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Reach These Startup Milestones

Three startup milestones to help get your business into the stratosphere.

This story appears in the June 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Planning for the success of your not only gives you a map of how to get to your target destination, it also gives you the hope of knowing exactly what you're shooting for. Check out these startup milestones to help you get your business into the stratosphere.

Six months after startup: You should be defining your processes, who your customers are, what your company does and how you beat the competition. "By six months, you should be able to handle your business operationally," says business strategist Robert W. Bradford, co-author of Simplified Strategic Planning. "Although, it may still be a bit rocky because you're working the kinks out."

Can you cut it as a second-mover?

Almost every market will sooner or later experience effective competition. But David BenDaniel, Cornell University's Johnson School Berens professor of entrepreneurship, says those most amenable to second-movers posses similar characteristics, such as:
. A first-mover who lacks a proprietary position. Strong patents or ownership of key distribution channels are typical elements of a good proprietary position.
. A flawed initial offering. A first-mover who spends heavily to introduce a product or service that disappoints customers leaves the door open for later innovators.
. High first-move costs due to past product development, or other initiatives. BenDaniel says, "If there's an indication that they're spending an awful lot of money building the market and not necessarily profitably, maybe the second mover can come in with less money and piggyback on the marketing expense of the first guy

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