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On the Blog

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Set Goals that Drive Business Success – OKRs & Strategic Goal Setting for Entrepreneurs [Updated 2023]

February 16, 20239 min read

Without goals, there is no way to measure the progress you make toward a long-term vision or objective.

Setting goals also provides direction and motivation for your day-to-day activities so that every day you know that, if you just check a few things off your to-do list, you ARE moving forward towards your goals.

Setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based) and using OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) allows you to achieve more, faster, with less stress along the way.

Goal Setting for Entrepreneurs: Definition

Goals specify what your business aims to achieve within a certain timeframe. They are guided by your big picture vision, the ultimate goal, but are more specific and time-bound.

Goal setting is the process of deciding what goals you want to accomplish, devising plans to achieve them, and tracking progress. For entrepreneurs, goal setting is essential to staying afloat and thriving.

5 reasons why goal setting is key for entrepreneurial success

1. Clarifying direction

First, the act of goal setting forces you to think about what you really want to achieve in your business as well as your personal life.

What are the financial goals you are aiming to achieve? What is your growth strategy? How do you want to organize your business operations? Which markets do you want to be serving? What are the personal goals I want to achieve?

These kinds of big questions help make sure that you have clarity on the direction of your business – a question that becomes exponentially more important when you have any team members who will rely on your clarity to create their own clarity.

2. Focused daily action

Without a good goal setting process in place, taking coherent action becomes very difficult and knowing what to prioritize becomes confusing. It becomes all too easy to fall into ruts of stressful busywork where you feel like you’re making progress only to not make sizable progress.

Whereas, when you have a goal setting process that works, you can be laser-focused on your daily actions, knowing that every action you take is moving you in the right direction.

3. Measuring progress

Measuring progress towards your goals gives you immediate feedback on whether you’re on the right track and can be extremely motivating. The feedback allows you to course-correct faster so that you waste less time getting to where you want to go. Having defined measurable goals allows you to know exactly how close you are to making those big hairy audacious goals reality.

4. Staying motivated

When working towards success in your business, it is easy to get discouraged if you’re feeling like you have not “arrived” yet at your ultimate goal.

Tracking and achieving goals allows you see the progress you’re making, giving you a sense of achievement. This is important for maintaining motivation to stay on track even when challenges arise.

5. Fostering team alignment

As your business grows, you will likely need to be growing your team as well. The larger your team becomes, the harder it will become for you as the business owner to be managing every detail of what your team members should be doing.

Having common company goals helps everyone navigate this management shift in your growing business. Having clearly defined and articulated your business goals, helps keep your team aligned on the big picture and moving in the same direction.

It also dramatically minimizes the risk of wasting resources on employees or contractors who don’t create the momentum in your business that you hoped they would.

How to set SMART goals

SMART is an acronym that you can use to help set effective goals. This goal setting strategy has been used successfully for decades in a wide range of business sectors.

According to the SMART method, your goals should be:

S – Specific

You should target a specific goal so that there’s no vagueness around what you are trying to achieve. To make your goal specific, think about e.g. what you’re trying to accomplish, why it is important, who is involved, and which resources or limits are involved.

M – Measurable

Your goal should be measurable so that you can quantify or track the progress you’re making. Helpful questions to make your goal measurable include, e.g., How much? How many? How will I know the goal has been achieved?

A – Achievable

Achievable means that you need to set realistic and attainable goals. A good goal is challenging, yet realistically possible to achieve. Ask yourself: How realistic is this goal? Is it possible for me to achieve this goal considering the constraints of my business, life situation, financials, etc.?

R – Relevant

A good goal is relevant, meaning that it matters to your business and is aligned with your overall vision or direction. To make sure your goal is relevant, ask yourself: Is this worthwhile? Is this the right time to pursue this? Is this aligned with our other goals?

T – Time-bound

Finally, a goal should always have a target date – a deadline to work towards. This helps prevent urgent everyday tasks from taking priority over your big goals. Ask yourself: When will I have achieved this goal?

A proven method for goal setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKR)

Now you know how to set SMART goals. But it is not enough to set goals properly. To accomplish goals, you also need a method to manage the whole goal setting process.

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a proven goal setting method that is used by leading companies worldwide. Given its effectiveness, OKR has become extremely popular in the past decade, especially in the startup world. OKRs can, however, be used by teams of all sizes – from solopreneurs and small businesses to startups and large corporations.

What are OKRs?

OKR is short for Objectives and Key Results, that consists of two parts:

  • Objectives are quarterly goals you’re trying to achieve. Each Objective consists of several Key Results.

  • Key Results (KRs) should be measurable and tell you if you have achieved an Objective.

