The key is to set well-defined goals and evaluate your performance against them to make sure you’re on the right track. When you choose clear company milestones to achieve in your first year, you can create a solid foundation for growth and success.
What are company milestones?
Company milestones are specific outcomes or goals you aim to achieve as part of your business strategy. That is, short-term measurable goals to tick off along the way to your larger goals.
Good business milestones should include the following:
- Measurable results
- Expected completion date
- Clear accountability
- Budget allocation
Here’s an example of a milestone that meets those standards:
Goal: Outsource monthly bookkeeping by March 31, 2022
Budget: $500 a month
How can you use company milestones?
Start with a business plan that describes your company’s objectives and how you will achieve them. As part of this planning process, develop a business strategy—an action plan to meet your objectives.
Next, decide on the business tactics you’ll use to carry out your strategy. Here’s an example:
Strategy: Increase sales to working adults.
Tactic: Use advertising methods.
Company milestones allow you to implement your business tactics by breaking them into measurable goals. Here are two milestones for the above example:
- The founder to run five targeted Facebook advertising campaigns by March 31, 2022. Budget: $1,500.
- The founder to start a daily Google advertising campaign on April 1, 2022, for 30 days. Budget: $50 per day.
Here’s how business milestones can help you.
Track your company’s performance
Entrepreneurs are usually overloaded with day-to-day business activities, so you might feel tempted to move progress-tracking to the backseat. But tracking your performance against company milestones is imperative to guide your small business or startup in the right direction.
Aim to review your important milestones once in two weeks during the first three months and monthly thereafter. That way, you can see how the business is performing against your goals and overall strategy and address any issues before they become fatal.
Sometimes, the milestones you’ve set earlier may no longer be realistic, or you may have discovered better goals. If so, you can always update them.
Create accountability within the organization
As discussed earlier, good company milestones need to have a responsible party. Well-defined responsibilities allow you to create accountability within your organization from the start. It will also allow you to delegate tasks instead of overloading yourself.
If a goal isn’t achieved by the due date, you can review it with the person in charge of the milestone and address any issues.
10 company milestones for the first year
Here’s a list of goals growth-oriented entrepreneurs should aim for in their first year of business.
1. Create a monthly budget
Timeline: one month
A monthly budget will help you manage your finances efficiently and remind you of your spending limits. With a plan in place, you can set aside funds for your company milestones and business activities throughout the year.
Budgeting may seem hard in the first year because you don’t have any previous financials for guidance. For now, aim to estimate your income and expenses to the best of your knowledge. You can adjust your budgets once you have more information.
Here are a few items to estimate for your budget:
- Fixed costs, variable costs, and any one-time costs
- An allowance for unforeseen costs
- Profits (or losses)
There are many free templates you can use to create your business budget. If you need more help, see our How-To Guide for Creating a Business Budget.
2. Execute your marketing strategy
Timeline: one month
Start by creating a marketing strategy. This is your overall plan to increase sales and achieve your business objectives. Next, implement your marketing strategy starting from the first month to generate revenue as soon as possible.
To carry out your marketing strategy, you can create a marketing plan with specific goals, such as:
- Start a social media marketing campaign aimed at your target audience.
- Grow your Facebook group to 1,000 members.
- Create a referral program to motivate customers to promote your products.
3. Make your first sale
Timeline: one month
The next milestone is to make that important (and exciting) first sale!
Sales are important to make money. But the first sale will also boost your confidence because you’ll know people are willing to pay for your goods or services. Remember not to count sales to your family and friends trying to support you.
To build a successful business, you must sell to your target audience beyond your close circle.
4. Start bookkeeping and accounting
Timeline: from the first month
Establishing a clear bookkeeping system from the start can save you a lot of work down the road. With reliable financials, you can avoid unpleasant surprises, such as realizing you don’t have money to pay your upcoming bills.
By staying on top of your numbers, you can also avoid the stress of catch-up bookkeeping during tax time.
Here are a few things you must do:
- Keep good records of all your transactions
- Track all your income and expenses.
- Monitor your cash flow.
- Create the three main financial statements every month—income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.
If you want to do it yourself, good bookkeeping software can help, but if you aren’t excited about numbers, you can outsource your bookkeeping to professionals like Bench (that’s us).
