• Ralph

Business Plan Writing: Key Milestones & Dates

Updated: May 14, 2020

"Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” - Nelson Mandela

In this, our final article for writing a detailed business plan. Your business plan and supporting timeline proposals get a roadmap that will guide your company along the path toward realizing the objectives you’ve set for yourself.

The rest of your plan set the groundwork, describing what your business would be, the market it was entering, and your sales and marketing strategies. It provided both internal and external data analysis, key figures, and research to support your business intentions.

Now, in the end, you need to write the plan for your plan. These are critical milestones your business will be working toward to deliver on the promises you’re making to potential investors throughout the rest of the business plan document.

The format of this section is up to you. Just be sure that you’re writing is clear and that your milestones are realistic. You don’t want to lose your readers at the very end with vague, or worse, absurdly ambitious planning that is doomed to failure.

What Makes a Good Milestone?

First and foremost, milestones should be achievable, have an owner assigned, and a target end-date. That doesn’t mean they should be easy. Dates and critical events aren’t beneficial if they don’t require a business to push themselves to achieve them. Attainable means within the realm of possibility for a company that’s doing its best to meet its objectives.

Milestones also need to be measurable. Without pre-established metrics that you can judge yourself against there’s no way to chart your progress or determine when you have met a milestone activity. After all, you want to celebrate success too!

How Do You Determine Which Milestones to Include?

It’s good to approach milestones from a short-term and a long-term perspective. If your business were a building, you could think of long-term activities and milestones as each successive floor.

Each one represents a significant accomplishment or a monumental shift in your company, as you grow your business (in our example, the building to the top floor and roof).

Your short-term milestones then are the stairs leading between, and these are smaller steps that lead you in the direction of your broader business goals.

To begin to identify your milestones, ask yourself what your short-term and long-term goals are.

  • What are your business growth plans?

  • What are your customer acquisition targets?

  • Will you be launching new products, recruiting additional staff, or opening new locations?

  • How are you planning to scale?

  • Are you looking at a joint venture, possible business acquisitions, or maybe global expansion?

If you plan to open a chain of restaurants, a long-term milestone might be to open your second restaurant within three years. How do you get there?

First, you might work to build a staff in your first location that can handle day to day operations so that you don’t need to be involved. That is a short-term milestone. It’s a stepping stone to your large island. You would then likely focus on financing and acquiring the ideal location.

Be Specific and Look to the Future

Make sure to identify dates and metrics for success rigorously. Avoid vagueness. If your GPS told you the directions you needed to turn but didn’t tell you where or when. What is the likelihood you’d get to your destination? Milestones need to be explicit and time-bound.

Look to your passions and set visionary goals. Your milestones should be realistic, but they also need to inspire you. They need to give you something meaningful to shoot for in the future. They should be simultaneously your destination and your motivation.

However, don’t imagine that your goals are etched in stone. It’s impossible to predict future issues or opportunities. Your milestones should be flexible so that they can respond to unexpected circumstances.

As you track milestone progress, remember that it’s okay to fall a bit short. The dates and measures you chose are adaptable to your circumstances. However, if you find yourself falling behind considerably, reassessing your plan might be necessary and ambitions.

Your Business Plan is Finished!

If you followed our eight-step process, you should have a fully-comprehensive business plan written with financial projections. Investor ready and in a fit state for perusal by banks, business partners, and potential investors.