Running for the sake of running feels like a solid idea, but if you have a specific route and destination in mind, you’ll perform a lot better. This way, you’ll know exactly where you have to go. And you’ll always feel that you are going towards something important.
Startup businesses work the same way. Setting startup goals will keep you moving forward, and on the way, you’ll experience great things.
As you start meeting your short-term goals in the first year of your startup business, not only you but your team will also feel a sense of achievement. This will fuel your passions, enabling you to strengthen your operations and refine your methods – plus you’ll also get an added boost to reach the next goal.
You’ll learn how to prioritize
When you set specific goals, it becomes a lot easier to make day-to-day decisions for your business. You will automatically learn where to focus and prioritize in order to achieve the goals you have set. And afterwards, it will become clearer which options will help you achieve long-term goals.
Long-term vision and direction will become obvious
The goals you set and achieve in the first year will ultimately help you with long-term vision and direction. You’ll know exactly where to go after you’ve successfully managed to hit first-year goals for your startup.
Business Goal #1: Minimum Viable Product
TIMELINE: AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
MVPs help entrepreneurs and corporate entrepreneurs outsmart the odds of failure by compartmentalizing big decisions – and big risks – into a series of smaller ones. Your minimum viable product is the earliest version of the product you build. Getting the first iteration “out there” should be the first thing on your list when you begin setting business goals for your early-stage startup. By fleshing out the leanest version possible of your product, you are able to get feedback in a more timely manner.
Your MVP should be rough around the edges – maybe even a little embarrassing – but functional enough that you can use it to figure out what you should work on next, based on user feedback.
Business Goal #2: Private Beta Launch
TIMELINE: AS SOON AS MVP IS READY
Once you have your MVP, you’ll need to get some feedback. One of the best ways to get that feedback is by offering a limited amount of users access to your products via private beta. This should be second on your list of business goals. The customers who see your product in private beta should be invite-only. They’re your core group – the people who need your product – because you’re going to rely on them to give you feedback as you work out the bugs.
Business Goal #3: Key Hire
TIMELINE: AFTER PRIVATE BETA
So, you’ve built an MVP, tested it out in private beta, and maybe you’ve started redesigning and/or iterating — but you’re not quite ready to go public yet. This is a great time to bring in a key hire, someone who can take your company to the next level. You’ve proven the need for product, if not quite found product/market fit, and you’re ready to make it awesome. Bring in the help — you’re going to need it.
Business Goal #4: Redesign / Iteration
TIMELINE: AFTER PRIVATE BETA FEEDBACK
The design-feedback-iterate-redesign-feedback-iterate cycle is one that should be ongoing throughout your startup’s life. However, when it comes to business goals, the first redesign and iteration need to happen immediately after you get feedback from your private beta users.
Examples of questions you should ask are:
- What’s the biggest issue they’re facing?
- What keeps coming up again and again?
- What are they asking for, either directly or via complaints?
Business Goal #5: Public Beta Launch
TIMELINE: WHEN YOUR PRODUCT IS USABLE AND YOU’VE PREPPED FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION
Think you’re ready to launch into public beta? Ask yourself if you’ve done private tests, prepped for a potential PR swarm, and made sure your technology can handle it if you get a bunch of new users. However, don’t ask yourself if your product is “perfect.” (Pro-tip: It’s not — and it never will be.)
Business Goal #6: Major Milestone
TIMELINE: WITHIN TWO YEARS OF PUBLIC BETA
After your public beta launch, you’re going to be in the redesign-feedback-iteration cycle for a while as you figure out how to best refine your product. Within two years of launching, one of your business goals should be to hit at least one major milestone. That milestone is something you and your team should set together and it should focus on traction – i.e. customers, clicks, downloads – or profitability.
Business Goal #7: First Investment Round
TIMELINE: WHEN YOU CAN PROVE YOU’RE WORTH IT
If you’re going to convince people to give you money, you better have a compelling argument — and it better be backed up by data. Your first investment round – or “seed round” – shouldn’t be attempted until you’ve checked off everything on the list above. It’s the last thing on your list of business goals for early-stage startups.
“Investors write checks when the idea they hear is compelling when they are persuaded that the team of founders can realize its vision and that the opportunity described is real and sufficiently large,” Geoff Ralston writes in A Guide to Seed Fundraising.
“Therefore, founders should raise money when they have figured out what the market opportunity is and who the customer is, and when they have delivered a product that matches their needs and is being adopted at an interestingly rapid rate.”
Ultimately, there are no strict rules for business goals or milestones for early-stage startups because, like snowflakes, every startup is different. But it always helps to have a little guidance along the way, so we hope that this loose outline of business goals helps.