One of the absolute keys to a successful business plan is to create the right business plan milestones. Doing so is essential to securing investors and making real progress towards achieving your goals.
The story below illustrates the importance of business plan milestones, after which is some guidance regarding how you can create the right business plan milestones for your company.
There are lots of things that all of us do, and do as well as we have to, without thinking.
Like pumping gas.
I just pumped gas this morning. And thought nothing of it. Until now.
The fact is that I didn't just pump gas. Sure, the entire process of what I did was called pumping gas. But I did a lot of things that made up that process.
1. I pulled into the gas station.
2. I pulled next to a pump.
3. I put the car in park.
4. I turned off my engine.
5. I got out of the car.
6. I popped open the gas flap.
7. I swiped my credit card into the machine.
8. I typed in my zip code.
9. I pressed the button for the type of gas I wanted.
10. I unscrewed the gas cap.
11. I took the gas nozzle out of the machine and stuck it into my gas tank.
12. I squeezed the lever.
13. I waited while the tank filled up.
14. I put the gas nozzle back into the machine.
15. I pressed "no" I don't want a receipt.
16. I screwed my gas cap back on.
17. I shut the gas flap.
18. I got back in my car.
19. I turned on the engine.
20. I put the car in drive.
21. I drove off.
Wow. I did 21 things just to pump gas?
So who cares? Well, investors care. And partners care. And the success of your business cares.
Let me explain.
Your business is currently at point A. Where you want to go is to point B. Now getting from point A to point B requires you to complete milestones.
And the most important milestones are what I call "risk mitigating milestones." These are the milestones the help eliminate the risk of your company failing.
Let me give you some examples. For Google in its early days, risk milestones included completing their initial result ranking algorithms, getting customer to start using its search engine, and generating revenues.
Obviously once Google was generating a lot of revenues, it was not a very risky investment. But before customers starting using Google.com, it was very risky. And before its initial algorithms were developed, it was even riskier.
Every business has risk mitigating milestones. Investors obviously prefer to back businesses where more risk milestones have been removed. I know I do.
Would you prefer to back a restauranteur who just has a vision for a new restaurant; or would you rather back that same restauranteur after the ideal location has been determined, the restaurant has been built, the staff has been hired and trained, the local newspapers have given it a great review, and the restaurant now has 250 loyal patrons and is booming every night?
It is your job as an entrepreneur to identify your risk mitigating milestones. And not only do you have to identify them, but you need to prioritize them. So that every day you are spending quality time working to accomplish them (and not spending time doing things like replying to emails that seem to be adding value; but which don't actually put you closer to accomplishing your risk milestones).
But, actually, you can't work on completing your risk mitigating milestones each day until you break up each of these milestones into much smaller projects. For example, Google creating its initial algorithm and a restauranteur finding an ideal location are great milestones, but way too large to accomplish on a daily basis.
Each milestone needs to be broken down into numerous chunks; chunks that can be completed every day, and progress made. It's like writing a book. If you write one page every day, by the end of the year, you'll have a 365 page book.
And it's like pumping gas. You need to do a ton of smaller things in order to accomplish the big thing. And like with pumping gas, when you spend the time breaking the task into pieces, you often see how easy each piece is to accomplish.
Developing risk mitigating milestones is an absolutely essential component of your business plan, and belongs in your Operations Plan section. Investors need to understand these milestones and your projected timeline for accomplishing them. You need to understand them to prioritize your time and hire the right people at the right time.
If you still need to complete your business plan, let me send you my CD with seven more essential business plan secrets. I explain why I'm doing this and how you can get it now, on this page right here:
I recently recorded a CD with my 7 best business plan secrets.
This new 54-minute CD reveals my 7 best-kept secrets for how you can create a successful business plan that attracts capital and positions your company for success.
After listening to my CD, you'll be far ahead of your competition because you'll have critical knowledge and skills, such as:
- How to make sure your business plan actually gets read
- Why having lots of competitors can be a GOOD thing
- What investors really look for in your business plan
...and more time-tested strategies that I've used to help Growthink clients raise millions of dollars in capital, build ultra-successful businesses, and achieve multi-million dollar exits.
