OKRs for Startups

10 OKRs for Startups to Grow Your Business

Every startup begins with an idea—a dream the entrepreneur had about changing something about the world. However, dreams can be complex, challenging, and even fuzzy.

The one thing that differentiates a successful startup from the rest is well-defined goals and a plan to achieve them. In this blog post, we explore goal-setting through the framework of objectives and key results (OKRs). 

We also include ten examples that you can adapt and customize for your needs, whatever stage in the startup journey you are!

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Basics of OKRs for Startups

In the 1970s, Andrew Grove of Intel, is known to have popularized the concept of objectives and key results. At the time, it was called Intel Management By Objectives (iMBO). Since then, the framework has been used widely across small businesses and enterprises alike.

What is OKR? 

OKR is a popular goal-setting strategy that helps organizations define and track objectives and measurable key results.

  • An objective is a clearly defined goal
  • Key results are 3-5 success criteria used to measure the achievement of that goal

It is one of the best tools for startups to streamline and organize their journey towards scale and success.

How are OKRs different from KPIs?

Businesses often are confused about OKRs vs. KPIs. They are two distinct concepts: The former focuses on the process, while the latter (Key performance indicators) focuses on the outcomes.

How do businesses set OKRs?

The best practice in using the OKR framework is to create organizational goals, from which they derive the team goals and then individual goals.

For example, if the organizational goal is to grow the business, the sales team’s goal would be to increase revenue, and each salesperson’s goal would be to make more calls or convert better.

How do businesses track OKRs?

Every business sets up a business dashboard that tracks each objective and corresponding key results. This could be the sales dashboard on a CRM or the financial dashboard on spreadsheets.

In essence, a good dashboard offers a centralized, real-time visual representation and progress toward objectives. 

Now that you have the foundation, let’s see ten of the most popular and effective OKRs that startups can use.

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10 OKR Examples for Startups

Good OKRs need to be driven from the top. So, as an organization, bring the leadership together and set the vision for the business. This can be growth, scale, or stability. Depending on the journey the organization makes, you can define agile OKRs for each team. Let’s see a few. 

1. Improve product quality

If you’re a product startup, this is the most basic objective you can set. It helps improve adoption, engagement, reputation, and customer satisfaction. High-quality products lead to fewer customer complaints and returns, reducing costs and increasing revenue as well.

If improving product quality is your objective, your key results could be:

  • Increase unit test coverage to 80%
  • Reduce customer-reported bugs by 70%
  • Achieve 90% positive feedback on the new feature release

2. Improve data security

Every customer will ask about data security metrics from the startups they’re considering buying from. This is especially true if they would input sensitive information into your product.

So, data security is a key product metric. You can measure key results in the following ways:

  • Achieve ISO 27001 certification before 2025
  • Reduce security incidents by 50% 
  • Conduct bi-annual security audits
  • Gain 100% regulatory compliance

3. Enhance customer experience

At the other end of product quality is customer experience (CX), which is a function of a good product as well as the standard of interaction with sales, marketing, and customer success.

As a startup, CX can be your key differentiator. For instance, customers might choose a product they can get instant support for over a similar product with self-service. 

For enhancing customer experience, your key results can be:

  • Achieve and maintain a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 75
  • Reduce average customer support response time to under 3 hours
  • Increase customer retention rate by 20%

4. Boost revenue

As Eliyahu M. Goldratt says, the primary goal of every business is to make money. Revenue directly impacts your financial health and ability to reinvest in growth. 

So, sales OKRs are a critical part of every startup’s goals. The objective of increasing sales/revenue is given. You’d measure key results, such as:

  • Increase monthly recurring revenue by 40%
  • Close deals with 10 new enterprise clients by the end of this quarter
  • Improve share of value from existing customers by 20%
  • Accelerate revenue growth by 3% month-on-month

5. Gain market share

A startup, by definition, has no market share. On the other hand, it is also true that many startups work in areas where a market might not exist. The iPhone created the smartphone market. Salesforce created the SaaS market.

As a startup, you might have to create your own market and expand it yourself. This means you need to expand your audience, grow your customer base, expand into new geographies, etc. 

To do this, the key results you measure could be:

  • Increase monthly active users by 25%
  • Launch in three new geographic markets by the end of this year
  • Achieve a 30% increase in website traffic from organic search

6. Optimize operational efficiency

At the beginning of any startup’s journey, you’re likely to work hard, put in extra hours, and make things happen at all costs. However, as you grow, this behavior can lead to burnout, resentment, and an overall reduction in productivity.

So, an important OKR every startup must focus on is operational efficiency. To improve efficiency, you might hire more people, buy project management tools like ClickUp, or automate certain processes. 

To measure the impact of such initiatives, use key results such as:

  • Increase agile velocity by 15%
  • Decrease operational costs by 10%
  • Gain 50% efficiency in testing processes with automation

7. Expand strategic partnerships

Startups don’t exist on an island. They work closely with a number of vendors, partners, and collaborators. For instance, if you’re building a time-tracking tool, you might want to build strategic partnerships with project management software startups for integrations or product bundling.

