Most founders will come up with following variations of milestones when they get started with their company.
1. Ship beta version of the product by Dec
2. Raise $XXXK in funding
3. Get to $YY in revenue.
Unless there is a team that’s large enough to have each person take on ownership for each of the milestones, the founders are the ones that are responsible for them.
This means that there is little else you can do other than focus on these milestones.
Lets assume you have a cofounder and you split the roles into technical and business.
The technical person takes responsibility for the beta version and the business person for the funding and revenues.
Now a few months in, a new set of responsibilities come forward including managing your board, your mentors, talking to potential partners and others.
Your team has not expanded to take on the executive level challenges, so you still have the 2 cofounders taking on more.
Some of these new tasks are enjoyable – having conversations with partners or mentors for example, so you get “distracted” and the top 3 goals no longer get enough time. That’s when you realize you need a to-dont list.
A few weeks go by and you hopefully realize you are behind and try to catch up, this time removing the new tasks on your list and replacing them with items on the top 3 milestones.
The problem is getting to the new items is tough until you have enough folks on the team who can take on the high level, cross functional priorities.
Here are the top 5 tips I have learned to come up with milestones that you can manage. You may have heard about SMART goals, so I am going to skip that portion and assume you already do that.
1.One person per milestone. You cannot have joint owners for a milestone. Even if you and your co founder are “two peas in a pod” and “complete each others sentences”, have only one person assigned to each milestone. You will achieve greater accountability that way.
2. One milestone per person. If you have more than one milestone assigned to a person, reduce the number of milestones. Obviously if you are a solo founder, that means work on one thing at a time until you have a management team to help you take tasks off the plate.
3. Milestones cannot be overloaded. Milestones need to be specific enough for one area of work. If your milestone reads “raise a seed round and ship version 1 of the product”, that’s 2 different milestones with responsibilities for 2 different people.
4. Milestones need to have a specific date, and be reviewed weekly. To track your progress, I have found that a weekly review works better than daily or monthly. During the weekly review, you need to understand the tasks and projects that make up the milestone and understand where the blockers are with an “plan B” for any blocker.
5. The owner of the milestone needs to have cross-functional authority. You may have silo functional ownership of roles but most milestones, if they are important have cross- functional impact. So if you need to ship a beta version of the product, the owner of the milestone may need to get customer access from another person and market data from a 3rd person. Even if they are peer’s for the success of the milestone, the owner needs to have full authority to help get the resources to get the milestone done on time. This ensures that even if you have to transition from a role of control to a role of influence, you still have the ability to execute on the milestone.