Creating Alignment and Focus with a Single Major “Next N” Goal

One of the most powerful ways to improve startup execution and align your team is to become great at setting a single goal to rally around.

I’m surprised how many founders I work with are not as clear or specific as they need to be about where they are headed next.

It comes up in every conversation with a SaaS founder who asks for my advice or perspective. What do you think I should do about _____?

The best answer always depends. Your bigger long-term vision matters, but it really depends on what you are driving towards NEXT in your business that you are working towards as a company.

It’s often an important internal number and not a revenue goal. The number drives the revenue, so you’re driving to that number. Your N.

What’s your Next N?

  •  Is it an N of 1 – landing the big account or partnership?
  •  N of 3 or 4?
  •  N of 10? Getting your first 10 paying customers?
  •  N of 100? Getting to 100 customers that drive a certain amount of revenue that is meaningful? (Sustainably profitable, for example).
  •  N of $1M ARR or $10M ARR?

All founders have a lot of goals they are working on. What’s the most important single goal that will simplify and speed up all your other decisions?

Most founders have a bunch of small urgent goals and a big long-term vision. These are useful, but not sufficient.

Here’s the question:

To achieve your big vision of success from where you are now, what’s the most important “Next N” goal you need to achieve as a company to keep going on the road to success?

  •  What number do you post on the wall for everyone to see?
  • What are the key numbers that roll up to your big Next N number?
  • What number will make all your tactical decisions easier when you focus on it?
  •  What story do you tell to communicate why your Next N goal is important and meaningful?

Sometimes this is an urgent quarterly goal, but it’s usually a 12 to 18-month goal for your team. It’s almost never a 2-3 year goal.

It’s usually a big round number that’s an achievable stretch. 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, 1000.

My big number this year was 40. Not 4 or 400. Just 40.

When I finally got clear about this number last year, with help from peer entrepreneur friends, it made everything clear and simple. I hit my 40 goal this month.

I’m already thinking about my big number for next year. My Next N will be for a different thing and the number will be something like 5,000 or 10,000. That would mean significant progress on a longer-term vision I am working towards.

Our Next N goals are made up, of course. That’s the fun of creating a company. We get to make things up and then make them true.

What should I do today or next week? It depends on my big Next N number.

What advice should I give about hiring, funding, marketing, sales, product, or whatever to a founder? It always depends on their Next N. I need to know that first.

* What’s your most important Next N goal in the next 12 months for your company?


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