Good partnerships have the potential to accelerate growth, provide access to new markets, reduce costs, enhance brand credibility, and power the future. To use it as a strategic lever, your key results need to be:

  • Establish one new strategic partnership every month
  • Increase revenue from partnerships by 30%
  • Reduce customer acquisition costs by 15% through marketing partnerships

8. Strengthen brand presence

As a startup, you want everyone to know that you exist, i.e., strengthening your brand presence. To do this, you need effective marketing OKRs that cover every channel, including search, social media, press, on-ground events, etc. 

Better brand presence creates interest and awareness, which will increase website traffic, conversions, and, ultimately, revenue.

Your brand presence key result areas could be:

  • Increase social media followers by 30%
  • Secure 20 media mentions in industry-leading publications
  • Achieve a 35% increase in brand-related search volume
  • Publish 4 new success stories every year

9. Enhance employee engagement

Happy employees ensure happy customers. An engaged and inspired workforce helps build better products, create a positive environment for colleagues, and foster innovation. 

Especially for a startup, employee engagement can be the difference between a differentiated product and more of the same-same. Track employee engagement objectives with key results, such as:

  • Achieve an employee satisfaction score of 75%
  • Reduce employee turnover rate to below 15%
  • Conduct quarterly team-building activities with 100% participation

10. Drive innovation

A startup takes birth because someone has an innovative idea. To remain unique and in demand, startups need to innovate consistently. This can be something as simple as a new way of doing a process or fundamentally transformative as automating a critical function.

Either way, innovation is a critical startup objective. Track your organization’s innovation capabilities with key results, such as:

  • Allocate 25% of the R&D budget to experimental projects
  • Increase the number of patents filed by 30%

Startups often have ambitious goals and even identify key result areas to measure progress. Yet, they lose steam through the course of the year and fall off the journey. To avoid this and stay on course, you need to implement your OKRs effectively. Here’s how.

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Implementation of OKRs in Startups

To effectively implement OKRs in your startup, you need to make them clearly documented, easily accessible, and automatically measurable. Some of the best OKR software can help this. So can a robust project management tool like ClickUp. Here’s how.

1. Explain the objectives to your teams

Once you’ve identified your objectives and key results, put them up for everyone in the organization to see. Write down the company objectives, including the purpose and reasoning, in a document on an OKR software for startups. Make sure your teams can refer to it when they need it.

ClickUp Docs is a great place to do this. You might also include notes and quotes from the goal-setting discussions for more context.

ClickUp Docs
ClickUp Docs to share organizational objectives

2. Set key results in a trackable form

For each objective, you’d have defined 3-5 specific, measurable, and time-bound key results that will serve as benchmarks for achieving the objective. Set them up on your tracking tool for everyone to measure progress.

ClickUp Goals allows you to set targets as numerical, monetary, true/false, or task targets. For instance, if your key result is “close three new partnerships,” you can set them up as three tasks. When you complete them, your tasks will automatically be updated with your progress. 

ClickUp Goals
Progress tracking with ClickUp Goals

If you’re new to OKRs or are setting it up fresh for your startup, try ClickUp’s OKR Framework Template. With this template, you can:

  • Create specific SMART goals that align with your team’s main objective
  • Track progress against those goals in real-time
  • Easily identify roadblocks before they become critical issues

3. Assign responsibility to team members

Encourage team members to create OKRs supporting the broader company objectives. These can then be set up as targets, checklists, or tasks based on their nature. 

It also helps when project managers can sit with team members and walk through the goals to ensure everyone is in alignment. 

4. Build dashboards

As a project manager within a startup, it’s useful to see progress on a regular basis. For instance, if your goal is to deliver projects on time or have 100% resource utilization, you might want to see the status every day.

ClickUp Dashboards enables all this reporting automatically. With the project management dashboard, you can track workload status, tasks completed, productivity and efficiency metrics, and more.

ClickUp Dashboard
Project management dashboard on ClickUp

With the marketing dashboard, you can track impressions, likes, content published, inquiries, conversions, and more.

ClickUp Marketing Dashboard
Marketing dashboard on ClickUp

5. Check in regularly, review, and adjust

Schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings to review progress on OKRs. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss achievements, address challenges, and the need to pivot, if any. After that,

  • Adjust key results based on performance and feedback
  • Set new goals for the next OKR cycle based on learnings
  • Realign individual goals with the company’s vision

Celebrate successes and analyze failures to understand what worked and what didn’t. This continuous learning approach helps improve future OKR planning and execution.

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Set and Conquer Your Startup OKRs With ClickUp

A startup’s journey from idea to IPO depends on its ability to execute. To execute effectively, you need goals, checkpoints, visibility, and flexibility. 

ClickUp for startups offers exactly that. With the project management software, you can set, share, track, and achieve your OKRs all in one place. The several OKR templates included in ClickUp also help you get started with guidance.

Leverage ClickUp to streamline your startup’s journey. Try ClickUp today for free!

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