Set Great Goals, Execute Correctly, And Win – with Patrick Thean

By Patrick Thean



Artificial Intelligence has become ubiquitous throughout the years, sparking discussions about its implications for various industries. Despite AI’s prominence, goal setting remains paramount in driving success for software businesses.

In this week’s episode, CEO at Rhythm Systems Patrick Thean sits down with host and B2B SaaS Sales Coach Matt Wolach to discuss the power of goal setting and execution in your software business. Read more to find out how.


Podcast: Scale Your SaaS with Matt Wolach

Episode: Episode No. 310, “Set Great Goals, Execute Correctly, And Win – with Patrick Thean”

Guest: Patrick Thean, CEO of Rhythm Systems

Host: Matt Wolach, a B2B SaaS Sales Coach, Entrepreneur, and Investor

Sponsored by: Leadfeeder



Establishing a Rhythm for Reflection and Planning

Regular reflection and planning sessions are crucial for maintaining focus and alignment within software organizations. By dedicating time every quarter to “think, plan, and do,” software leaders can create a rhythm that fosters accountability and drives continuous improvement.

Embracing Leading Indicators for Progress Tracking

Patrick emphasizes the value of leading indicators in tracking progress and anticipating challenges. By implementing objective metrics and fostering transparency, software leaders can address issues early and course-correct as needed, ensuring proactive management of goals.

Cultivating a Supportive Environment for Open Communication

Creating a supportive environment where team members feel empowered to share successes and setbacks openly is essential for fostering collaboration and driving results. Software leaders can strengthen team cohesion and accelerate goal achievement by embracing transparency and encouraging candid communication.



Identifying Common Goal-Setting Mistakes

Patrick Thean highlights prevalent mistakes in goal setting and emphasizes the need to transform vague aspirations into clear, actionable objectives. By incorporating verbs, specificity, and measurability, software leaders can elevate their goal-setting process and increase the likelihood of success.

Take Advantage of AI-Powered Goal Writing

Rhythm Systems has integrated an AI goal-writing coach into its software, revolutionizing the way users articulate and refine their goals. This innovation transforms vague statements into SMART goals, empowering teams to align their efforts and track progress effectively.

Navigating the Complexities of Software Transformation

In conclusion, the journey to success in the software industry requires a disciplined approach to goal setting and execution. Software leaders can navigate the industry’s complexities by leveraging AI tools, establishing a recurring rhythm for reflection and planning, and fostering open communication. With the right strategies in place, the possibilities for transformation and growth are limitless.



Patrick Thean

[07:11] “Most people say things like, ‘I want to go to a trade show.’ Well, that’s not a goal. I want to go to a trade show, I want to hit X number of contacts, I want to close X number of meetings. Now you transform a wish into a goal.”

[10:52] “The biggest mistake people make is that they come up with a short phrase and they think they’re done…you need to make it specific, measurable.”

[21:52] “Goals are visualized using a traffic light system, enabling teams to align on expectations and track progress effectively.”


Matt Wolach

[09:56] “Creating a supportive environment where team members feel empowered to share successes and setbacks openly is essential for fostering collaboration and driving results.”

[16:03] “There is value in leading indicators in tracking progress and anticipating challenges…ensuring proactive management of goals.”



To learn more about Rhythm Systems, visit: 

You can also find Patrick Thean on LinkedIn: 

For more about how Matt Wolach helps software companies achieve maximum growth, visit

Head over to and sign up for a 14-day (no strings attached) free trial 


Check out the whole transcript of the episode here:

Matt Wolach  00:05

And welcome to Scale Your SaaS very excited to have you here, thank you for being here. By the way, with this show named Scale Your SaaS, we’re here to do exactly that. We want to make sure that you grow your leads, we close those leads, we scale, a team that can help you close those leads, all of those fun things so that you can get to your dreams. And what we do is we bring you people who have done this and who are helping you do this. So you have all of the best ways to do this. So if you’re new to the show, hit that subscribe button right now that way, you’ll be notified of any of our upcoming episodes. And you’ll know how to scale your SaaS. And one of those amazing guests amazing people that we have with us today is going to help you do that. So I’m joined by Patrick Thean, And Patrick, how you doing?

