Business Plan Timeline: How to Prove Your Progress as a Startup
It is a quandary. You are pitching your business and the investors (naturally) want to see your progress, to get a snapshot of where your business is right now. They are looking for your business plan timeline, but there is a problem — you have not done one because the task seems impossible.
You think you have not yet accomplished anything, but maybe you have.
Finding Day 1 in Your Business Plan Timeline
How do you show you are making headway before you are up and running?
The answer might be simpler than you think.
It does not matter if you are a startup, an existing business that is expanding,
or if you want to buy a business. You need to be able to prove that your plans are in motion, even if you are in desperate need of funding to make your plans and vision happen.
The fact is, providing clarity in your business plan timeline will also help your investor discussions. Having a documented picture of business activities and milestones makes for an easier pitch and offers investors a visual that they can quickly interpret.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of obsessing over what they need to do and what they have not yet done; they end up telling investors and lenders loud and clear that “I’m a bad investment because I haven’t done anything yet.”
Let’s fix this mindset right now and get your progress on paper so you can avoid sending the wrong message.
Figuring Out Your Startup Metrics
It can be hard to see the forest for the trees when it comes to looking objectively at your own company. But there is a way to demonstrate tangible progress to your investors (even if you are in the “pre-revenue” camp).
First, download this free startup metrics worksheet, and narrow your focus to the three MOST IMPORTANT accomplishments in each section shown.
If it is hard to narrow down to only three for any of these sections, then that is a good sign that the next phase of your business already has great momentum.
From there, you can begin the process of creating your business plan timeline by giving an accurate picture of where your business is right now. Go ahead and give proper credit to your accomplishments.
Next, show where you want to go down the road.
Once that is done, you are already on your way to showing measurable progress in your startup.
Stuck? Reverse Engineer Your Growth
If you are having trouble identifying milestones, one way to start brainstorming is to work backward; this helps to establish a frame of reference.
Consider the following:
Where were you a month ago? Six months ago? Perhaps you were establishing the core team or outlining research and development goals. Maybe you simply finalized your decision to create a profitable business and started working on your business plan. List this out.
Now define where you are right now. Maybe you found out something your competitors are doing that you want to copy or change in your own business model. Maybe you received your business license a few days ago or leased equipment; that is progress! Each of these is significant and can be very effective in convincing an investor that your startup is advancing.
Next, zoom out and give a forecast. What are your goals for the future? Where would you like to be in a month? In a year? Perhaps you envision a lot of traffic for your website or social media buzz as you establish an online presence. Maybe you would like to be in an office space. Tip: Stay realistic in your strategic planning.
Now, organize your notes into chronological milestones. Show which steps have already been completed and how many are left to complete.
Congratulations! You now have a physical demonstration of how your startup is scaling. With your business plan timeline shown in black and white, you are substantiating that the business is moving forward and gaining traction!