Other key elements of the OKR method are Projects and Check-Ins:

  • Projects to achieve the Objectives

  • Check-Ins to track progress

Step-by-step OKR process for entrepreneurs

1. Define Objectives for the next quarter

Start by defining the overarching Objectives for the next quarter – that is January-March, April-June, July-September, or October-December.

Reflect on the key areas of your business, such as marketing, offering, sales, or client work – and ask yourself: What things should I improve to make the biggest impact on my business?

Define 2-4 Objectives to focus on during the next quarter. It is important to not define too many Objectives at once to maintain focus.

Examples of Objectives for entrepreneurs:

  • Objective 1: Launch a new group program successfully.

  • Objective 2: Improve the lead nurturing process.

  • Objective 3: Balance personal life and work.

2. Define Key Results for each Objective

Then, for each of the Objectives, define 2-4 Key Results (KRs) that are measurable and clearly tell you when the Objective has been achieved.

To be measurable, each of the Key Results should preferably have quantifiable measures in them (such as “Get 10 founding members into group program”).

In practice, having a number in the Key Result might not always be feasible. In such a case, make sure that the Key Result is “binary” so that it is always clear if it has or has not been achieved (such as “Virtual Assistant contract signed”).

Examples of Key Results for entrepreneurs:

  • Objective 1: Launch a new group program successfully.

    • KR 1: Get 10 founding members into the program.

    • KR 2: Client satisfaction NPS 70

    • KR 3: Make +3 000 EUR with the first launch.

  • Objective 2: Improve the lead nurturing process.

    • KR 1: Increase conversion from free training to paid customers from 5% to 15%.

    • KR 2: Increase average follow-up email open rate for nurturing email sequence from 10% to 20%.

    • KR 3: Interview 10 customers on their improvement ideas for the nurturing process.

  • Objective 3: Balance personal life and work.

    • KR 1: Work an average of no more than 40 hours per week.

    • KR 2: Eat dinner with family 6 days a week.

    • KR 3: Organize 2 date nights with husband.

3. Plan projects to achieve the OKRs

Having defined your goals using the OKR method is just the beginning. To really turn your OKRs into reality, they need to become part of your daily schedule.

This happens through projects aimed at achieving your OKRs. These projects consist of a sequence of tasks that will step by step create the changes required to achieve your Key Results and the overall Objectives.

To plan your projects, think about each of your OKRs and ask yourself: What actions do I need to take to achieve this OKR? What should I do this month/this week/today to make that happen?

4. Do weekly check-ins to review progress

Schedule a weekly check-in to track progress with your OKRs. This helps you stay on track and motivated, and adjust your plans if needed.

5. Analyze & celebrate

At the end of the quarter, analyze how well you were able to achieve your OKRs. Think about what went well, and what could have been done differently, and make use of those learnings in the next OKR round.

And most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate your wins! Remember that if you had defined ambitious and challenging goals for business, achieving even 70% of them can be considered a success.

Top 3 OKR goal setting software for entrepreneurs in 2022

With the growing popularity of OKRs, there are many goal setting software in the market to help facilitate the process. Unfortunately, most of these tools have been created for larger startups and corporations, with several teams on multiple levels. Here I have selected 3 tools that can be used for driving effective goal setting by small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Profit.co

Profit.co is a dedicated OKR tool. Although it is primarily catering to larger organizations, it also has a free plan for small businesses with up to 5 users. The free plan allows for defining and managing OKRs and facilitating weekly check-ins. Most of the more powerful features (such as custom views/fields and dashboards), however, are only available on paid plans starting at 7 USD per month per user.

Weekdone

Weekdone is also a dedicated OKR tool. Although most of its features are designed with larger multi-level organizations in mind, it also has a free plan for a small business of 1-3 people. Paid plans start at 90 USD per month.

Notion

Notion is a work management and collaboration tool that allows building an all-in-one business system to manage anything – from goal setting, action plans, and tasks, to the team, leads, customers, social media, digital marketing, etc. It is a perfect tool for setting up an OKR management tool for business owners. Notion has a generous free personal plan, and team plans start at 8 USD per month per user.

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Taina Pereenniemi

Taina Pereenniemi specializes in helping coaches and consultants build simple and scalable businesses with custom strategy & done-for-you systems using my proven 4S Method. She has helped over 50 entrepreneurs with their business systems and/or strategy, and previously built a world-leading consulting business around Notion. Equipped with a Masters Degree in business strategy and 10+ years of strategy and 6+ years digital business experience - Taina's not your typical self-taught "follow-me" business coach. When she's not strategizing and streamlining workflows, you can find Taina playing with her two small kids or practicing yoga.

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