Patrick Thean  00:47

Hey, Matt, I’m doing great. Thank you so much for inviting me today. You have a great show.

Matt Wolach  00:52

Thank you. I really, really appreciate it, Patrick. You’re awesome for saying so and I’m really excited for our conversation. But let me make sure everybody knows who you are. So Patrick, he’s the CEO at Rhythm Systems. And he’s a thought leader in strategic business execution. And a successful serial entrepreneur who has started and exited multiple companies. I’m excited to hear about all that. He’s also an international speaker, USA Today and Wall Street Journal Best Selling Author and CEO of Rhythm Systems, which is a system of AI powered software coaching and methodology built for growing companies to successfully execute strategic plans. Rhythm System provides software and consulting for mid market companies to achieve successful business execution. This guy knows his stuff. And I’m delighted to have him here, Patrick, thanks for being here.

Patrick Thean  01:39

You’re welcome, Matt. Excited!

Matt Wolach  01:41

Me too. So tell me what have you been up to lately? And what’s coming up for you?

Patrick Thean  01:44

Well, you know, ever since November of 2022, ChatGPT hit right. And everyone talks about AI. So in some ways, AI is old news, but not old news. Right? It’s still good news. And so I would say over the last year, we’ve worked on transforming our software, we put in a goal setting AI coach, I think writing goals is really hard. You know, most people say things like, I want to go to a trade show. Well, that’s not a goal. I want to go to a trade show, I want to hit X number of contacts, I want to close X number of meetings. Now you transform a wish into a goal. So we find that goal writing is really hard. And if you can’t write good goals, then it’s really hard to even achieve your dreams. So we now have an AI goal writing coach in our system that allows you to put in a phrase like I want to go to trade show, I want to do 20 million revenue or whatever. And then we’ll begin to transform it into a proper SMART goal for you. And you can edit it, play with it, and hopefully help you to write a clear goal that you and your team can get focused align, and accountable to execute.

Matt Wolach  02:47

I love that. Everybody’s heard about the SMART goals and all that tell us what are the biggest mistakes people are making when they’re setting goals for their company.

Patrick Thean  02:57

The biggest mistake people make is that they come up with a short phrase and they think they’re done. So it’s as simple as like using the same example, I want to go to a trade show, okay, let’s go to trade show “XYZ.’ That’s not a goal. That’s just a statement of intent. And so what people need to do is they need to write it with a verb, they need to make it specific, measurable. And so what we do is we use a regular green process, because I believe that in addition to writing it, you’ve got to visualize it, you know, if you can see it, you can probably have a better chance of getting it done. But if you can’t see it, or visualize it, you probably can’t get it done already. And so I like for people to tell me, okay, this is what green looks like, this is what the goal looks like. Red would be the unacceptable level of performance. So red is failure, anything below red is unacceptable, then we have something called super green for the stretch goal, because our A players like to stretch goal. So our format as you put a regular green, a name and the date. And I promise you that’s a SMART goal. So that’s, our process.

Matt Wolach  04:02

I love that I can see that being super helpful. I think that not enough companies understand how to even set goals, or do they even do it. A lot of times when I’m coaching people, I’ll pop in and say hey, what are their goals and they don’t really have anything organized. And it’s it’s kind of distressing, because I think goals are so powerful towards helping the team have that desire and that motivation to getting them there. Am I right?

 Patrick Thean  04:25

Absolutely. And again, you know, writing goals, one thing, visualizing it and getting and seeing it with your team makes a huge difference on whether or not you achieve the goal or you don’t achieve the goal. So I think a lot of people just don’t have the patience to sit with it for a little bit with the team and say hey, you know I think we’re gonna go do this you know, what do you think we want to release the software in April. You know, what do you think that looks like? What are the key features you want in it? Let’s just talk it through a little bit so that what I see and What you see and what the rest of the team sees is the same thing. And if we can do that I call it alignment. And if we can aligned on what we’re going to deliver, you have a much higher probability of achieving your goals. By the way, it’s a fun fact that most people don’t actually achieve their goals. They write it down, they don’t achieve it. And one of the worst examples of that would be, you know, January 1st, second, and third, right? People wake up and they go, I got it, I’m going to lose 10 pounds, I’m going to stop eating sweets, I’m going to do all these things, and, and they get all all fired up. But you know what happened, they didn’t have a plan, they didn’t have an execution plan to go, Yes, I’m going to turn my wish, of losing 10 pounds into an actuality, they didn’t see how they’re going to get it done. And so coming up with a goal is one thing, visualizing it, and then having an execution plan to get it done, is the rest of the thing. And then finally, actually doing the work is what you need to do to get your goals done.

