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How to measure impact

Here's how to measure whether you're actually fulfilling your company's mission statement.

By Anisah Osman Britton

Startups talk a lot about mission, but how do you practically measure whether you’re doing what you’re saying — and not just mission washing to help with hiring and marketing. For our Startup Life newsletter, we spoke to edtech platform Perlego’s design director, Kim Lomba, about how to measure whether your company is mission aligned:

Identify what you want to measure

You know the impact you want to have — this is your mission statement — but that’s usually quite abstract. So you want to quantify it. Turn it into something tangible and measurable that allows you to hold the company accountable — and enables you to show the world you’re actually doing what you’re saying and it’s not just a nice tagline or marketing tactic. Look at the existing data points you have that are relevant to the mission statement: what are you already tracking? It could be engagement numbers, diversity, carbon offsetting, etc.

Then get planning

Create a short term plan —  how can the data points you have today be used as an initial benchmark? If your mission is “make education accessible to all”, then you may have data points around how many people use your platform, their different nationalities and the gender breakdown. Start small. If there are gaps in your quantitative data initially, you can use qualitative data by doing interviews, surveys and case studies. Also create a longer term plan to measure more accurately — what do you need to do to get there? Do you need to build more stuff? Use different tools?

Start measuring as early as possible

It may seem silly to start thinking about metrics in the early days when you’ve got little data but knowing what you want to measure helps you put all the right processes in place from the beginning — you don’t want to reverse engineer things or bolt stuff on later down the line. Also, set the cadence of reporting early to manage the expectations of the team, investors and your audience — we measure and report annually on our impact metrics.

Break down your mission into smaller goals

Start by figuring out who, or what, it is you are trying to help — how can this help be be tracked and measured? For example, we have four types of audience we aim to support — all learners, higher education students, educators and publishers.

Then redefine how you help each. For example, for our “all students” audience, we want to make education more accessible — we measure things like access for disabilities, the countries we’re available in and the languages we support, and affordability. We map this back to our wider mission — this goes a little way in answering if we are we making education accessible for all. Essentially, these goals are a bit like KPIs — but instead of them being linked to internal projects products as KPIs normally are, each one we meet directly impacts whether we’re meeting our mission statement.

Motivate your team

Everyone wants to have impact and this is a clear way of showing that they are. It gives teams clarity and direction on where a company is headed and how their roles play into that — it should be intrinsic to company thinking and product building. It makes everyone feel connected to the core mission. It also makes employees hold the company accountable — it gives them the power to challenge if they feel decisions are made that don’t directly align with the mission. Finally, making impact feel tangible helps attract, and retain, good talent.

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter, which comes out weekly on Wednesdays. Sign up here.

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