Using Milestones to Achieve Your Small Business Goals

Updated: May 18, 2020

Woohoo! Your small business is up and running and you couldn't be more excited.

And also a little scared. Or maybe a lot scared.

It can feel incredibly overwhelming to start a business. From business plans to projections to location to building permits to market research to financing, there's a LOT on your business owner plate. So, when you set your 1-, 3- 5- even 10-year goals, you may be tempted to look at them and sigh. Such an incredible amount of work to even hope to achieve them.

How can you make your business goals feel more achievable?

This article from the SBA talks about the importance of setting clearly defined business goals. But how can you help yourself see those goals as less overwhelming and more achievable? The answer is milestones, those fantastic little mini-moves that break your goals into manageable and attainable components. Think of milestones as a way to reshape your goal into the logical conclusion of a series of action items.

Let's say your year-end goal is to grow from 87 to 1,000 social media followers. You may stare at your phone and wonder how on earth you're ever going to make that happen, with the posting and the commenting and the monitoring and the branding. But, creating milestones you can hit throughout the year eliminates the pressure of a singular, looming number. Break it down into the actions you need to take on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis.

In this example, your first milestone should be research. You'll want to discover when your target audience is online, what types of content they prefer and which social media channel they're more likely to use. Make completing that research by a certain day your first milestone. Next, you may want to look into free content management tools to help automate your posting. Make that research and the decision as to whether you'll use a tool your next milestone. After that, you'll probably create a network on your social media channel, finding content you can re-post, commenting on other posts, and building your brand awareness. There's your next milestone. You would continue taking these small steps to organically grow your followers, perhaps setting monthly follower goals as well.

When creating milestones, you are essentially creating a map, working back from your overall goal, of action items required to get you to that goal.

pen and day calendar
Working backwards from your overall goal to identify the action items you'll need to complete is the key to creating effective milestones.

Creating milestones doesn't have to be time-consuming.

  1. When you're planning out your goals, list out all of the actions that need to happen to get your business there.

  2. Use that to create clearly defined action items, focusing on the most critical ones. Avoid being too vague. You'll need your milestones to stay on target. If you have staff, assign milestones as appropriate.

  3. Assign definitive due dates to your action items. Doing so will help keep you on course and prevent you from investing too much time in activities that won't help your business reach its goal.

  4. Use a calendar, task reminder, phone alerts or whatever mechanism suits you to plot out your milestones.

If you have staff, take time to get their buy-in not only on your business goals, but why achieving their milestones is so critical. Check out this post for more on engaging your staff.

Once you've created your milestones, it's incredibly important to remember that flexibility is paramount. Your business goals may change. Circumstances may necessitate a shift in priorities. The key is to continually revisit your milestones to determine not only whether you're meeting them but also to assess if they are still relevant to your goal.


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