Matt Wolach  05:59

I love it. Take us back. How did Rhythm Systems come to be? Where did that all come from? I’m really interested.

Patrick Thean  06:05

So you know, back in a long time ago, my very first company, I grew that very quickly, we grew quickly over seven years to about 25 million in sales, we were number 151, on the Inc 500. In those days within 500, nothing 5000. And then we succeeded, they sold the company. And in that process, I would say from the outside looking in, we looked very successful. You know, we had all kinds of press releases, we had all kinds of awards and everything else. But for the inside looking out, I was running from one crises solving a problem jumping to another thing. And we survived enough walls that we just missed. And then one day we were declared successes by the world and the company was born and the rest is history. So after that, you know a lot of entrepreneurs asked me for help. And as I started helping them, I began to see a few things. First, I figured out what my true calling was, I figured out that I really enjoyed helping people succeed, and to achieve their dreams. And I realized that the success rate of an entrepreneur and a CEO is actually very, very low. It really is. And I don’t want to be a downer, but it’s a really low probability. So people who achieve north of 10 million in sales, for example, only 2-3% of all the entrepreneurs ever start a company that you get there. So you get to the $10 million mark, and you’re really only 2-3% of the population. So success is very hard failure is very high. And I began to study the idea that I believed anyway, that for younger companies, it wasn’t so much a strategy problem, it was more of an execution or lack thereof problem. And so over time, rhythm systems became a company that focus on helping people to execute well, to me, execution means that you’ve made commitments, you make commitments to your employees, your customers your shareholders, and you’ve got to deliver on them. If you don’t deliver or you cannot deliver on your commitments, you probably have poor execution. So with poor execution comes waste rework. And there’s so many tombstones of companies that had good ideas, but failed to execute, spend too long with the wrong team, etc, all kinds of mistakes that they made. And they didn’t make, you know, so my thesis is that, for most companies, especially young ones, lack of execution is the problem and putting the right things together. So you have a simple process to think about it, to do your simple plan to get it done. And then to actually do the work and be accountable to your results, is a very simple formula for execution. Now, once in a while, people will say to me, but Patrick, could you help me with strategy? I find that my team helps our clients with strategy, but more to clarify the strategy not so much. Like people don’t simply call me in and say, Hey, Patrick, you know, I’m a $10 million firm or $8 million firm. I have no clue what to do with my strategy. No, it’s usually, you know, I think I want to birth this product, I think this product fits the marketplace, and, and I believe that it’s working, but these things are not working. So those to me, are execution issues, not strategy issues.

Matt Wolach  09:25

Yeah, I would totally agree. I think that execution is the name of the game. A lot of people have understood what the right strategy is, especially in the early days, and that’s why they listen to this show. That’s why they go out and get help and get coaching. And a lot of the clients I talked to, that’s exactly it. When I dive in and look at their process, they’re not executing, they’re not pulling it off. They’re not making it happen. So I agree with that totally Patrick, that the strategy is often there. It’s the execution of it. That’s really difficult. And one of the things that that you talk about is establishing a repeating rhythm, and that’s part of your your Rhythm System. So what are some of the core principles of of getting this rhythm in place. So you can have that growth quarter after quarter, year after year, and you can start to see that take off.