You can get all the details, here: http://www.growthink.com/seven-secrets
Watch my video review of the book below:
Entrepreneurs must have many skills. They must be able to spot opportunities. They must be able to create plans to seize those opportunities. And they must execute on those plans.
And, for most opportunities, and clearly for those opportunities that are really big, execution involves hiring and managing employees. Because no single entrepreneur can do everything themselves.
But you just can't have any employees. Companies that succeed have employees that are highly motivated.
So how do you ensure that your employees are motivated to succeed?
Clearly, giving them fair salaries helps. And clearly, stock options that allow employees to benefit when the company benefits are good practice.
But, there is an even better way. In fact, authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton in their book, The Carrot Principle, found a better way.
Where did they come up with this better way? Well, they conducted a study involving 200,000 people over a ten-year period.
Importantly, their study showed that the key characteristic of the most successful entrepreneurial managers is that they provide their employees with frequent and effective recognition.
That's right, significantly better business results were realized when managers offered recognition in the form of constructive praise and meaningful rewards (typically non-monetary).
The authors found that recognition is most effective when it is:
Carrots are needed to motivate employees. But what I found most interesting about the author's findings was that recognition is more effective than monetary rewards. This is a critical finding for all managers, and particularly entrepreneurial managers who typically operate in cash-restrained environments.
The authors created a "Recognition Frequency Log" that you can use to keep track of how you recognize your employees and for what. You can download it here: http://carrots.com/managers_tools/downloads/recognition_frequency_log
Knowing how to motivate your employees will allow you to build a team that is as passionate about success as you are. And this will ultimately lead to your company achieving its goals. So, while it may not seem like a mission-critical focus today, it's definitely worth your time and effort. So don't delay...
Do you remember the Faberge Shampoo television commercial from the 1980s?
The one in which the woman says, "I told two friends about Faberge Shampoo, and they told two friends, and they told two friends and so on, and so on..."
Now imagine this happened to your product or service....that one buyer told two more buyers, who told two more buyers, and so on, and so on. Your revenues would go through the roof, and with virtually no marketing expense.
Ah, the entrepreneur's dream.
Unfortunately, I actually categorize this as a "dream" because I don't think any company can count on this type of viral marketing. Even if your product or service is that great, there's no guarantee that people will refer it to their friends.
But you CAN change that.
You can maximize the chance that people will refer your product or service if 1) you make it really easy for them, and 2) you give them the right incentives. In fact, employing a proven referral marketing program can be your most cost-effective marketing tool.
To learn more about referral marketing programs and other cool, cutting-edge marketing techniques, I interviewed Trevor Shanski, the founder of eWORDofMOUTH Inc.
I was not only interested in interviewing Trevor because eWORDofMOUTH seemed so cool, but because I knew Trevor was such a great executor. Specifically, in his previous position as COO of Warehouse One Ltd., he helped grow the company from 13 local stores to 108 national stores, and grew revenues to nearly $100 million in sales.
In the interview, Trevor provided some great tips on referral marketing including:
- What you need before you generate referrals: all you need are current customer and/or prospects
- The key requirement to get people to refer your business to them: they must be satisfied with you or they will not refer you
- How to reward people for giving you referrals: give them something of value; but that something doesn't necessarily have to cost you anything
- Tips to generate the most possible revenues via referrals: give rewards that encourage them to buy even more from you; for example, if you give them discount coupons, redeeming them would increase your sales
Trevor also gave some great tips on improving your email marketing success including citing the importance of personalizing your emails to recipients and to keep an eye on your open rates in order to determine the right frequency of your emails.
Importantly, Trevor gave me a private demo of the eWORDofMOUTH platform which combines email marketing with referral marketing into one, simple-to-use system. The system also allows for text messaging and multi-location emailing (i.e., if you have multiple business locations, you can centrally manage and customize emails to customers of each location) making it extremely powerful.
As you can imagine, by using eWORDofMOUTH, you can generate a significantly higher ROI on your marketing dollars than traditional marketing methods.
