Looking back on the past year, it’s easy to get a sense 2017 was more transformative than the years before it. We experienced a new President breaking with the status quo and challenging the entire political establishment, women raising their voices to fundamentally redefine workplace behavior, athletes taking a knee to protest injustices, and dramatic advancements in AI, VR, and blockchain technologies.
At 1776, we went through a transformation of our own when we merged with Benjamin’s Desk, a Philadelphia-based coworking innovation community, to create the largest ecosystem of entrepreneurial incubators in the Northeast Corridor.
As we enter 2018 with 10 campuses across four states and the District of Columbia, and with more than 2500 member companies, we’re accelerating the explosion of startup activity and the transformation of legacy institutions across the region.
Entrepreneurs are leading transformations of every aspect of our economies, societies, and government, and we’re here to kick off new revolutions and support those already underway.
But revolutions don’t happen on their own. It might make for a good LinkedIn story, but no entrepreneur just wakes up one morning, says, “I’m going to change the world today,” and immediately does it. In order to truly spur transformation, entrepreneurs must prepare, plan, and execute on their goals.
Connecting our members to insightful mentors and advisors is an essential part of the work we do to support entrepreneurs as they grow their companies. In considering how to set and achieve reasonable goals, we reached out to our network of friends and mentors for their advice and counsel — here’s what they had to say:
Set intentions, not resolutions.
“As Deepak Chopra says, ‘everything that happens in the universe begins with intention,’” offered Dr. Michael Borda, Director at Strategic Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I think that who you want to be and what you want your venture to be are far more important than a somewhat generic list of goals. You have to find the ‘why’ behind the goals that you to achieve. Focus on your intentions, then let go and allow opportunities to come.”
Less speed, more direction.
“Sometimes in business, and particularly for early stage companies, your goals should be more about knowing and learning your direction versus increasing your speed,” said Patrick Baynes, founder and CEO of UpdatesCentral, which provides high-performance social marketing to local businesses and global franchises.
“If you have uncertainty about your focus — market landscape, customer satisfaction, efficient operations — then you must pause. Your goals should be to first set the right foundation and then develop your goals about growth and speed.”
Dive into the details.
“Goal setting and planning for early-stage entrepreneurs is very tricky, especially when you’re still trying to validate and de-risk your business model,” said Chuck Sacco, Assistant Dean of Strategic Initiatives at Drexel University, Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, and director of the Laurence A. Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship.
“My advice is to think about your goals and get quite granular in detail. The further out you go, however, the less granular you’re going to be. So try this: start with a set of three-month, must-do goals. Break those down by monthly objectives, and then break those down into weekly tasks. Get the current week’s tasks into to daily schedules. Load everything on your calendar. Wash, rinse, and repeat.”
“The first thing I do when I’m developing a strategic plan is to think outside the box,” offered our own Chief Strategy Officer, Penny Lee.
“I challenge myself to think of the 2-3 most unlikely, but desirable, outcomes and develop paths to make them realities. I start with the end goal, then work backwards until I’ve determined the daily needs it’ll take to get there. Sometimes at the end of the exercise, it becomes evident that the team or resources might not be available to make some of the desired objectives possible. In those cases, I have to adjust. But, even in the adjustment, I try to let boldness guide me and the plan becomes more enhanced than maintaining what the status quo would have been.”