Our world is filled with products, services and tools that have been around for decades, sometimes centuries. The reason cars, hammers, bread or any other menial item has stuck around is because they work. Any attempted advancements have not surpassed the original. The same can be said for the monotonous adages to preparation most especially for start-ups and entrepreneurs.
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. “Proper preparation prevents poor performance”. “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation”. Clichés we have heard a thousand times but they exist because they are truths and couldn’t be more applicable for entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurial ambition can be a feral, feverish passion for most but without careful attention paid to defining a consummate strategy, failure is more likely than success. You cannot expect to emerge as a market leader without some guidance on how to arrive at that target.
Drafting a Strategic Plan Articulates Success
Strategic plans tend to fall into the same daunting bracket as many other pillars of enterprise documentation. They sound painstakingly time consuming for an entrepreneur to commit to in the midst of a start-up. Like it or not, they are worth it.
A strategic plan is nothing more than a summary of your intended success and the route you are planning to take to get there.
It is easy to get intimidated by making anything called a strategy or a plan for start-ups as it is a pursuit rarely graced by clarity. Your venture is different to any other out there with different motivations and parameters for success. Those items need to be reflected and communicable to the team and occasionally yourself at times. Everyone needs to be aiming in the right direction to be prosperous.
A strategic plan can take any form depending on the start-up but typically incorporates some common staples led by an Executive Summary. This simply introduces the reader to your company mission, values and strategic goals. It provides a bird’s eye view of the intentions of your company and the key milestones you need to hit to arrive there.
Most often, it is the cherry on top of your expanded vision completed at the end.
The summary is usually followed by the signatories, descriptions, mission, vision and values statements. Each of these elements are slightly meatier. They create a picture of who is responsible and what their motivations are. The vision provides the overarching direction and is critical.
Through Part 1, we are introducing the facets of a plan to consider for your strategy In Part 2, we will delve deeper into the importance and construction of your company vision as it is in part, what gives your start-up purpose.
Market Need Analysis
Most start-ups perform a strategic or SWOT analysis to identify what advantages or disadvantages you face as a new market entrant. It is pertinent to clarify the issues you expect to combat both internally and externally and how you intend to overcome these obstacles.
Failure to honestly approach market and industry analysis can mean blindsiding later from competitors, regulations and other red tape. Not properly grasping market need is the number one factor causing start-up failure accounting for 42% of all collapses.
Studying the market and competitors not only highlights the response to your entry but the basis upon which current providers compete. What does each of your potential competitors do well? Where do you offer value to the customers?
Each and every assessment should result in actionable items. What are the exact steps you need to carry out by when in order to be successful? What are each stakeholder’s responsibilities and what is the budget available to deliver success?
Follow Through and Review
Finally, how will you stay accountable? Plans are all well and good at the start of a venture but if nobody assesses progress against your best intentions, how do you account for success? Entrepreneurs are responsible for the achievement of their visions… no-one else. In order to be effective in each step, monitoring and evaluating progress is invaluable.
Given the permeation of the digital age into every corner of business, many tools and software have emerged to ease accountability issues. Maybe you’re the pen and paper type but maybe not. Project management solutions such as Monday.com, Asana, Trello and Google Suites ensure the team stays answerable to each other.
Fortunately given the tried, failed nature of entrepreneurship, successful strategic models have been hot tested.
The Cascade Model is a modern era simplified plan accessible and easy to follow. It constructs the plan under the umbrella of the company vision. Each objective and goal is answerable and guided by company values ensuring you stay aligned to your overall aims.
The Verne Harnish Model is for entrepreneurs in a hurry. It is a focused one-page strategic model that provides your purpose and values before setting forth your BHAG. Not familiar with BHAG? Big Hairy Audacious Goal! What is your ultimate aim? What is it that you will strive for over the next 5, 10 or 20 years? Following your selection of an audacious dream, it is broken down into tasks that are accountable and owned by team members who are measured against your KPIs.
Hoshin Planning is a tool initially invented in the 60s and 70s in Japan but has made a comeback in manufacturing industries. It is a slightly more complex matrix of processes but seeks the engagement of the full staff team. Senior stay discuss 5 or 10 year strategic goals that are relayed through the chain as far as lower level employees for feedback in a process known as ‘catchball’. Once the goals are mutually agreed, they are implemented and recorded. Doubling down on the engagement strategy, KPIs and processes are reviewed by senior directors engaging with floor staff to understand if the goals are effective. This step is known as ‘gemba’. From there each goal is reviewed and refined.
Entrepreneurship and start-ups are electrifying, exciting and nerve racking all at once. There is rarely time to take stock of everything going on while you pursue the innovative crusade but just as crucial as ambition is the strategy.
More than should be the case, start-ups flounder due to the absence of a clear vision and the landmarks to light the way to success. For each new adventure, one must have an end point and a map to take you there. With all of this said, a plan is nothing without action. Falling into a paralysis by analysis state drains ambition. Taking the leap of faith will always at least put you on the board.
In Part 2 we discuss the elements underpinning your company vision and why it is critical to the effectiveness of your team.