With OKRs for success? What founders need to know

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OKRs are perhaps the most effective tool for founders to hold their team to the most important goals – if you do it right. Otherwise, there is a risk of lost time and frustration on all sides. This guest article by Jannes Fischer shows how startups achieve big goals with OKRs.

Anyone who wants to build a successful startup must set clear goals and make sure that plans are implemented and milestones are achieved. Every founder realizes this, but the truth often looks different. The team is growing, there is increasing confusion and a new fire must be extinguished every day. At least that’s how it was for us.

The establishment of Vermietet.de in 2016 has been followed by rapid growth. we realized: Yelling no longer works. We need one Long-term planning and coordination between teams. At the same time, we wanted to prepare the company for further growth and the next steps toward exit. That’s why we did it four years ago Objectives and main results (OKRs) Presentation.

A sweet spot between too ambitious and not ambitious enough

We Was The Way From John Doerr’s Book Measure what matters a favour. OKRs must help us achieve our quarterly goals. In the end, that’s all there is to it: increase the likelihood of achieving goals. This happened, too – but not without surprises, mistakes, and turns.

Today we agree OKRs for each cross-functional product engineering team, as well as for departments such as Marketing and Human Resources. In the first cycle, we set ourselves goals that weren’t ambitious enough. As a result, we lost momentum. On the second course we went too far in the other direction. We were overly ambitious and at some point both teams became frustrated with the unrealistic goals. In the meantime, we’ve found our sweet spot: the chance of hitting the goals should be about 85% for teams. Even if we miss these goals, we quickly approach the big goals.

Another lesson learned: OKRs should always be developed alongside teams. Of course, as a founder you want to achieve your goals as quickly as possible. That’s why I didn’t always have the necessary patience in the beginning and even once set OKRs when the team was taking too long. This also doesn’t work, because there is no definition. So OKRs should always be set together and be ambitious but achievable.

Avoid pitfalls

However, the most important lesson was how important it is to have the right methodology. Above all, there should be a clear distinction between the terms: What is a file Goalwhat is a file main resultAnd what does it mean? Initiative?

Example: A startup wants to generate sales growth of 1 million euros and is planning to have more sales talks. If it is formulated in this way, the action is not clear and therefore the achievement of the goal is less likely. By following the OKR method, so will the sales growth Goal. It becomes tangible through it main result In this case 1 million additional sales in the next quarter. They tell me how to get there InitiativesAttending about 10 conferences and making 50 sales calls per week.

It is necessary to avoid Objectives And the Main results to confuse. Then the team takes a long time to come to a conclusion, and the OKRs will have no effect either.

the difference So he must understand the methodology and have the courage to set big goals. Originally, we also assumed that the quadrant with OKR would smoothly flow into the next quadrant. Today we are no longer putting out new OKRs while we are in the final race to get to the current OKRs.

It makes more sense to enter a temporary month after three months. Setting the right goals takes time and a clear head. In addition, interdependencies between teams must be taken into account. Once the process is complete, new roles often have to be created and filled, which also takes time. In my view, OKRs don’t have to follow the four quarters of the calendar year, but your own planning. With us, the year is divided into three terms with four-month courses.

Should Every Startup Implement OKRs?

Founders often ask me if they should apply OKRs as well. Clearly: OKRs are not the right way for every startup. Who am I so Starter Stands – Size up to about 20 employees – focus on them hustle And the a job rather than focusing on operations. OKRs are particularly suitable for project-oriented organizations and teams. Work for high operational teams Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is better, because success can be seen from them on a daily basis. This also applies to in-house service providers such as our Intelligence Unit, who do not operate on a project basis and tend to operate at short notice.

Despite many systematic errors in the first few years and a steep learning curve, OKRs helped us achieve big goals Access. Ultimately, this paved the way for Germany’s largest proptech exit to date. After four years of OKRs, we have found a good position in which we are constantly setting new and ambitious goals. Because we still have a lot to do.

advice: 10 times the growth of startups with OKR! How to successfully implement OKR

About the author
Janis Fischer is CEO of Vermietet.de, the market leader in digital solutions for private property owners. In 2016, Fischer founded the startup Zenhomes with the Vermietet.de brand, from which Vermietet.de and Upmin emerged in 2021 following the Scout24 acquisition. As an entrepreneur and owner, he is involved in several companies, including Scaling Spaces, Flagship Founders, and Bullfinch. He has been a board member of the German Proptech Initiative since 2020.

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