If you don’t define where you want to go, how will you know when you get there? That’s why you must set specific goals for your startup. 

Setting goals is part of the planning process, as a successful plan requires a goal to attain. Clearly established goals provide direction, clarity, and motivation for you, your employees, and your organization. You must learn how to describe your goals, how to achieve them, and how to measure your results against your goals. 

Let’s dive into learning how you can set strategic goals for your startup.

Quick takeaways: 

  • A goal is a statement of a desired outcome
  • Describe your goal so that it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound
  • Evaluate and adjust your goal to make sure it meets the SMART criteria

What Is a Goal?

It is important to understand what is a goal and what is not a goal. 

A goal is a statement of a desired outcome that supports your company’s vision. It is a big, measurable idea, and describes what you want to achieve. For example, you might set a goal of selling your energy-efficient lighting systems for operating rooms to the 50 largest hospitals in your state.

A strategy is the approach you take to achieve a goal. For example, your strategy might be to persuade hospital procurement managers to choose your lighting system for their operating rooms because it is the most energy efficient and cost-effective option. 

An objective is a measurable step taken to fulfill a strategy. For example, your objective might be to increase your market share of hospitals that use your energy-efficient lighting systems by five percent this year.

A tactic is an activity that helps support objectives and execute strategies. For example, your tactic might be to acquire a list of hospital procurement managers as part of an email marketing campaign.

How to Set a Goal

Choosing the right goals for your startup can be a challenge. You probably want to achieve a lot of goals: launch new products, increase sales by 20 percent, grow your market share, etc. However, you cannot invest all your resources into achieving every goal. But how do you decide on setting and pursuing specific goals?

One strategy is to set a SMART goal. A SMART goal is a detailed statement of your intent that includes clear criteria for defining your goal. To evaluate whether your goal is a SMART goal, you must be able to meet the following criteria.


Answer the question: Is the goal fully defined, and is it distinctly described and unique? Treat your goal like a mission statement. Determine who will be involved, what you want to achieve, your reason for the goal, and what resources or obstacles are involved.

For example, start with the goal described above: You want to have the 20 largest hospitals in your state using your energy-efficient lighting systems in their operating rooms. Break it down to a specific, unique goal: I want to add 10 new hospital clients for my energy-efficient lighting system by the end of this quarter.


Answer the question: Can you quantitatively measure your progress toward achieving this goal? Use metrics to measure your progress. 

Using the example above, you set a desired number of new clients, so it is a measurable goal. In addition to counting the number of clients landed, you can use metrics to measure your efforts in acquiring leads, number of calls made or emails sent, number of meetings scheduled, costs involved in pursuing the goal, etc.


Answer the question: Can you realistically accomplish this goal? Determine the importance of the goal to your organization and what you will need to reach the goal. It is important to be realistic about what is doable and identify where you might be lacking in abilities or resources. Do not set lofty or unrealistic goals, as failing to achieve these types of goals can set you back and affect motivation.

Using the example above, identify how many clients you have now and how long it took you to add 10 new clients. If it took around 90 days to add 10 new clients in the past, then this is an achievable goal. If it took more than six to nine months, determine what you need to do to achieve your goal (e.g., add more sales staff, increase your marketing outreach, invest in a CRM, attend an industry conference).


Answer the question: If you reach this goal, will your business get closer to achieving your vision? Determine how important this goal is to achieving your startup’s overall mission.

Using the example above, this is a relevant goal because growing your business in this market is part of your growth plan. 


Answer the question: Can you set a specific end date for the goal? Provide a target date for the goal and any deliverables along the way to achieving that goal. Set time constraints and benchmarks to track your progress. Avoid longer time frames, as internal and external factors can affect a goal over longer periods of time.

Using the example above, you set a three-month time period to achieve this goal, so it is time-bound. You can also set two-week benchmarks to see how you are progressing toward the goal.

Take the Next Step to Setting Your Strategic Goals

SMART goals are essential to making strategic plans for your startup. They help with making informed decisions, aligning stakeholders with key activities, and supporting your vision. Be selective in what (and how many) goals you choose to pursue so you can focus your efforts toward achieving those goals.

Need help developing strategic goals for your startup or identifying SMART goals? Sellerant can guide the way.