I'm Brendan Schwartz, Co-Founder and CTO of Wistia. AMA 💞

Hi Rajaraman, thanks for having me here and thanks for the question!

The way we’ve done goal setting for the past few years is that our senior management team sets annual goals for company in December (then teams set quarterly goals based off of these). In the past several iterations of this, the types of goals stayed the same. We have a goal for the product, a goal for the brand, a goal related to the team, and a financial goal. Each of these have a few key results. For the most part, this philosophy is put into action by setting conservative numbers for these key results. For example, we’ve had a goal around EBITDA for the last few years. When we set it, we make sure it’s something we’ll be happy with but it’s never a stretch, it’s something we’re confident we will hit even if we don’t hit our other goals for the year.

One of the biggest mistakes we’ve made (and we made it a number of times) is just thinking about each year on its own. In SaaS especially, you build on past success and aren’t starting with zero sales each time. That’s great. On the flip side, it’s often really hard to change the trajectory dramatically over a short period of time. So when we model things and set goals, we try to extrapolate based on the last year or two and set those are the goals then think about creative ways we can beat it.

There are plenty of cases where we set goals and have no historical data. That’s fine too, we usually just caveat it to the team. This year we have a goal of number of customers we’d like for a new product/feature set. It’s really hard to model that. We told the team this was our best guess and we’ll take a look halfway through the year to adjust.

As for making sure the metric doesn’t become an end in and of itself, this hasn’t really been a major problem in my experience at Wistia which is part of the reason my advice around this conservative goal setting is caveated with a big “this is what works for us”. We tend to hire creative folks who are driven a lot by the intangibles. With that said, when setting the key results for a goal, we do often set multiple metrics rather than a single one. For example, last year for Soapbox, we had three key results: increase NPS, increase weekly active users, and an MRR goal.