To see a demonstration of eWORDofMOUTH's system for yourself, click here.
Growthink University members can listen to the full interview with Trevor Shanski and/or download the transcript here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/356.cfm.
Not only does the interview cover referral marketing, email marketing and mobile media marketing, but I got Trevor to reveal his secrets to operational success (as mentioned, as COO of his last company, he grew it to nearly $100 million in revenues) and how he developed a highly-impressive, nine-person Board of Advisors.
To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle in the player below:
Below is the transcript of my talk – “Where Will We All Be in 2019,” delivered at Growthink’s 10-Year Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, October 22nd at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles.
You can view the video of my talk, along with Growthink co-Founder David Lavinsky’s remarks, via following this link:
Also please register for my Thursday webinar,where I review private company investing trends and opportunities.
Click here for more info and to register.
I look forward to your feedback, to connecting and to another 10 great years!
Follow me on Twitter
Join my network on LinkedIn
"Dave, thank you very much for your review of lessons learned these past 10 years and thanks to everyone for attending tonight and sharing this milestone accomplishment with us. Particularly want to thank Rocio Melgar and Melissa Welch for all of their hard work and energy in putting this event together.
Before I dive into my “Where Will be in 2019 predictions, I would like to share a couple of stories with you. First one about a very, very famous and successful entrepreneur and angel investor and secondly, the story of how I got involved with Growthink.
As many of you know, Jeff Bezos was one of the early investors in Google. Yes, that Jeff Bezos. Founder of Amazon.com. #33 on last year’s Forbes’ 400 with a net worth of over $8.7 billion.
Here is the backdrop:
In 1998 when Google’s offices were a Menlo Park, California garage - Bezos invested $250,000 of personal funds into the fledgling search engine.
When Google went public in 2004, that $250,000 investment translated into 3.3 million shares of Google stock. And a stock share position worth over $280 million!
While he does not disclose how many of those shares he still holds, at the current price of Google stock they would represent an investment position of over $1.5 billion.
So why did Bezos invest in Google? In his words, “…There was no business plan…They had a vision. It was a customer-focused point of view.” And he adds, “I just fell in love with Larry and Sergey.”
So, now my story. Before business school and before Growthink I owned an ice cream business on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It was a very nice life. I worked 4-5 months out of the year, lived in a beautiful place (Cape Cod), and did work that was heck a lot of fun. At age 30, I was all set. I had a business, a car, a house, and a girlfriend.
But then, in the summer of 1999, my MBA classmate Dave Lavinsky called me with this idea for a company at the height of the Internet boom. If I just worked with him for a few short months, we would be able to aggregate positions in a bunch of rocket ship gazelle companies – soon to be know as “the next Googles.”
Seemed like a great deal, So, I sold the business, the car, the house, broke up with the girlfriend, packed my bags and headed, Jed Clampett-style – not to Beverly Hills, but to Venice to start Growthink with Dave.
And here I am, 10 years later. With an amazing wife and 2 beautiful children!
And timeless truths remain:
First of All, Think Long Term. Even though Google has been the fastest growth company in the history of capitalism, it was still SIX YEARS from Bezo’s original investment in the company to liquidity. Overnight entrepreneurial successes simply do not exist. While certainly all of us would have liked to have had a Google in our lives by now, as Saint Augustine once said, Patience is the companion of wisdom.
Secondly, Get in Early. Sure, it would have been great to get into Google in 2004 at its IPO price of $85/share, as the shares are up over 500% since then. But Bezos, after adjusting for stock splits, got in at EIGHT CENTS PER SHARE!
The beauty and the allure of entrepreneurship is the opportunity to be a part of something VERY, VERY big very, very early. This is how great fortunes are made.
Third, Invest in People. At the time of Bezo’s investment, there were a large number of very well-funded and successful search engines already on the market. Remember this was 1998 not 1994. Yahoo, Alta Vista, Lycos, Excite, Infoseek to name just a few.
But Bezos was attracted to Page and Brin as people, as technologists, as leaders.
Lesson – we overcomplicate business. Great, talented leaders drive and build businesses. Everything else is secondary.
