One of the key elements of a good business plan is a set of goals to be achieved over the short, medium and long term. A business plan and timetable need not be over-complicated and should be flexible to take account of changes in the corporate environment.

Use a specialist piece of software if your business is complex and large scale growth is planned. Alternatively, a paper and pencil exercise or using a simple program such as Microsoft Office Excel should be sufficient to achieve a workable timetable. Bear in mind the timetable needs to be flexible and have new items added to it. A hard copy only may need to be completely rewritten every time there is a change.

Create a template which runs from day one to your designated end date five years into the future. The actual length of time is at your discretion, although five to 10 years is recommended, with most of the activity taking place in the first one to three years. The template may be in the form of a calendar or spreadsheet with each day in a field and goals or activities places into the relevant dates. For example: “Attend Industry Conference” or “Production level at 100 per day achieved.”

Work backwards from the end date with your final goal which should incorporate your overall mission statement and values. Knowing where you are going is the first step on any successful journey and this is your destination. List all goals along the way to your final position in order of when they need to be achieved.

Write all goals in a SMART format: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. For example: “Turnover at or exceeding $5,000 per month one year from launch.” This goal is clearly specific, measurable and timed, although whether it is achievable and realistic will depend on the business, your market research and any professional business development advice you have received.

Incorporate dates when you will reassess your business plan timetable at least once every quarter so you can monitor progress and amend the timetable. Work closely on this with your business development colleagues. Stretch the timetable to take into account the following year annually. Having regular strategic meetings with your key staff, partners and colleagues will enable you to see all perspectives when compiling corporate goals and strategies. Consider all variables which are currently and may potentially affect your business when revising the timetable. Key areas to consider are the political, economic, social and technical influences on your market and industry, known as a PEST Analysis.

Incorporate strategic methodology into your timetable, in other words, clearly stating how your SMART goals will be achieved. For example, “Introduce cold calling to increase sales by 50 percent. Hire five additional telesales staff to undertake this work to be in post two months from now.”