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If you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there.

That is the value of a business roadmap. New successful retail music business owners, wholesale instrument parts entrepreneurs, and musicians stepping up to performing professionally use them to make sure they are staying on course, on time, and on target.

Roadmaps are different from business plans, which detail everything from the purpose of a business to raising capital and marketing. A business roadmap, on the other hand, is a flexible document that lays out the general route for an enterprise’s success.

The components of a business roadmap include goals, milestones, and dependencies, or tasks that need to be completed before going on to the next planned activity. In a larger organization, “initiatives” would come after goals, but we’ll assume for the time being that your goal is not to become a major corporation.

Goals should include revenue targets, recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees, and other action items that support the overall business plan. It’s best to grow into setting goals. Start off with a handful and expand the list as you fulfill them.

Goals in mind, start researching ways to achieve them. The better you know your business and markets, the more accurate your roadmap will be. Assess the established competition and other successful businesses in your space. How do they market themselves? What is their online presence? Where are they on a typical business growth cycle: which are start-ups, which are growing, which are mature? What inventory do they carry? What goods and services do they offer? It might not hurt to introduce yourself to other owners and ask if they’d mind joining you for coffee to talk business. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? On the other hand, you might connect with successful entrepreneurs who are willing to share how they did it, what they learned along the way, and what mistakes to avoid. People do love to talk about their success, and new entries in the market can learn a lot by listening.

Setting priorities is another crucial factor in developing your business roadmap. Perhaps you’re excited to start a blog supporting your business, but is that more important than building inventory? There is no problem with wanting a great blog article that links back to a retail website, but what you need is stuff to sell.

Once you set up your priorities, back them up with a timeframe. Of course, adjustments can be made but it’s critical to execute your roadmap and accomplish goals in a timely manner. If you find that some things are taking too long and others are being neglected, adjust your priorities. Having a business roadmap doesn’t mean everything will work out perfectly but it can prevent you from getting completely lost.

Thinking back to the entrepreneurs who agreed to let you pick their brains, ask if they’d review your timeframes and provide feedback as to whether or not they’re realistic. Also, it’s important to be self-critical about your strengths and weaknesses regarding your goals. You may have to outsource help or hire someone with a certain skill set to tackle certain areas.

Timeframes are measured by milestones. Certain markers may be mission critical to continuing your business, such as reaching certain revenue goals. Others provide opportunities to celebrate successes, evaluate operations, and assess progress. Milestones help keep you on track. For instance, your goal may be to achieve $400,000 in first-year sales. A milestone could be reaching your first $100,000 in sales in the first quarter. Hit or miss, the sales milestone is an opportunity to assess processes, efficiencies, and unexpected challenges. Milestones should be significant, but bite sized. Perhaps it took four months to reach first quarterly milestones; you have a tangible assessment tool from which to work.

The final step is important: review and revise your business roadmap regularly. Remember, it’s flexible, which means you need to be flexible as well! Think of a tree that’s rigid. A windstorm comes along and blows the tree over. A flexible tree on the other hand can survive and prosper under those same adverse conditions.

If you need to rethink your goals, maybe take a few off the map, or adjust the milestones, and extend (or accelerate) the timelines. So why have a business roadmap if it can change so much? Because it’s easier to succeed by adjusting a plan than by not having one at all. It’s also important to stay in tune with your market. As we learned with Covid, market conditions can change quickly and drastically. If your roadmap is rigid, you may jeopardize your ability to succeed. Detours aren’t dead ends. They’re just another way of negotiating hazards and getting to your business’s destination.

A business roadmap is imperative whether you’re a sole proprietor or a partner. As its architect, you can design it to help you stay on target and refine your business practices. It can also be a useful tool in sharing your vision with employees. If expansion requires borrowing or raising funds, a business roadmap can literally help lenders or investors visualize how you plan to accomplish the proposed growth.

All roads lead to Rome, as they say, and there are many ways to get your business where you want it to be. A business roadmap will help provide objectivity, efficiency, and a more direct path to fulfill your vision.