The Journey, Part 7: The Planning Process
By getting to this point in the founder’s journey, you can effectively communicate your vision, mission, and objectives. You understand how you’re going to start and grow your company. The long list of unknowns that lurked outside of your comfort zone when you started has transformed into manageable elements of your plan. Your Business Model has proven that you can turn a previously half-baked idea into a viable enterprise. Risks remain, but your doubts are gone. You are ready to execute with confidence.
Before you start, be clear on these two principles:
Execution starts with developing a unique plan grounded in your vision, mission, objectives, and Business Model. To succeed, you created a unique product or service to solve a large problem; your plan has to be unique as well. That’s why packaged plans based on a one-size-fits-all template never work.
The Business Plan is a tool to move your company forward, keep your team on track, and measure progress. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap that you’re writing a plan to attract investment. It’s a real temptation because, at this point, you’re ready to get started; you’ve been working on fumes for months. You and your team are the primary audiences for your plan. You have the basics already in mind, but you need to fill in the details: how you intend to execute, why you’ve made certain assumptions, and what you expect your results to demonstrate.
Once completed, it’s time to add potential investors to the audience. Investors want to know that you solve a large problem with a sound business model.
They need to see that you have created a well-thought-out plan. Above all, investors are betting on management’s ability to execute. If you’ve developed a plan only geared towards raising capital, it will be obvious. You’ll be unable to answer basic operational and strategic questions. Assume you only get one chance to convince someone to invest. Now is not the time to cut corners.
By now, you’ve hopefully added a co-founder, maybe more. First-time founders often hire executive coaches or mentors as a crutch or sounding board. At Cayenne, we take a different approach: you need more than casual advice and handholding. Instead, we take a hands-on approach to accelerating your planning process by being a temporary co-founder, sitting on your side of the table to anticipate and navigate around inevitable obstacles and speed your decision making. We go beyond merely challenging your assumptions; we help you find solutions.
Many of us have walked in your shoes, in a wide range of industries. You get an experienced member of your management team for only as long as needed. We know how to plan and execute. We understand what investors need to make a favorable funding decision and how best to present your story.
The Planning Process
As the founder, your priority is to communicate the fundamentals of how you want to start and grow the business. You have to get everyone on the same page. Don’t forget that they signed on to help you deliver your dream, not some adaptation of it. You want them to be as clear as you on how to get there.
It’s not a plan solely for investors; it’s a plan your team will flawlessly execute to grow and succeed. Provide clarity on everyone’s roles, but remain open to alternative approaches. You want everyone on the team to hold a level of ownership in the strategy and plan details.
The plan is a living document, a tool, not merely a report. You will adapt to changing market opportunities, the competition, and the new technologies available to deliver a better value proposition.
It’s up to you to keep everyone focused and bring out the best in your people. You are responsible to them no less than they are to you.
What you say matters; be clear on your expectations – and hold yourself and the team to a high standard.
What to Expect
- You’ll make many decisions with incomplete data.
- Some people won’t work out. If you are debating if you made a good decision, you already have your answer.
- Move quickly to fix it. It won’t come as a surprise to your team.
- You’ll hear: “in my former company, we did it this way.” If it makes sense to you, adopt it. If it doesn’t, explain why and stick with your unique approach.
- A well-designed plan is your top priority.
- You must be seen as the overall expert on your company.
- Your team must demonstrate even deeper expertise in their respective areas.
- Flawless execution is critical to grow and to attract capital.
- Never stop selling.
Challenges Uniquely Related to You as a Founder
- You are ultimately responsible for all outcomes – good or bad.
- You are the chief decision-maker – directly or indirectly.
- Hire the best people you can afford – let them perform.
- Focus on how you solve the problem – not your product feature list.
- Show passion but don’t fake it – you either have it, or you don’t.
- Emphasize year one – If you can’t get through the first year, the second year won’t matter.
- Stay focused on the big picture.
- Don’t get hijacked – stick with your approach until you see a clear and compelling reason to alter course.
- Time is not your friend – set a timeline and stick to it.
- Plan to succeed.
The steps are easy but guiding your team to develop a sound Business Plan is critical and time-consuming. Don’t rush it.
I hope this Founder’s Journey series has provided valuable insight into the unique challenges facing first-time founders. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.