 Patrick Thean  10:08

Yeah, you know, to me having the right rhythm is kind of having suspension for your car. So you know, if you have good suspension in your car, you can race around the corners, you can accelerate through the turns, high speed, you can stop on a dime, right? So for all those things, you need good suspension. And so what happens is that for me, you need a very simple rhythm and the rhythm is think plan and do I want people to come out of the simplest rhythm will be to come out of your business two days, every quarter, to work on your business, especially when you’re a young startup and trending high, you know, you’re so busy, that it’s really hard to pull yourself out. So unless you set yourself a cadence and say, Alright, guess what, you know, the last two days of every quarter, or the first two days, every quarter, I’m gonna pull my head out of the sand with my team. And we’re going to review the quarter and understand what went right, what went wrong. And think about our plan for the next quarter. So that’s the “think” piece of it. And then, and then at the beginning of the quarter, you just want to you just want to take the time and come up with over the next 13 weeks. What is the execution plan? Not your strategic plan, but your execution plan. What are you going to do? And then finally, the doer them is on a weekly basis? How do you meet? How do you review what your work is? And how do you stay accountable to the goals that you have created for that quarter and for the year, so that if you are having trouble in week four or five, you can pause, discuss it, make the adjustments and succeed. Because you know what, Matt, most companies don’t realize it, but they waste the first month. And then the monthly review happens if they even have one. And they go, Oh my God, we didn’t even touch this goal yet. Okay, well, you just wasted a month. And so stuff like that, that, that I like people to get into a nicer weekly rhythm, where they can be very candid and honest with themselves about what they’re executing on what they’re having difficulty with, and in collaborative teams and get past that. So that to me is, is version one, it’s like the simple think, plan, do, get together two days every quarter, think about your business, work on it, come up with your plan, and then execute it every week For the next, you know, 12 weeks or so, in judge yourself every week. By the way, I look at accountability a little bit different. I think when I say I want you to be accountable to the plan, most people think of it wrongly, most people think of accountability in terms of consequences. So I get the phone call, often actually, hey, Patrick, I need help with this guy or this gal, because they’re not doing the work. And I need to know how to hold them accountable. When someone says that, to me, the translation really is I need to mete out the consequences. So when someone says how do I hold someone accountable? It really means how do I deliver consequences? How do I yell at them? How do I because they’ve pissed me off, they’re not delivering. And I’m saying by then is a bit too late to me. Accountability is, look, we got a quarter, and we got 30 weeks to deliver on goals. So every week, we want to be accountable to achieve success, not accountable when we fail, but accountable to achieve success. So the rhythm there would be that you provide a forecast on your goals, whether or not you can achieve it. And then if you think that you’re trending poorly, you would have that candid conversation, I kind of call that a spicy conversation. So you’d say hey, you know, this particular goal, it doesn’t look like I’m gonna make it now it’s week five. Okay, well, that means I got eight weeks to react. So as a team, let’s not shoot the messenger let’s react positively and figure out how to how to save this goal, because we’ve got eight more weeks to save the goal, versus waiting to wait 10, 11, 12 and go, Oh, my God, I screwed up. It’s too late. So most people do that. That’s there’s a mistake. I like to correct. Most people do that. They wake up in week eight, which is after two months of a quarter. And they go oh shit I got one more month to go. And I’m kind of screwed. So I work doubly hard and try and get that done when a lot of those things. You probably could have known about three, four weeks earlier, that you weren’t going to make it right. So things like, oh my god, we’re not gonna make a sales quota. Well, you could have looked at a pipeline a few weeks ago, a month ago, two months ago. You didn’t have to wait till now to tell me you’re not gonna hit your sales quota. You could have known two months ago by looking at your pipeline, things like that. Right? And even in your pipeline, what kind of quality meetings are you having? If they’re crappy meetings, you have to have a look at your pipeline, you know that? You’re having crappy meetings, you got to fix that. So that’s what I’m getting at is like, instead of being afraid and saying, oh, you know, Jack’s gonna whack me in the head. It’s my Hey, Jack. I’m seeing this negative trend here. Let’s let’s work on it early. Because most of us know that. But we don’t bring it to life, because we’re trying to fix it. But oftentimes, we can fix it in time and we get surprised Somebody else gets surprised.

 Matt Wolach  15:01

Yeah, I totally agree. It drives me nuts when we’ve got a goal, the team’s working for it, especially when I was running a sales team. And you’d have a sales rep tell you Okay, we’re on pace, we’re on pace the whole quarter. And then you get to like, the last week, they’re like, oh, yeah, we’re way behind. Like, what? What happened? Well, we were behind the whole time, I just thought some of these we’re gonna happen, come on, you gotta like, voice it up, you got to communicate, I think that that’s a big thing. Right? So leaders and their teams, they need to stay focused and aligned. And it’s something that if you can’t do that, it’s going to make everybody’s job really, really tough. Right?

