Unrealistic Goals Can Hurt Startup Morale

This post is by David Cummings from David Cummings on Startups

In my early years of entrepreneurship, I was intensely focused on setting big, hairy, audacious goals and shooting for the moon. My approach involved dreaming big, working hard, and rallying the team around the exciting opportunities ahead. Over time, I’ve become more tempered, setting a big vision but adopting a more measured approach to the incremental steps needed to achieve it. It’s straightforward to declare, “We’re going to sign 1,000 customers in three years.” However, it’s a different proposition to articulate a vision of winning the market and becoming the de facto standard. For example, planning to sign 50 customers in the first year, 100 in the next, then 200, 500, and finally 1,000 allows you to maintain a big vision—like a computer in every home or organizing the world’s information—while adopting a more measured approach to achieving it. Over the last 24 months, the software industry has been in a recession. This period has necessitated numerous reforecasts in our businesses. A reforecast involves reassessing your plan partway through the year upon realizing the original goals are unattainable—not just challenging, but so far from achievable that a new plan for the remainder of the year is required, aiming for better alignment, efforts, and outcomes. During this software recession, the need to conduct several reforecasts each year has underscored to me that setting unrealistic goals can actually harm startup morale. Goals should be challenging yet achievable. With good faith, effort, and smart, diligent work, they should be within reach. However, if (Read more…)