What's missing from this list?
- Start-up money
- Business plan
How about a strategic plan? And no, having a business plan is not the same thing.
Your business plan covers the "who," "what" and "why" of your business. Your strategic plan, on the other hand, covers the "how" and the "when." It's the action plan for your business, setting out tasks, goals, resources and a timeline for achievement as well as the metrics you use to measure your performance.
Who makes up the strategic planning team?
In the startup environment, many new businesses don't have teams of executives, managers and workers. Maybe you and two or three people are in on the ground floor. But it's important to your company's future that you out of your echo chamber and bring in other views as part of the planning process.
Ask your key advisers and investors to contribute their input. These are the people whose experience and advice you value and whom you call on periodically to check your work. Getting them involved in your strategic planning now could save you many frantic phone calls down the road.
Also part of the group is everyone involved in your business: your partners, your workers and any other stakeholders. The more buy-in you get at this stage, the better you can execute your plan as the months and years roll by.
Set aside a day to plan
That's the best way to get your strategic plan done: Dedicate one day to put everyone inside a big room away from distractions and hammer it out.
That's how many larger companies get the job done, but for a start-up, it might too much to ask, especially of your advisers and investors. If you don't have the budget for a full-scale planning retreat, set up a half-day or weekend day event, perhaps ending with dinner.
Another option is to set up a one-hour meeting or conference call if you can't physically bring people together. Use a videoconferencing service that allows participants to see each other. Designate at least one person to take notes and compile comments and ideas for recaps during the meeting and to create a complete report to be distributed after the event.
Your strategic plan
The process itself has two parts: first, assessing on what has worked and what has not so far and second, brainstorming a plan for the coming year.
Your focus here is on generating ideas. Don't let the conversation get sidetracked by objections based on cost, technology or skills. You can deal with those later. Right now, just let people dream big.
What you will end up with is a document that outlines strategies and programs to implement and will guide your decision-making, resource requests and allocations, personnel needs and timelines through the year.
Then, once you settle on an initial plan, give every stakeholder a copy, from your workers on the floor to your investors. But, don't let it sit on a shelf or in a drawer. Review it regularly to see if you're on track or if you need to adjust the plan.
Aim for two to three new ideas
Have alternatives in case your main idea gets tossed. Consider creating one major new initiative and two smaller ideas that address key issues. Focus your energy on the most promising ones, and understand that program improvement is a cumulative process.
If you come up with just one or two new ideas that will make your team a hero in the company – plugging a big resource drain or finding a new revenue source – you will be ahead of the curve. If you plan three years out, you could end up with six new programs in that time. Way to go!
Planning is work, but worth it
Planning pays off in the long run because you use your team's time and the company money more efficiently.
Yes, it takes time. But, so does making money. If you aren't willing to invest your time and energy up front to create a workable plan, what makes you think your other initiatives will pay off?
Ready? Start planning!
(Image source: Theselfemployed)