How OKRs can make you achieve startup greatness

How Objectives and Key results can make you achieve startup greatness.

Being a startup founder is both exciting and severely challenging. According to Embroker, 10% of start-ups are successful each year. Blaming a lack of funding, unexpected damage, internal challenges, market forces, and several other factors a staggering 90% of all startups fail. Startup greatness is therefore not an easy achievement and several principles need to be integrated to ensure growth and sustainability.

There is a driving force called entrepreneurial spirit that keeps some going even through the harshest challenges and unfavorable odds. 

In the startup and entrepreneurial world, there are no such things as guarantees, however, there are several things you can do to increase your odds of success.

Startups and OKRs 

Driving a startup is about a future desired state of operating a sustainable, impactful successful, and established business. OKRs too are future-orientated and aspirational and provide clear objectives to be met, as well as key results in support thereof. The sooner the potential of your start-up team is unleashed the better for your performance and OKRs are stretch goals that encourage your team to stretch toward the limits and beyond their potential. Objectives and key results can simplify strategic planning and execution.

OKRs foster collaboration and focus and over time this might just provide you with a serious competitive advantage.

It is not wrong to initially have a strong focus on OKRs that drive profit as long as other elements of the ‘performance ecosystem’ are not forsaken such as purpose and social impact. Never lose focus on your people and always care for them as people drive profit.

An objective: Increase sales of our core product.

Key result #1.  Increase sales calls from 50 to 100 per month.

Key result #2. Increase conversion rate from sales calls to 25%

To reach for the limits of your potential and to be driven toward achieving outside of the boundaries of your comfort zones more needs to be done and certain qualities are required.


The quality of execution is determined by that often elusive tipping point of a great idea being actively and thoughtfully experimented upon. These experiments then have to be distilled into a product and or service that can be successfully taken to market.

Often startup founders are in ‘experimentation mode’ almost all the time as they strive to find answers. Creating an actionable and well-researched marketing strategy as early as possible is one of the actions that can help to start taking the ‘guesswork’ out of the equation.

Establishing clear and transparent communication between all stakeholders and keeping track of actionable initiatives related to the communication also assists in creating a clearer path. All these elements can form part of your Objectives and key results frameworks.


Grit is about ‘sticking to your future day in and day out, no matter what obstacles you might be facing. Grit lies at the intersection of perseverance, strong commitments, belief, and confidence. 

‘I am convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.

 When grit becomes a guiding principle in your life and a diligent practice you will find that you cannot give up even if you want to. Perseverance and grit should not be a practice purely for the sake of having it – Perseverance and grit should be infused with purpose and a strong vision in order for it to have true meaning. You should persevere for the sake of something that is fulfilling and has deep meaning.

I teach my individual coaching clients to deliberately practice grit once a week. This can take on several forms –

It can be to sit in meditation for an extra twenty minutes when you really do not want to do it.

You might run an extra two kilometers on the day you are in the worst possible mood for running.

When you have experienced a bad and long day at work and your only urge is to go and sit on a couch and watch tv to forget it all, that is your queue to go for a long hike, that is if you want to improve your ‘grit level’.

Do not overdo this, I advise this practice once a week. If overdone, it can easily lead to burnout and add to your stress levels, which would be counterproductive.

Technical and soft skills

Naturally speaking you have to be a perpetual student of your field and put your learnings into practice in order to become wise. Technical abilities are required to achieve sustainable success and are important yet it is only one part of the value chain of success.

I would call what others refer to as soft skills, hard skills, simply because they are hard:

* It is hard to thoroughly listen

* It is not easy to negotiate from a totally different viewpoint

* To influence others is hard

* Increasing the engagement levels of your team/s is complex

* To embrace change goes against most of our natural instincts

These and other ‘hard skills’ have become essential not only for survival in a volatile world but also critical if you want to thrive and sustainably succeed.

Learn more about our comprehensive answer to all of the above complexities by joining our OKR Leader course and/or our flagship consulting program the ‘People Performance Program’:


If you are a receptionist who strives to improve your work continuously and add value to others in service of the vision and purpose of the company then you are an example and a leader – you do not need a title that denotes seniority to lead. 

Leadership is a behavior, not a title. You can choose to be a leader without anyone appointing you to a higher position.

The challenges provided by the business world and the world economy requires strong leaders and as many of them as possible to overcome the hurdles in our way.

It is the core function of leaders to create more leaders and it is my sincere hope that supportive coaching and mentorship lie at the heart of your business culture. Leadership is also the ability to galvanize people around the execution of strategies.

Learn more on startup strategies from this Harvard Business review article:

Leadership that is infused with empathy, values, purpose, and a strong vision can be a choice that startup founders make from the onset to their great advantage and that of the world. It is my sincere hope that every startup founder makes this choice.

Talent Development Director of the OKR Institute