 Patrick Thean  15:33

Right. You know, most of I’m guessing that a lot of number of your audience have already been funded on the way to getting funded. And one of the worst things you can do right, is to tell a venture capital partner or a private equity firm partner, that you’re going to hit your goals, and then find out shortly after that, that you’re not going to hit your goals. And I experienced that one day long time ago, when I literally had just told my venture partner, that you know, the quarter is gonna be fine, we hit our sales goals, etc. Then my head of sales walks in, and this is one of my previous companies, and says, To me, it was like week 10 and said, you know, Patrick, you know, we’re not gonna hit the goal this quarter. And I said, Dude, why didn’t you tell me last week, you knew I was gonna meet with my PE (private equity) from last week. Like, why didn’t you tell me last week? Well, I knew last week, but I was trying to fix it. Alright, that was week nine. Now, it’s 10, you probably knew you couldn’t fix it. So combination of good intentions, and a bit of fear, all those things added to my head of sales, thinking that he could fix it, or fooling himself into thinking he could fix it. Unfortunately, his timing, and my timing wasn’t good. So I literally just told my venture partner, that quota looks fine. And literally the next week, he tells me, You know what, I’m gonna make it. And now, if he had given me the information a week earlier, I could have a different conversation with my venture partner, as a CEO, I could have appeared much more in control of my company, much more an understanding of what are the prompts to fix, because I tell you what, you know, your venture partners and your PE partners, they want to know the truth, the good and the bad, and the ugly, they don’t want you to go in and say, things are rosy and fantastic, when you’re about to miss a number. So I would have a lot more credibility by being able to walk in and say, Hey, here’s the goals, here’s where we are, I’m going to spend the next four weeks working my ass off to try and figure how to make it versus walking in saying, we’re going to make it and then next week calling him saying, guess what we’re not going to make. So I have to recover. And you only get so many opportunities to make that kind of mistake with a venture partner.

 Matt Wolach  17:49

Yeah, I agree. So what did you take away from that? What did you learn for how you handle that type of situation? Going forward with it? Was there more communication? Did you coach your teams, your leaders how to make sure that you’re on the same page? What what happened from that?

Patrick Thean  18:03

So from that, I would in that case, we started relying on leading indicators. So we created a leading indicators dashboard, where we would agree on one of the key indexes we would look at, right? So it didn’t have to depend on someone feeling. Today’s a bad day, I’m going to tell Patrick, I screwed up. Or public tell Patrick, the bad news, but we can look at indicators. So we report on some leading indicators. In this case, like size of pipeline, a number of meetings that we’re having, with with potential clients. And so from that, we can look, we can say, Alright, give it an X dollars of pipeline in order to be successful. And then using the red, yellow green, if your pipeline is where it needs to be, you mark that red, mark that red, so we can see it’s red, and then everyone knows way ahead of time. So that way, I try to systemize it versus relying on a person to feel strong enough to tell me something. And I try and systemize it, take emotions out of it. And also try and take people away from feeling like they failed. Because I would say you didn’t fail. The priority is red all the KPI, the key performance indicators red you as a person you’re not red, you know. So now if the person fails to deliver results over and over and over again, that’s a different issue. That’s an HR issue. That’s not a leading indicator work issue. So so to me, I would, the takeaway is to is to come up with a set of leading indicators that you can rely on, that people are reporting on in a dispassionate way. If it’s red, it’s red, it is yellow, it’s yellow. And so therefore, you got to create the clear, objective success criteria. What is the number to be green? What’s the number to be red, and in between is yellow. So when somebody says, you know, a priority or KPI is red, yellow or green. It’s not based on the gut, it’s not based on then saying, Oh, I feel bad about it this week, therefore, it’s colored red. It’s more like my forecast puts it into into this place. And this number gets I’m sorry, falls in the red number. So I don’t like to put a red but it’s red. And so boom, you just colored red. So you’ve got to be dispassionate, you’ve got to have objective, objective criteria. And then you’ve got to not yell at people. So imagine the first time somebody shows you, Matt, you know, hey, I’m so sorry, Matt. This KPI is red. And you go, what the hell? Are you kidding me? Okay, so, next time, that person is gonna be like, Nah, it’s not quite red, it’s kind of lime green, it’s yellowish, orange, maybe, and the person’s afraid. And I would say that, so I call this a gift of red, you know that, that if, if somebody says an index is red, they’ve given me the gift, by letting me know, by highlighting it to me, so that we as a team have time to fix that and work on it together. So I call that the gift of red. And I call it the gift of red because I want my the people I coach the CEOs I work with, to have a different attitude and mindspace to digest bad news. Because to me, bad news is actually good news because somebody had enough guts to tell you the bad news. And now you have time to work on it, versus not telling you the bad news, then you get surprised news. Surprise news is much worse than bad news. So you get bad news early, you can work on it, you get surprised news later, it’s too late. And so with that in mind, the psychology is you’ve got to encourage people to share the tough news with you. And first thing on your lips needs to be Thank you, man. I know that was hard to tell me that. But thank you. I appreciate