Similarly, hire an accountant from the start. A CPA can analyze your monthly numbers and help you make good financial decisions. They can also prepare your taxes and help you get the maximum tax benefits.
5. Hire your first team members
Timeline: one to three months
A skilled team will help you lead your company to success. Hire a team that aligns with your vision, and develop your own company culture.
How many team members you must hire will depend on your business and budget. At a minimum, hire the critical personnel you need for now.
Here are some ways to find potential team members:
- Reach out to recruiters.
- Advertise on job boards.
- Post on LinkedIn.
- Advertise on Facebook groups—depending on your industry.
Learn more: How to Hire Employees: 11 Tips for a Great Hiring Process
6. Outsource skills you don’t have in-house
Timeline: one to three months
As a new company, you may not have the capacity to hire employees for every service you need. Nowadays, you can outsource many tasks to professional organizations or hire freelancers.
Outsourcing can also save you money because you don’t have to spend on employee benefits, infrastructure, training programs, or equipment. Other benefits include the flexibility to find skilled professionals when you need them and the advantages of time differences.
Here are a few areas you can get outsourced support:
- Web development and design
- Bookkeeping and accounting
- Administrative tasks
Depending on your business model, you may be able to outsource most of your tasks.
7. Get repeat customers
Timeline: three months
Finding new customers is costly and can take time, so it often makes sense to hang on tight to the ones you’ve got. Prioritizing repeat customers is an important business milestone because they will save you money.
Repeat customers are also a great source of referrals. If they like your products and services, they will be loyal customers and free promoters of your business.
Here are a few ways to make sure your customers return:
- Solicit feedback, and address any issues right away.
- Make sure your customer service is solid—be helpful and respond quickly. * Streamline customer experience with an up-to-date website and landing pages.
- Create a loyalty program with discounts.
8. Grow your brand
Timeline: six months
It’s important to establish your brand in your industry to increase revenue. With a solid marketing strategy and marketing plan, you can grow your brand from the first year.
Here are some ideas to help you grow your brand:
- Create a strong social media presence and post consistently.
- Define your company’s voice and stick to it.
- Start a blog on your website and create content that solves your target audience’s problems.
- Get testimonials from your customers.
- Stay consistent with your templates, logos, and color schemes across platforms.
9. Increase your sales
Timeline: eight to 12 months
Revenue is an important metric for small business growth and success. To become profitable and cash-rich, you must first generate revenue.
Typically, your sales numbers will be relatively small early on, so increasing your sales by a large number is a key goal for later in the first year.
Have a specific number you want to increase your sales by, depending on your business. For example, you may decide that you want sales to increase by 50% after eight months.
Make sure your marketing strategy and marketing plan cover tactics to help you achieve this significant increase in sales. You may decide to increase your advertising budget or launch a new product or service.
Note: while revenue is an important metric of success, it’s not the only one. Check out our blog on revenue vs. profit to learn more!
10. Analyze the performance of the year
Timeline: 12 months
It’s time to analyze the results of your hard work. That way, you can see your successes and take corrective action to fix any issues. Evaluating the year gone by will help you determine company milestones for the next year.
Here are a few ways to see how you fared:
- Track your performance against your budget.
- Analyze your sales, costs, and profits and their monthly changes.
- Analyze your cash flow.
- Review customer feedback and testimonials on all platforms.
- Organize performance evaluations for your team.
How Bench can help
Monitoring and analyzing your financials is a key business goal to making sure you are on the path to success. But what if you’re not a fan of numbers or you don’t have the time?
Bench provides monthly bookkeeping services to small business owners like you. Your dedicated bookkeeper provides you with the accurate financials you need to make better strategic decisions for your business. If tax isn’t your favorite subject, we can handle that too. Learn more about our team of experts.
Implementing your company milestones
A well-planned list of company milestones can be a roadmap for your first year in business.
Here are a few next steps to get started on your goals:
- Organize your business milestones in one place. Using a tool like Asana or Google Drive makes it easy to revisit and review your goals.
- Revisit your business strategy. Make sure your goals are aligned with your overall strategy.
- Check if all business partners agree with the company milestones. Everyone in the business, including your team, should be on board with the company goals.
- Get a business mentor. If all things around your new company are daunting, a business mentor can help guide you, especially in the initial stages. See our guide on how to find the right mentor.
By creating well-defined goals and tracking your performance against them, you can grow your company into a profitable business.