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  • Writer's pictureJim McCreary

Setting Milestones

There seems to be an almost unbelievable rate of failure in new businesses today. While information is available everywhere from the internet to schools, government publications, courses, seminars and more… something seems to go missing. Never in history has more been available to those with ideas and anyone who wants to pursue the dream of owning their own business or enterprise. Yet in spite of the overload of information - so much of it even offered free to the taker- so many businesses fail within the first year or two. Even with programs providing startup funding and available capital, too many fail.

There must be more to success in business than just a good idea and so much energy… more than just dreams and desire. Looking at it over years of working with businesses it seems as though some very fundamental things are missing. In some cases right from the start. The first being that businesses succeed when they are driven by consumers… not so much by what the business owner wants to sell alone, but by matching a desire from the consumer. There remain three main issues that must be addressed and identified at the start of every enterprise and must remain central to all other activities for a company to be successful.

It comes in two parts. The first is the building or formation of a base business model that needs to address three main components or ingredients;

  1. Who is your client?

  2. What does your client need and value?

  3. How can you deliver that need at the right/fair price?

Once these basics are answered you are at the first step toward creating a business. For too many business owners, they think this is the end goal, when in reality it is just the start, and there are many steps beyond this to keep them on track to gain success.

Once these are established and the other part of business setup is out of the way, successful leaders and business owners begin to set goals or ‘milestones’ to meet - targets that help them gauge their success and keep them on course. These come under a number of titles or names, but they all serve the same purpose. They are like milestones, measuring how you and your business are moving forward toward your goals. They can measure any number of things - from your first paying customer, to your first million dollars, the first full time employee hired, first call-in customer, first referral, or any multiple of those things. What is important is that you have milestones that are indicators of growth that mean something to you and your business. They mark your progress. They must be measurable… and you must keep track of them!

Imagine for a moment being dropped off in the jungle - no maps, no trail, no indicators of where you are… no clear sign of where you are going … no good source of light. All you know is somewhere out there is a reward. How long could you wander before burning out… before giving up… before falling down … before the end? Business is like that. You need to know where you are going, markers that show where you have gone, how far you have traveled, where you turned, where you went right or wrong … so you don't repeat the mistake… and you can reach your goals.

So what happens when you set a milestone and don't make it?

For some people, that is the point they fall down and quit. They give up. For the successful, they look closely at why they missed the mark. And adapt. They reset the mark… and set a new goal. Did they overestimate or underwork? Was it actually achievable or not a realistic mark? Do they have the tools necessary to reach their goals? Do they need additional tools… or maybe additional skills? It is a reality check for many. Often it is a time of reflection to revisit the goals for both themselves and their company, and for teams where involved, to reassess and create a new plan. For the unsuccessful, it can be a turning point where they quit.

Whatever milestone you are at… look ahead to the next one. Honestly assess where you are and how you need to adapt to reach the next one. Learn from any mistake you can identify that happened to this point. Be honest with yourself and your team. Learn and grow.

Continue to set milestones… and continue to learn as you go. Learn and adapt. In all you do, remember to put customers first. You always need to meet their needs, and find better ways to serve them - ahead of yourself. As you create milestones, always reflect on how they affect your clients or customers, and how those relationships will be made better. In the long run, they are your end goal.

So why don’t companies hit milestones?

  1. They set them with no real purpose

  2. They forget to keep them in their sights

  3. They forget the purpose is to serve their customers


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