Small business advice: Five milestones to celebrate

You’ve put in the long hours and made numerous sacrifices to nurture your fledgling business. And while it’s easy to get swept up by the momentum you’ve built, it’s important to sit back and take stock of how far you’ve come every now and then.

Don’t lose sight of the little things that have led to your success. Here, we share small business advice with five milestones worthy of celebration along your journey.

Your first customer. Before the days of cashless payments, small businesses often framed their first £5 note to symbolise their first revenue moment. For your business, this may be the time you take a chip and pin payment or the first online order you process. No matter how it happens, savour the moment you land your first customer. It most likely took a lot of hard work and perseverance to get to that point, and the first sale is the ultimate business milestone that you should revisit often.

Your first hire. Hiring your first employee, whether an intern or full-time staff, is a leap of faith. According to recent research by Sandler training, bad hires cost UK businesses £14,000 each year. That said, a strong and trustworthy team is a prerequisite if you want to grow. Relish the moment you hired your first employee as a reminder of how difficult but worthwhile the hiring process can be.

Your first failure. This may sound counterintuitive, but failure is the cornerstone of entrepreneurship. No great success was ever achieved without failure. After all, it took Thomas Edison 10,000 attempts to create a light bulb and James Dyson 5,126 tries to invent a bag-less vacuum cleaner. Whether it’s a lost customer or a missed partnership, failure is perfectly acceptable, especially because that may be what boosts your journey to the top. As a lesson in business excellence, think of your first failure as a milestone to keep you on your toes. When you make a business mistake, the worst thing you can do is try to sweep it under the rug. In the words of Henry Ford, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Embrace mistakes, learn from them, and then move on.

Your first super-digit turnover. You’ve developed a profitable business model, created a scalable strategy and built the perfect team. While you’re on pace for long-term success, make sure to avoid complacency by setting a milestone figure in number of sales or revenue. Determine an ambitious, yet achievable monetary figure – whether it’s your first £10,000, or £1 million in revenue – based on your industry, current performance, market share and scale. Remember, having a goal will help keep you on course. Once you pass your first sales milestone, don’t be afraid to scale up! Make revenue milestones something your entire team can work together to achieve.

Your business anniversary. The sobering truth is that half of all new UK businesses fail within the first few years of setting up. Every year you’re in business is a year closer to sustained growth, so enjoy every new year with your team. Whether you give yourself and your company a day off, go on a company outing, or simply buy your team a round of cocktails at happy hour, make sure you mark the occasion every year. Soon you and your team will start to look forward to these occasions to have fun, and will be that much more motivated to get to the next big milestone.

Ultimately, your bravery in venturing out on your own should be celebrated. Your business success is what separates you from the ‘wantrepreneurs’. If you feel that you are doing the right thing with your life when you wake up each morning that in itself is worth cherishing. After all, an essential quality in successful business leaders is honouring success and celebrating milestones on the road to success.

If you’re thinking about starting a business, or you’ve already made the first steps, we’re here to help. We’ve got free expert business advice, tips and guidance to support you at every stage.