 Matt Wolach  21:46

that so good. So I mean, this is just gold that you’re giving us here, Patrick, I think it’s really important. Everything you’re sharing, I want to make sure that we can wrap up and kind of summarize what what advice would you share with software leaders who are in that early stage and needing to better execute needing to have that accountability and the ability to get to the goals much better? What would you share with them?

Patrick Thean  22:08

So you know, my buddy, Mike Prager, who runs every exchange have been worth working with him now. 24 years from zero to IPO today, they’re on the NASDAQ stock stock exchange. And 24 years ago, I told Mike, I said, Look, I know it’s a startup, I know you don’t have a lot of time, but you and your partner should just take two days every quarter to work on your business plan it, and just do the work. So I would say that’s the advice. And what’s what’s funny is I given that advice. And then a few years later, I started doing this for real, like I started doing this as a business. And so he was my first customer. So he was my customer before I did this as a business. And so I asked him after a few years. And I said, Michael, what is the best advice I ever gave you. And I expect them give me some wisdom that I gave him over the years. And he said the best advice that he gave me was in the very beginning, when he told me to just take two days of  every quarter to think about my business. The reason why he said that was the best advice is because he created that space. And then it’s like putting a big rock in the stream. And everything the water flows around the big rock, you said early on, you gave me that habit, Patrick, I put that big rock in the stream, and the water flows around it. And then through thick or thin, tough days, good days, we always met. And so he’s done 96-98 planning sessions since the last 24 years, he’s never missed a single two day quarterly, get together with his executive team. And  to me, that’s the best the best. Because I don’t know what’s going to happen in their business. You know, I don’t know if they’re going to see, I know what’s going to happen. But I know. They don’t get together to work on it, think about it, they’re gonna miss it. And then the second thing I would say is if you can get yourself a coach, I mean, get someone to help you look at stuff. It’s always good. I mean, the best athletes in the world have coaches and I think I think people make the mistake of thinking that getting a coach may be a weakness, when really the best players the best sportsman, they all have multiple coaches and look even agreed Steve Jobs had a fantastic coach on his side. So we all need coaches.

 Matt Wolach  24:17

So true. I love it. And I agree wholeheartedly. I have a coach, i The people who come to me, they’re looking for great coaching. So I think it’s really really powerful what you can do with a great coach, couldn’t said it better myself. So Patrick, how can everybody learn more about you and Rhythm Systems?

 Patrick Thean  24:32

you can come to I have a free strategy execution assessment there. You can take that and help you learn about yourself and your company. You know, I think if you can learn more about yourself, figure out what you need to do. You can get one step closer to your destination in your dreams.

 Matt Wolach  24:49

Okay, perfect. So we’ll put that link into the show notes. So if you’re listening, if you’re watching on YouTube, definitely check that out. But, Patrick, this has been fantastic. Thanks for coming on.

 Patrick Thean  24:58

Thank you very much.

Matt Wolach  25:00

Absolutely and everybody out there. Thank you for being here. Really appreciate it. Once again, make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss any other amazing wisdom like what Patrick just shared with us. So hit that and you’ll be good to go. And we’re looking for reviews. So if you think this is good stuff, if you think you’re getting help, please post that we want other people to know about it so they can get help as well. I really appreciate that. And we’ll see you next time. Take care.

Patrick Thean


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