Top 3 Reasons Your Emerging Brand Needs a Strategic Plan
Look, would you climb a 14,000 foot mountain without vetting your optimal route given current weather conditions or without making sure you have the right supplies and physical training? Would you go on a 200 mile bike ride without planning your route, bringing spare tubes, and knowing how much food and water to bring?
I didn’t think so. Running a volatile startup is no different. It’s a long game with lots of risk. It needs a plan.
The first reason you need a plan is that without a plan, you have no accountability. The foundation of any professional strategic plan is a revenue target based on current market conditions and your ability to finance increased production within a defined timeframe to meet that target. Without such a concrete target, it’s very easy to finish the year and find some way to declare it a success, even if major avoidable mistakes caused needless underperformance. In my experience, the more the founder is focused solely on touting their product versus growing the successful CBG business, the more likely they are to fall into this trap.
The second reason you need a strategic plan is that plans empower you to say no. One of the lesser discussed benefits of a strategic plan is that when the external environment catches wind of you and your thing after a trade show, magazine article, LinkedIn post, whatever, you will start to get emails. And more and more of them as you do better. Serial entrepreneurs will tell you that the most dangerous emails are the ones that get you the most excited. The ones from national retail chains. Is this the right retailer for your brand and offering at all? Is now the right time for this retailer? Can you even service them? Do you understand the retailer’s corporate strategy and where you really fit in? Do you have a team and resources to support a national rollout in at least a few markets?
With a strategic plan, every retailer is already included and excluded along an optimal timeline to develop a healthy business. Optimal for you, not for the retailer who just emailed you and has, oh, so many reasons for wanting to bring you in that don’t involve a thoughtful consideration of you. The plan reminds you of why and how you want to enter that specific retailer, or better yet, class of trade, and when this allows you to respond and move on quickly. If it’s perfect timing, that’s awesome. But often, in the early years, it just isn’t. The plan has already said no; you just need to adhere to it. And then you don’t get caught up in flattery or temptation, which is very, very easy at a trade show.
The third reason you need a strategic plan is that plans depersonalize decision-making and make it more objective. I can’t tell you how many times I catch clients narrating internal debates to me as if they were interpersonal ones. I had a client call me out of the blue once and tell me he had just left a heated meeting in which he and his CFO were arguing the merits of switching the entire line from glass to plastic. These kinds of tactical debates are the most rancorous because the team is very close to making executional decisions with real financial consequences. I get it, but this is precisely where a good strategic plan can swoop in and force everybody in the room to reach beyond their egos, to transcend any unacknowledged and personal issues. And most of them, my friends, are unacknowledged.
I actually have four more reasons to consider, if you have time to listen to an early episode of Startup Confidential. Enjoy!