6 Ways to Set Goals in an Unpredictable 2021

We asked founders how they're setting goals for the year ahead and plotting untraveled roads to success.
6 Ways to Set Goals in an Unpredictable 2021
Image credit: Pete Ryan
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

1. Track your progress.

“We set yearly goals and quarterly goals. As a fast-growing startup in the midst of economic uncertainty, it’s challenging to forecast what each new day will bring. So we have a weekly goal review meeting with each of our teams to align on how we are tracking toward both yearly and quarterly goals. This helps us course-correct swiftly and gets our whole team on the same page should objectives change.” — Jordan Nathan, founder and CEO, Caraway

2Prepare to fail.

“Have a plan B (and C and D and E). Have you ever heard of a house being built ahead of schedule and under budget? Me neither. The two biggest mistakes people make when setting goals are that they underestimate how long something will take and how much it will cost. We are trying to set goals that we feel are realistic while considering what happens if we don’t hit our goals. What is our plan B? What does that world look like?” — Gavin Steinberg, cofounder and CEO, The Everset

Related: 6 Ways to Grow With Limited Resources

3Work smarter.

“In some ways, 2020 has taught us a key lesson in focus: Only about 20 percent of ideas, initiatives, and partnerships will move the needle forward on achieving your goals. The critical skill for founders is identifying the other 80 percent of ideas that don’t accomplish these goals and take up your resources. As we plan for 2021, we’re looking at that 20 percent with laser focus, helping us achieve our goals with greater efficiency and profitability.” — Abigail Cook Stone, cofounder and CEO, Otherland

4. Get granular.

“We have broken our projections and goals down into digestible chunks by geographic region, account type, on-premise versus off-premise, big chain versus small stores, e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar, etc. Our hope is that by scientifically building up from a granular level, our forecasting is rooted in as precise a process as possible.” — Freddie Martignetti, cofounder, Rosaluna

Related: 5 Tips for Aligning Your Remote Team's Goals

5. Be aggressive.

“We took 2020 as an opportunity to focus on initiatives that can be challenging to address during high-growth periods, like improving workflows and processes, investing in our back end, and increasing operational excellence. Now that we’ve optimized our infrastructure, 2021 is a year to push ahead. This means doubling down on our commitments to sustainability, innovation, and products by setting aggressive goals.” — Stephen Hawthornthwaite, cofounder and CEO, Rothy’s

6. Know your strengths.

“We are focusing our efforts and goals more on the regions we are located in — the U.S. and the U.K. — and less on expanding globally. This is to limit our uncertainty, because we have a much better picture of what’s happening where we are versus in Japan, for example. That doesn’t mean Japan is any less affected, but we don’t have the same pulse on that nation.” — Soumyadip Rakshit, cofounder and CEO, MysteryVibe

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