips from successful entrepreneurs and then re-assess whether you’re hitting the mark with your own long term goal setting.

Divide your goals into quarters

Matt Williams, the founder and CEO of, focuses on goal setting for pre-growth startups in a very specific way: setting quarterly goals. He decides on a few quarterly initiatives for his team (no more than one to two big goals, and four to eight smaller “experiments”) each and every quarter. This makes it easy for a small team to focus on the big wins, but it also offers them the freedom to explore creative projects that could have a big impact down the line.

He likes reviewing progress with the team approximately every 90 days, but he also blocks out time in his calendar every day for thinking about and working on the quarterly goals that have been set. Try setting a calendar reminder each day, or plaster your computer in sticky note reminders.

Set goals that also satisfy employees

Here’s another long term goal-setting tip you may not have thought of: think about your employees. Your intentions should mesh well with your company’s original purpose, because that purpose is likely what drove your employees to work with you in the first place. It’s imperative that your employees understand and are on board with the direction of the company from the get-go, and that requires consistency.

If you do want to switch gears, consider gathering input from your valuable team members. They’ll appreciate having an active role in growth and you’ll gain some valuable insight from people who know the company from the inside out.

Make your startup goals fun… and visible

Matt Erlichman, founder and CEO of Porch, strongly believes that team and individual goals should always be visible. This promotes accountability and lets employees see how their goals fit in with the big picture. Using whiteboards or chalk boards is a great way to keep long term goals visible. After you’ve established your quarterly goals, post them around the office or keep them in an easily accessible shared document.

Further, make sure the reward for reaching long term goals is something fun that the entire company can rally around. Erlichman’s example is definitely an entertaining one: when their sales team hit a big goal the Chief Revenue Officer had to plunge into the cold lake near their office. What employee wouldn’t want to see one of the top dogs brave the cold?

Don’t be afraid to think big and reassess company goals when necessary

Because long term goal setting for startups is an evolving art that varies from one company to the next it’s important to reach high while also remaining fluid in your ambitions. Part of the fun and magic of startups is thinking creatively, and innovation always requires thinking big. Embrace that mindset when you’re setting goals, especially as the company grows.

However, if you’re working toward a specific goal and it becomes clear that it won’t benefit the business don’t be afraid to let it go. There are plenty of other things to focus on.

How do you approach long term goal setting in your small business or startup? What are some of your favorite methods for staying on track? Share your tales from the trenches in the comments!
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