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OKRs For Startups [+ Examples and Templates]

Develop OKRs for your startup today and watch your most ambitious goals transform into actionable results.

By Brier Cook  •   August 19, 2022  •   7 min read

Who doesn’t love setting goals? There’s something so exciting about drafting your ideal future and working hard to achieve that level of success. Goal setting can help you guide your focus, trigger new behaviours, and even sustain momentum in your personal and professional life. 

Unfortunately, many of us set lofty goals and hope that things will simply work out. Unless you’re a firm believer in the power of manifestation, you’ll have to develop a concrete plan and put in the work! This is especially true for startup companies that are trying to establish themselves and scale their business model. 

Let’s take a look at objectives and key results (OKRs), why they’re important, and how startups can use them to establish and achieve company goals. 

What are OKRs?

OKRs stands for objectives and key results. Developed by the late CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, the OKR methodology involves defining clear goals that specify what you plan to achieve and then further breaking each objective down into an actionable plan. Objectives are the goals! They should be ambitious yet realistic. Key results are the steps you take to track your team’s progress. By using this framework, your team can implement a system to more easily crush both short- and long-term goals. 

Track objectives as part of your meeting workflow

Stay on top of your team’s goals by clearly recording, defining, and tracking the progress of your OKRs in Fellow’s Objectives tool!

Why are OKRs for startups important?

1Help you prioritize what’s important 

While you can and should dream big, you don’t want to get lost in the details! If you and your team often find yourselves discussing ideals in meetings, but have no interest in taking the steps needed to achieve the desired outcome, it’s time to develop a new list of priorities. Setting OKRs will force leaders to determine what the company actually needs. For example, if your team is obsessed with launching a new product but hasn’t created a sustainable financial budget yet, OKRs will help you drive focus to what matters first. 

2Set clear expectations for your team

All great leaders know how to set expectations in clear language! For any small company to be successful, everyone needs to remain on the same page, and startups can use OKRs to achieve greater team alignment. When you establish key results for team objectives as a group, assign specific action items so individuals will know exactly what is expected of them. As individuals see their hard work transform into tangible results, they’ll feel motivated to collaborate even more. 

3Create an organized workflow 

OKRs will help you and your team establish processes that organize your business. When you identify the ultimate outcome and create a series of steps involved in reaching the desired result, milestones will be more easily achieved. Once you determine your goals, list all one-off tasks and identify the priority order of each project. Then, delegate tasks to individuals and automate the rest. Set a duration or establish a timeline for each step. Soon your startup will be running more efficiently and you’ll be achieving milestones at an unprecedented rate! 

6 steps for setting effective OKRs for startups

1Collect the data you want to measure 

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Use data to create OKRs that are specific to your business needs. If your company doesn’t have a lot of data, you can start with the basics. Have your IT team send analytics, check your reporting dashboards on various marketing tools, or conduct surveys and focus groups. Once you have some numbers, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of progress is possible and you’ll be able to make your objectives specific. 

2Define your OKRs

Start by determining a goal towards which you and your team can actively work—but avoid vague language and abstract concepts! Then, define your key results using the data you’ve collected. For example, if your goal is to reach a new annual revenue record, your OKR could be to increase the company’s monthly revenue from $40k to $60k. Attaching a number to your key result will help you see progress. 

3Ensure your goals are realistic 

Unrealistic goals will do nothing but drain your team of motivation and productivity. Strive to create OKRs that are challenging, yet realistic for everyone involved. Don’t be ashamed if you realize midway through the process that your goal is unrealistic. There are no rules in goal setting, just best practices. Adjust as necessary to position your team for success!

4Determine your OKR structure 

Take a look at the internal structure of your company and determine what impact you hope to make. Ask yourself: “should our startup’s OKRs be company-wide or team specific?”, “how can our OKRs reflect the organization’s long-term strategic goals?”, and “which of our existing processes need improvement?”. Use the answers to these questions to determine what matters the most. Remember that bigger startups may require different OKRs than smaller organizations. 

5Educate your team on OKRs 

Managers are teachers as much as they are coaches. Make sure your team has a solid understanding of OKRs, the purpose of OKRs, and how OKRs can help them work towards company goals. If you’re looking for additional resources, encourage your employees to read our guide on setting effective OKRs and listen to our interview with Amanda Goetz, founder of House of Wise, on ruthless prioritization in episode 48 of our Supermanagers podcast

6Track the progress of your OKRs

Use Fellow to track objectives as part of your meeting workflow. You can even use our Objectives tool to record the progress of OKRs and quickly review those objectives during your team meeting! Outline the steps or components needed to achieve each goal and stay on track by checking in regularly during team meetings and one-on-one meetings with employees. 

5 OKR examples for startups

1) OKR to achieve seed funding

If the company aims to raise money, turn your venture capitalist’s desired metrics into OKRs. For example, if your objective is to remain on track to secure a seed round, some key results could be:

  • Reaching $400k of annual recurring revenue
  • Showing a 15 percent month-over-month leads growth

2) OKR to achieve a great product launch in Q4

Think about what makes a successful product launch and focus on a few key results that will raise your team’s confidence for the next one. If your objective is to be on track for a record-breaking launch this quarter, your key results could be:

  • Securing coverage from five news publications
  • Growing the newsletter contact base to 5,000 recipients
  • Achieving 20 or more demo requests from prospective clients and customers

3) OKR to improve and enhance digital marketing initiatives

Is your team’s goal to establish a strong brand presence using digital marketing to compete with current industry thought leaders? If this is your objective, your key results could be:

  • Increasing the number of positive brand mentions on the web from 1,000 to 2,000
  • Improving conversions on website landing pages by 10 percent this quarter
  • Achieving a mobile performance score above 70 by early next year

4) OKR to improve customer support experience

If you believe your team’s main objective should be improving customer support and satisfaction, examples of key results might include:

  • Conducting 50 phone interviews with top customers
  • Making public 15 full answers to most commonly asked product questions on your website
  • Increasing the open rate of in-product communications from 5 to 20 percent this quarter

5) OKR to foster a culture of continuous learning within the company

Small teams and startups can all benefit from a healthy workplace that prioritizes employee satisfaction. If the objective is to support your employees’ personal and professional development, key results could include:

  • Starting a workplace book club for employees to read one business book per month
  • Having one subordinate sit in on a senior leadership meeting once per month
  • Setting up recurring peer-to-peer meetings with your team and members of another team within the company once per quarter

How to use OKRs in Fellow

Free OKR meeting agenda templates

Parting advice

Life at a startup can be hectic. One moment you’re writing copy for the web and the next you’re hopping on a demo call with a prospective client. It isn’t always glamorous, but it’s always worth it!

Goals establish direction and can determine success; that’s why it’s so important to set goals that are realistic, specific, and measurable. Use OKRs to transform lofty goals into actionable results at your startup. When you communicate priorities with your team, delegate challenging yet manageable deliverables, and check in with your colleagues often, you’re setting everyone up for success. Still don’t know where to start? Choose one objective and a single key result. Work each day until you’re close to your desired result. Now, plant another seed and feel confident that your dedication will result in growth.

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