A Complete Guide to Setting Goals for Your First Year As a Startup

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” ~ Napoleon Hill

Every nation thrives on the success of its enterprises, especially the ones that have the most prominent impact over the national economy i.e., small businesses. Startups, small ventures, and self-employed professionals or solopreneurs have always comprised a significant portion of the US economy. In 2017 itself, more than 406,000 new businesses were registered in the US, with roughly 80% operating successfully through their first year, 51% through their first five years, and over one-third successfully working after a decade.

What separates a successful business from a failing one?

 The ability to define, adjust, accomplish, and then redefine business goals is the answer.

When you set business goals, you’re essentially challenging yourself and your team to achieve specific targets. Having defined goals allow you to focus your efforts as well as resources towards set objectives; let it be in marketing, finances, sales, or personal and professional development goals.

Let’s take an example of two different businesses, Company A and Company B, and see how goal setting affects their business/success.

Case I: Company A is a growing cloud storage provider, but in order to break even, the company needs to double its sales. Its marketing division has set up an inbound marketing plan which includes the following goals:

  • Double website traffic to 20,000 visitors instead of the existing 10,000 visitors.
  • Convert at least 4 customers from its current email marketing list, and grow its list by another 500 email addresses every month.
  • Improve its customer retention rate by another 30% to ensure a consistent revenue stream.


Case II: Company B is a growing software license company that aspires to outrank its competitors in its present market. Its leadership has set up the following roadmap for growth:

  • Generate more traffic, leads, and sales.
  • Start emailing more prospects every month.
  • Improve the search engine rank of the company website.

Which of these companies are likely to succeed in their plan? Undoubtedly Company A, as it has set specific, measurable targets, unlike Company B. If you have a startup or small business, it is critical to set goals and track your progress.

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Setting Goals to Grow Your Business in the First Year Itself

As explained in the above example, it is critical to have specific, well-defined business goals. At the same time, your business goals should focus on different aspects of your business, such as sales, marketing, financial, or personal/professional development goals.

Sales & Marketing Goals

Define Your Sales & Marketing Goals

A study from Harvard University finds that having specific goals boosts your motivation and improves your chances of achieving them by one-third. It is critical to define specific sales goals for your business. A good strategy would be to set weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. You can either put a dollar amount or the total number of sales that you must make to run your business successfully, so having a goal to achieve sales worth $500,000 or $1 million is much better than ‘we need to make a lot of sales.’

Apply the same strategy to your marketing goals. Define specific marketing goals such as posting two blogs weekly on your company website, improving your landing page conversion rate by 20% in a month, gaining 2,000 organic likes on Facebook or LinkedIn, increasing the number of customer testimonials, or ranking on the first page of google for a ‘specific term.’

Reverse Engineer Your Sales & Marketing Goals

Once you have defined sales and marketing goals, the next step is to devise a plan to achieve them. Find out your current conversion rate across different channels (email, calls, chat, cold calling). If you have to send 1,000 emails, 100 calls or offer 50 online demos to make 5 sales, find out how many calls, emails, online demos you need to provide to achieve 15 sales per month.

In case of marketing, if posting a new blog post and sharing it on social media brings you 100 additional visitors per day or 50 new likes on social media, find out how much content do you need to publish to achieve your marketing objectives.

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Build a Process that Leverages Technology

Let it be sales or digital marketing; it is critical to leverage technology. Using the right tools can improve your team’s efficiency, and in turn, save financial resources in the long run. Research from Gartner indicates that companies that automate lead management can improve their revenue by 10% or more within 6-9 months. If you find it difficult to afford Salesforce subscriptions, find a cheaper alternative.

Similarly, when it comes to marketing, having your entire team collaborate on Asana or similar task management platform ensures that your marketing plans are executed timely. Additionally review your sales scripts (you do have one right?) and update for maximum results.

Financial Goals

Become Cash Flow Positive

Running out of the cash is the second biggest reason for startup failure. It is critical that your operations become cash-flow positive before you exhaust your financial reserves. Start with creating realistic financial projections for your business. It will help you identify your monthly capital requirements and signs of financial stress early. You can implement multiple strategies to ensure positive cash flow, such as invoice factoring, offering discounts for quick bill settlements, or reducing your billing cycle to support your companies long-term growth.

Get Your Balance Sheet Straight for Seed Funding (First Round)

One of the first prerequisites of capital funding is an impressive balance sheet, so it pays to be clinical with your finances. If you do not have sufficient financial knowledge, consider having a CFO or at least a part-time CFO in your team. It will allow you to create a balance sheet that gets attention. Additionally, you can leverage the professional network of your CFO or financial advisor for early-stage funding.

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Development Goals

Become a Better Team Leader

As a startup founder, it is critical to hone leadership skills. You cannot master every aspect of your business, which makes it crucial to have talented professionals in your team. You should transition into a leadership role, ensuring that your lack of time doesn’t hamper the growth of your startup. In order to run a successful startup, you should be able to support as well as train your team members to take ownership of their work. Consider life’s phases, such as divorce and death, and protect your company with these proactive steps.

Develop a Professional Network

A good network is worth its weight in gold, especially when it comes to receiving funding or forming partnerships for your business. As an entrepreneur, you should always aim to grow your professional network. One of the best strategies to enhance your network is to offer real value to people within your circle or working in relevant industries.

The Bottom Line

Running a business is quite similar to running a marathon; you’ll need a strategy to come out winning. While it is critical to set goals, it’s even more important to track them and evaluate your progress in a timely manner. The mantra to success in the entrepreneurial world is to keep marching forward and facing your challenges strategically.



Marsha Kelly knows how to launch and profit as a serial entrepreneur. In face, she sold her first business for more than a million dollars. Read her hard-won expert tips at the Best4Businesses blog Marsha also regularly posts business tips, ideas, and suggestions as well as product reviews for business readers. As a serial entrepreneur who has done “time” in corporate America, Marsha has learned what products and services really work well in business today. You can learn from her experiences from shopping the internet for tools, supplies, and information to build your businesses and improve lives financially.

Mercy - CBNation Team

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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