Fourth, Take Your Shot. For every Jeff Bezos who invested in Google, there are stories of dozens that were presented with the opportunity that did not.
This of course does not mean that the probability of having a Google-like success is anything but very low, but it does mean that it is far greater than the ZERO percent likelihood of success of those that don’t swing the bat.
And Finally, Get Lucky. As hard as it is for many to accept, having fantastic, great luck is a key variable in success.
Success IS assured with thoughtful, disciplined, day-in, day-out hard work. And with hard work as the given, magical success sometimes blooms.
And in the spirit of great luck, let me make my 2019 predictions:
PROBABILITY of 100% - On October 22nd, 2019, if Jay Turo is still of this earth and of animate form, he will be 51 years old.
His 2 sons, Jay Jay and Teddy, now 3 and 2, will be entering their teenage years. Dave Lavinsky’s son Max, whose conception at that particular time and place in 1999 was the magically unpredictable act that led to the founding of Growthink, will be entering his senior year in college.
Growthinker Tristan Sigerson, who started as an intern from UCLA and whose youthful cheer and spirit lifts us daily, will be 36.
Growthinker Jeff Jones, our VP of Business Development, who loves to flaunt his youth and athleticism at us 40-somethings, will be 40 himself.
Only my mother, who traveled here from West Boylston, Massachusetts to be with us tonight, will fight this trend, as she will still be celebrating, as she has for as long as I can remember, her 39th birthday.
Let’s all take a short pause here and reflect on how old YOU will be in 10 years. Does it impart you with a sense of urgency? Of dread? Of disbelief?
PROBABILITY of 90% - The NASDAQ and Dow will be trading at, respectively, above 10,000 and above 30,000.
Why – really quite simple – even getting to those levels will mean a return of less than 5% annually from 1999 to 2019. It points to how poorly the investment markets have performed in the last 10 years. The NASDAQ in particular has performed terribly, down almost 50% from where it was 10 years ago.
In short, all of us in the worlds of technology and entrepreneurship must have a deep and abiding FAITH that in the next 10 years all of the amazing technological progress we have seen and are sure to see more of will result in investment return.
PROBABILITY of 90% - The Fear of the Rise of China Will Be a Thing of the Past – America Will Still Lead the World.
Are you as tired of me as hearing about how China will catch the United States and then surpass it? There is very, very little chance that a society with no free press, with a monolithic educational system, with a totalitarian government, will EVER lead the modern world.
Lest we forget – we live in the information age. This is the age of software. All GREAT software companies – have you noticed – are AMERICAN companies? This is not by accident. Our freedom-loving, creative society is BUILT to birth great technology and great idea companies. Sure, America has problems, but compared to the problems and limitations of every other country and society in the world, we are still by far the most likely place for the companies and ideas that will shape the 21st century to be born and to grow.
PROBABILITY of 90% - The Cloud, The Cloud, The Cloud
Following up on the above, cloud computing will transition from not just being a business model or a business sector, but will become business itself. Even today there really isn’t such a thing as a technology company and a non-technology company – it is a 20th century legacy misnomer. Everything is technology and soon all of it will be run on the ether.
And we will interact with it with via devices and implants and virtual reality machines that today we can only imagine.
PROBABILITY of 100% - Growthink will be a publicly traded company and will have a market capitalization of greater than $1 billion.*
Let me put this bravado in perspective – as a grizzled consultant, as an MBA, as a risk-taker that has been well-trained to see sell all sides of the story, I am very much aware of the challenges and the probabilities.
But as a CEO, as an entrepreneur, I know the power of faith and commitment, that positive momentum is simply force positively applied. Quite simply, by sticking to our original principles – thinking long term, getting in early with charismatic and dynamic entrepreneurs, taking a LOT of shots, and being open to magic in our lives and our professional endeavors, success is assured.
Thank you, enjoy the rest of your evening, and see you in 2019!"
*Do note that as much as all of us would like it to be this is not an investment guarantee. It is, however, a statement of great confidence in the Growthink business model, in our team, and in our growth prospects.