Do Milestones Matter?


As many of you know it was my 40th birthday on Tuesday – and to those of you that sent cards, text messages and e-mails, thank you very much indeed. I suppose I should also say thank for the ‘good natured banter’ on Facebook: some of the messages have been noted, ladies and gents…

And thank you to the Government as well! I never expected the 41 gun salute at the Tower of London. What an honour! And what a coincidence that the royal baby was born only the day before…

So 40 is significant. ‘Life begins at 40’ and all that.

Or does it? Does the fact that Tuesday was my 40th birthday have any real significance? Does the fact that your business is 5 years old or 10 years old next Wednesday really matter?

Yes. And no.

I don’t think milestones as dates matter at all. I do think milestones as signposts matter. Let me explain.

From a business point of view I don’t believe that a 40th birthday or a tenth anniversary is either a cause for celebration or a reason for beating yourself up if things haven’t gone so well. I don’t necessarily hold with the planning which says, ‘I must achieve this by my 40th birthday’ or ‘This is where we need to be on August 17th next year because it’s our fifth anniversary.’

One of the keys to success in business is that every day matters – and every part of every day matters. If you make a pound at four o’clock on Friday afternoon it’s exactly the same as a pound made at 8:30 on Monday morning. This is where I’m very much with Rudyard Kipling. If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run/Yours is the earth, and everything that’s in it…

To me, every day is vital and what I want to do – and what I want to encourage all my Board members to do – is make the most of every day. If and when you eventually achieve your goal you’ll appreciate it just as much at 10 years and 174 days as you would at exactly ten years.

In my experience goals that are set to meet a deadline created by an anniversary or ‘outside event’ almost never work for the entrepreneur. But that’s not to say that we should all forget our birthdays and eschew the party when we’ve successfully negotiated ten years in tough times.

Because what I think milestones do give is a moment to reflect: a chance to take stock and say, ‘We started this business with nothing much more than a conviction. And here we are at a £1m turnover.’ That’s what I did on Tuesday July 23rd.

So the rest of this blog is a personal reflection – and I think I’m very, very fortunate. I have a business that I love, dealing with clients that I like and admire.

But above all that I have my family. I wrote a few weeks ago about the half-eaten breakfast in Newport Pagnall service station when I realised that something had to change. Well, Tuesday gave me the chance to take stock and it has changed. I’m where I should be – not halfway down a motorway – at an important time in the life of my children.

Dan starts ‘big school’ in September – there’s a milestone if ever there was one – and when I look at him now I can see the teenager lurking in the shadows and, very occasionally, catch of the glimpse of the young man he’ll grow into. Rory too, albeit a couple of years behind…

I love my boys beyond all human measure – but we’re good friends as well. Would that have been the case if I’d made a different decision at Newport Pagnall services? I don’t like to think about it.

So Tuesday was a big milestone for me: a chance to take stock, to celebrate (only a little with a Board meeting the next day…) but above all, to be thankful.

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3 comments

  1. easistreet · July 26, 2013

    Ed I take your point about milestones. A common mistake, particularly amongst directors in growing companies, is that, because they are so focused on achieving the next goal and overcoming the barriers in their way, they rarely make time to look back and take satisfaction in what they have already achieved. An anniversary is a good opportunity to do this.

  2. Rory Ryan · July 26, 2013

    November 4th 2009 – My Pagnall Moment. Having been involved in making over 80 redundancies (from a staff of 110) my boss asked me to go to lunch. He said ‘Don’t worry, it’s good news’. He proceeded to tell me that I still had a job, was still in line to be a company director but that we all had to take another paycut. I drove back to the office feeling liberated. I was gone by December 16th.

  3. I think milestones serve as a useful reminder that time does pass and that they often prompt us into action as a result. Without milestones it’s too easy to think we have all the time in the world. Hope you had a great birthday!

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