Most Startups are of the opinion that the only time they need to put their goals on paper is when they want to make a business proposal for investors or for a loan. Unfortunately that’s not particularly true. It is helpful for progress sake. Goals serve as the road map, showing the startup where it wants to go and the checkpoints that are along the way, which will help make a lot of decisions on your startup journey.
Admittedly, in the first startup some close friends and I started we did not put our goals on paper initially. We were fast approaching the opening of business and we frequently had a lot of meeting s together discussing the general direction of the business and what we wanted to achieve but none of it was put on paper. The result: a few months later we had a real predicament.
Putting Goals on Paper will benefit you in a number of ways. Here are four ways it helps:
- Measure progress. This is important. When you do not put your goals on paper you have nothing to come back to and refer to three months down the line. You have a hard time determining your milestones. In a team startup setup, each individual may have what they term as a milestone but if these are not shared, no progress is obtained (as shown in my article on Achieving Team Synergy). With the goals on paper you can track progress and share the milestones and celebrate them together. That will motivate the team, which is important in terms of surviving as a startup. And when offers come for investment you can show them how far you have come based on your plan, investors love seeing results compared to plans and forecasts.
- Make you accountable. Ok you didn’t get a loan from anyone and you have virtually been funding your startup off the only working member’s salary and he is not asking for it back so you don’t owe any one any explanations right? Wrong! When you believe that you are not accountable to anyone you start thinking it ok to slack, it’s your money after all right? If you are providing a service, by starting up it means you have customers who are waiting on your service. YOU OWE THEM. By having your goals on paper you can start the accountability mentality by being accountable to yourself. After all something on paper exists to remind you of your inability to keep your promise, while goals that are just mental footnotes can be easily forgotten.
- It forces you to clarify what you want. Fear of failure makes a lot of entrepreneurs hide in ambiguity, it is easier to be unclear because then you never really fail. That is the justification.. What do want to do? How do you want to do? Which path do you want to take? What tools will you use? If goals are not written down and available for reference it becomes difficult to answer any of these questions and you are stuck doing your own thing. It means you are continuously moving on instinct and gut feelings. Having your goals on paper will help you clearly define your business and Revenue models, increasing your efficiency. While in most cases acting on gut feelings is considered a good thing for startups, at some point you need to consider your stakeholders and whether they will have confidence in business decisions made on gut feelings.
- Provides a filter for other opportunities. Multitasking is not easy. It has never been and is a skill that is learned over time. As a startup, while you work on certain projects new opportunities are likely to arise, chances to conquer new markets, new challenges, new ideas on another great startup that can revolutionize your economy. A point to note is that new opportunities can become distractions so use your written goals to keep yourself in check. You don’t want to have a portfolio full of great ideas that did not make it to full launch. Having the attention span of three year old on a sugar high may make it hard to achieve startup success. While versatility is good, a track record of completed projects is better. It will have an impact on the quality of individuals you draw in to work with you. If they think you do not see a project to completion, they may be wary about giving up their time for your startup.
Several Studies have shown that very few people in an individual sense put their goals on paper (about 3%) and given that entrepreneurs are often labeled society’s rogues I would not be surprised if we are part of the 97% that doesn’t. The same studies did show however that chances of achieving goals are higher when they are on paper.
Always put deadlines in your goals. These deadlines should be realistic enough to keep you focused and on your toes and not suffocating. Suffocating deadlines are a big reason why people give up on trying to achieve set goals altogether. If you have been procrastinating on starting work on your goals, chances are high that you will set yourself suffocating deadlines assuming that this makes up for the time you lost floating in limbo. Fight the urge and set realistic goals, positive results are guaranteed.
image courtesy of teamgantt.com