Why Every Entrepreneur Should Graduate from 5th Grade (A LOT)

businessman on top of a stairs holding a red flag

Last week, my son Max graduated from elementary school. [I actually wrote the beginning of this post a few years ago, so Max didn’t just graduate from elementary school…but please bear with me since the morale of the story will help your business.]

As you might expect, this turned into a major event….a graduation ceremony at school…graduation parties…a graduation luncheon at my house, and so on.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all of this, and Max did even more. So it was all worth it. But did he really deserve all this hoopla?

I think Max did. He worked really hard in elementary school, got really good grades, and every one of his teachers said great things about him (most importantly that he’s always nice to and helps the other kids).

But did every kid deserve the celebration? Clearly not. Some of the kids were troublemakers throughout elementary school and disrupted their classes. And some of the kids didn’t work hard at all.

But even these kids got congratulated and were part of the party.

So what’s my point?

My point is this — whenever you reach a milestone, you need to celebrate. In the kids’ case this is pretty much a “gimme” milestone. I mean, it’s pretty hard not to achieve it. I mean, even the worst kids are able to graduate fifth grade, right?

Let me explain some more, starting with the definition of the word “milestone.”

1. a stone  functioning as a milepost.
2. a significant event or stage in the life, progress, development, or the like of a person, nation, etc.

Clearly we’re dealing with the second definition here. Milestones are “a significant event or stage in the life, progress, development, or the like of a person.”

Graduating from fifth grade is clearly a significant event showing progress and development.

But let’s now apply this to our businesses as entrepreneurs and business owners.

Milestones in our case are “significant events or stages in the life, progress, development, or the like of our business.”

So, what milestones do we have in our businesses? Well here are a few:

* Incorporating our business
* Developing our first product/service
* Getting our first customer
* Hiring our first employee
* Reaching $1 million in sales
* Reaching $1 million in EBITDA
* Etc.

Now here’s the problem. Most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t clearly define their milestones nor celebrate them. And as a result, they often fail to achieve them, and even if they do, they don’t get the full value from them. The full value comes from celebrating them which boosts your morale and the morale of your team.

So, what should you do about this? Here’s what I do:

1) Define at least one milestone that can be achieved every month

What milestone could you achieve this month? Getting your 100th customer? Breaking $100K in sales? Creating a new product? Launching a new customer service initiative?

If you think about it, there are tons of goals you can set and milestones you can achieve every month.

2) Celebrate your achievement of milestones

Do you need to have a huge party each time your company achieves a milestone? Clearly not, but you must do something.

A couple weeks ago, our team successfully launched a new product. This was a nice milestone for us, and required lots of effort from nearly everyone. So, we celebrated with a box of cookies from a nearby bakery.

Nothing mind blowing, but enough to 1) say thanks to the team, and 2) make us all feel special that we accomplished something cool.

And what did that do psychologically in each of our minds? It made us want to achieve more goals and conquer more milestones.

3) Look for and celebrate hidden milestones

Importantly, each of our companies realize milestones that we often don’t even know about such as serving our 25th customer. Or hiring our 25th employee. Or completing our 2nd full year in business. Or getting a link or mention on a prominent website or blog. Or having a customer submit a glowing testimonial to our customer service teams.

As the manager of your business, you should always be on the lookout for these milestones, and celebrate achieving them. Once again, this will boost morale and performance.

The school system seems to have gotten the milestone thing down pretty well. Every year the kids reach a new milestone by completing a grade, and are rewarded with a long summer off. And then they get bigger celebrations when they graduate from elementary school, then middle school, then high school, and then college.

And after that, people celebrate personal milestones such as getting their first job, getting their first house, getting married, having kids, etc.

But rarely are they celebrating  milestones achieved in their businesses. And as a result, their performance at work is a fraction of what it could be.

So, make sure that your company is not like all the others who fail to spot and celebrate milestones…doing so will give you a real competitive advantage…you’re employees will be happier and more productive, and more people will want to join your company.


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