Planning to Plan

Planning to Plan

Operations | Posted by YouInc.com - November 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm
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Kirchner Private Capital Group's Senior Managing Partner, Lew Turnquist was featured on the November 27th episode of CBC's The Big Decision. Lew was brought in by Arlene Dickinson as a featured operational expert during her time at The Flag Shop in Vancouver, BC. Below is a blog he wrote relating to his experience there for The Big Decision's blog.

A common struggle for the early-stage company CEO is the business plan.

Often, it seems like a luxury that costs too much precious time to create and doesn't provide the immediate benefit that knocking to-do's off the list seems to. The problem that this creates though, is that the business suffers from a lack of direction and won't advance forward except by luck.

This is a case of focusing on the urgent at the expense of the important.

The business plan is the CEO's way to draw on her experience and knowledge and plot the course forward for her company. Done well, it also allows the chance to trace the interdependencies between all parts of the business and its operations and thereby optimize where resources (like that precious time) are spent.

It starts with the Company's vision for what it will be. In tonight's episode, we saw that this was missing, or, at the very least, couldn't be articulated.

The vision should be mindful of the Company's core strengths (e.g., competitive advantages, operational competencies, management experience and skills). But it can't be only that, it must also serve to inspire and point the way forward for the Company through the "fog of the now." In so doing it must be mindful of what is going on in the world around the Company (e.g., market trends, competitive activity, economic climate).

This strategic, not tactical, start dictates the practical executional elements that the business plan will describe in detail.

A simple outline for a business plan is as follows.

0 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1 COMPANY BACKGROUND

1.1 Products & Services

1.2 Progress

1.2.1 Recent Key Milestones Achieved

1.2.2 Upcoming Key Milestones

1.3 The Proposed Financing

2 MARKET RELEVANCE

2.1 Current Market Trends

2.2 Product Fit [how the product plays to the trends, how necessary is it?]

3 PRODUCT

3.1 Objectives/Goals/Intents/Benefits of Products

3.2 Product Overview [how it works]

3.3 Intellectual Property Strategy

3.4 Product Evolution Path

3.5 Development Status & Short-Term Enhancements/Developments

3.6 Development Capability

4 COMPETITIVE & ENVIRONMENTAL LANDSCAPE

4.1 Market

4.1.1 Market Size

4.1.2 Market Dynamics

4.2 Competition

4.2.1 Overview of Competitive Landscape

4.2.2 Known Competitor Profiles

5 SALES & MARKETING STRATEGY

5.1 Marketing Strategy

5.1.1 Segmentation

5.1.2 Product Positioning & Differentiation

5.1.3 Pricing

5.1.4 Communications

5.1.5 Distribution

5.2 Sales Strategy

5.2.1 Targets

5.2.2 To-Date Sales Successes, Reference Accounts

6 ORGANIZATION

6.1 Management

6.2 Shareholders, Voting Blocks & Directors

6.3 Org Design, Expansion Plans, Requirements

7 THE EXIT

8 FINANCIAL OVERVIEW

8.1 Assumptions

8.1.1 Revenue Assumptions

8.1.2 Expense Assumptions

8.1.3 Capital Assumptions

8.2 Base Case Summary Projections

8.3 Sensitivity Analysis & Stress Cases

Now, it should be noted, of course, that every company has different needs and so, naturally, each company's business plan should be different too. For instance, if a financing is not intended in the short term, section 1.3 wouldn't be necessary. But business plan authors should be cautioned against carving too much out of that outline – the real value of it is in considering the whole business.

Investors as a rule demand business plans when considering putting money into a company. But not strictly for the reasons you might think. It is less to grade the quality of the content of the actual plans within – seasoned investors know what seasoned entrepreneurs know, that plans will and must change dynamically as the world around the Company changes and are probably out of date as soon as they are printed. No, investors want to see that the CEO has a vision and has thought through all the implications of how the Company must execute toward that vision. That is, has everything been considered by Management and is there consistency within the plan across all facets of the business. By demonstrating that she has thought through all the issues and planned for them, the CEO demonstrates to the potential investor that she is capable of doing that going forward, as the world changes around her.

Put another way, this common struggle for the early-stage CEO, the business plan, is a case where the journey is as important as the destination. And it begins with the single step of the company vision.

Tags: operations, logistics, plan, business, experience, knowledge, vision

Comments
Zulubear ~ Annette Young
December 1, 2012 at 11:32 am

There was a time when I found this task to be an utterly overwhelming long list of to do's. It reminded me of the daunting task of writing a thesis and was real easy to procrastinate. I did not see the value in placing so much focus where the ink never seems to dry.


It has taken me weeks and weeks, which actually come to think of it could be months to accomplish.


I am glad I did it.  Not only did it clarify the 'vision' and streamline creativity, it actually chunked the journey of being in this business  down to manageable components.


It has organized randomness, sequentially such that every days to do list feeds it's own purpose and inspires the vision.  Amazingly things are beginning to flow!


Thank you so much for your outline. It confirms I am on the right track.


Can I ask for a good reference to learn what the following marketing terms mean?


    5.1.1 Segmentation


      5.1.2 Product Positioning & Differentiation


Segmentation draws a blank.


Does product positioning refer to things like our timing couldn't be better?


In the previous generation it was all about defining anxiety as ADD, which we know as  fear response behaviours from children letting us know they were afraid to not succeed. Today the social focus appears to be more on 'bully' being used to label behaviour which expresses anger.  Anger that we seem to not hear that they are afraid. Overwhelm can make the gentlest, most well meaning souls irritable and grumpy no matter what age. I cannot tell you how many times I could have been suspended or sent to the hall during this process. Luckily I am understood and encouraged during those moments and not punished through some form of segmentation.


Could 'positioning' include the idea that we are focused on empowering parents and their loved ones, with an open invitation for institutional care systems to come along with us?


idunno Can someone help clarify?


Kirchner Group
December 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Annette,


Segmentation refers to the task of breaking up the market into subgroups with different characteristics, then prioritizing them according to which are best suited for your product or service. Often, you hear reference to “target markets” when what is actually meant is “target segments” within a given market. Best to consider not only the segments for which the product has best appeal, but also those that you are able to reach in a practical way, or what is called the addressable segment.


Positioning is how your product is compared to the others with which it competes (i.e., how is this product positioned relative to the others?). For instance, is it positioned to be the lowest cost, or the highest quality, or the most green, or the easiest to use, etc. Differentiation is meant to be the ways in which it is actually different (hopefully, positively) from the competition.


This section of the plan gives the reader comfort that the author not only knows who the competition is, but how to compete effectively with them.


Feel free to let us know if that brings up any additional questions.

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