Roughly half of all small businesses in the United States fail within their first five years, often before they have had a chance to hit key business milestones. A milestone is a key event or action in a project or business journey that marks a significant stage of progress.
Milestones are not random goals or tasks that you are unlikely to reach. They are key points or stages in your small business that prove you are making progress. They mark how you have reached the next stage in your business, giving you the ability to see your development and plan for your future growth. Many small businesses that do not plan their milestones are likely to struggle without this key piece of information.
A milestone could be something as simple as landing your first customer or as complicated as releasing a new product into the market. Business milestones typically do not just measure progress, they signal growth to your partners, customers and potential investors. Here are six milestones every small business should strive to achieve to know you are on the right path.
Business Milestone #1: Establish a profitable business model. A business model should tell the story of how your entire business works and how it generates revenue. There are three core questions to ensure you have a solid business model: 1) Who is your client? 2) What does your client value? 3) How do you deliver that value at the right cost while making a profit?
Business Milestone #2: Land your first repeat client. Landing your first repeat client (sometimes called an anchor client) will give you confidence in your business and the motivation you will need to keep going. Develop a relationship with your clients to keep them coming back. It is always better to have one customer buy from you a thousand times than to have a thousand clients who buy from you only once.
Business Milestone #3: Develop a realistic and scalable marketing strategy. Scalable means that you can amplify the effect without amplifying the costs by the same degree. Test out what works and scrap what does not work. Good marketing will require consistency, but great marketing will require you to learn deeper about the needs of your customers.
Business Milestone #4: Hire and train a solid team. You will need to hire and train a team to grow your small business. Give your employees a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities and objectives. The better people feel about what they do, the more they will want to do it well.
Business Milestone #5: Gain authority in your industry. Consider booking speaking engagements and create stellar online content. This will turn you into a sought-after authority in your industry and allow you to grow awareness of your small business over time.
Business Milestone #6: Reach a significant number of sales. Always set a specific goal for your sales. Without a goal, the business will stagnate. Having a goal will help you to continue moving toward your target growth.
Business milestones help a small business see into the future and visualize what success looks like. Creating realistic milestones will help you reach them more quickly than those who do not take the time to plan.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor, and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
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