Up until now, we’ve covered the Four Pillars of Startup that help us to better understand the people we need, the product we are building, the financials necessary, and the customer market. As has been explained, it is important to fully understand these aspects of your business idea before launching into the building stages. The knowledge will allow you to move forward quicker and help you to avoid unnecessary road blocks along the way.
Creating a Short Term Strategic Plan to Launch a Startup
Now that we’ve taken the time to truly understand the ins and outs, ups and downs of our new business idea, we can start to take action. Dependent upon work style, there will be many different approaches to getting the ball rolling. From my experience, certain methods may work for particular people, but lead to complete failure for others.
However, I have found one common denominator for most successful entrepreneurs as they begin to take action on their new business idea: a short term strategic plan. No matter how it looks, most entrepreneurs take a strategic approach to the beginning of their building process?
What is a Short Term Strategic Plan?
To best illustrate what a short term strategic plan is, I’m going to use an example from my life building eCommetize. I started building this business with my business partner, Zack Schwartz, in January of 2016 after spending 2 months going through the Four Pillars of Startup together.
By definition, a short term strategic plan is a 3-6 month strategic plan that outlines the major milestones and smaller action steps that you want to achieve. Below is an example of what it may look like. I like to keep short term strategic plans as specific as possible so that you only have 5 to 10 major goals you are focusing on.
eCommetize Quarter 1 2016 Goals
- Register as a business in the state of Florida
- Set up the company bank account and credit card
- Train Zack to use WordPress, WooCommerce, and BlueHost
- Compile and contact 250 potential clients
- Land 1 new client and set up their store
- Create efficient systems for the creating and management of new stores
- Create pricing packages
- Build and launch eCommetize.com
- Set up social media account for the company
- Hire, train, and place the first workers into the pipelien
- Create a financial tracking document
Why Do We Need a Short Term Strategic Plan?
From my experience, the strategic plan provides a constant focus for you in the earliest days of the business when there will always appear to be too much to complete in the time that you are allotted.
In the first quarter of building your business, you have to speak with potential customers then land those potential customers as a first customer. Build the product or service that you have been imagining. Create a marketing strategy to reach your target customer. Create a method to manage the financial cash flow of the company. The list goes on and on. Without a short term strategic plan, you can quickly feel like you are swimming with no end in sight.
How Do I Create a Short Term Strategic Plan?
The process of creating your plan should be relatively simple if you took the proper time to work through the Four Pillars of Startup. Picking and choosing from the Four Pillars of Startup, there will be many actionable items that you should be pursuing in the first three months that you are building your business. You want to look at each activity from the Four Pillars of Startup and decide which areas of the business will be the most important as you launch.
Do you need necessarily need to start marketing if you haven’t even built your product yet?
What is more important? Your company’s product or the financial organization of your business?
You’ll need to weigh your options with your business partner and determine which aspects of the business you want to focus on in the first three months. Believe it or not, the first quarter of building your business is going to go by so fast, you won’t even know how it happened. Working off of a strong short term strategic plan is going to ensure that you arrive that the end of month 3 exactly where you want to be.
To create your strategic plan, use the following three steps:
- Don’t make your plan longer than 3 months. Stay focused on the first quarter.
- Pick the most important aspects of launching your startup and focus in!
- Create 5 to 10 major milestones. Break each milestone into 1-3 smaller action steps that you can begin working towards.
How Do I Use my Short Term Strategic Plan?
Using your strategic plan is just as important as creating it. It’s similar to workout out or going on a diet. You can create a grandiose plan and schedule of what you want to achieve on day 1, but if you only last until day 14, you are never going to reach your goal.
Best Practice #1: Make it visible
Personally, I am motivated by seeing my plan every day that I am working on my business. In the office area in my apartment, I have a bulletin board that sits directly above my laptop and monitor. On that bulletin board, I post my short term strategic plan so that I can gauge my progress everyday and so that my mind constantly focuses on what I want to achieve.
Best Practice #2: Align it with your daily and weekly goals
To keep my entrepreneurial life as organized as possible, I spend time every Sunday organizing my goals for the week. I also sit down every night during the week to create my goals and schedule for the following day so that they are aligned with my weekly goals.
When creating my weekly goals, I always refer to my short term plan to ensure that I am continuing to make progress in the right areas.
Check out two of my columns on organizing your weekly goals and daily goals.
Best Practice #3: Read your plan 3-5x per week
I know…it sounds a bit ridiculous, but it makes a difference. At random times throughout the day, I encourage you to go over to the place you’ve hung your goals and simply read them. As you read them, evaluate if you’ve made progress in your target areas in the past week.
When your answer is “no”, it tells you that you need to work that aspect of building your business into your daily plan. Reading the plan 3-5x per week trains your brain to constantly move in that particular direction. I am a strong believer that we all have the ability to train our brains to move in certain directions based off of the information that we feed it. When we continue to feed it the same information over a 3 month period 3-5x per week, we are setting ourselves up for success.
Can My Short Term Strategic Plan Change?
Of course it can! In order to make the right changes to your quarterly plan, I recommend sitting down with your founding team at the end of each month to review your strategic plan. At these meetings, it’s critical to be honest with your progress and to determine where changes can be made.
It’s okay if you need to move certain milestones off into the next quarter so that you can stay focused on what is most important. If you feel like you set your goals too low, add 1 or 2 new items that can push you over the next month.
How I Have Used Short Term Strategic Plans in 2016
At the beginning of this year as I started to think about juggling two new startups, my writing, and the management of my first company, I created four distinct short term strategic plans for the first quarter. In the first week of January, I hung the strategic plans on my bulletin board and they have stayed there for the past 2 and a half months.
I’ve used the plans to create meeting agendas with my co-founders and they have provided constant motivation for keeping on each day even through the more difficult days. One of most important aspects of having a short term plan is that is allows you to celebrate the small victories when you achieve one of your milestones. The simple pleasure of being able to check the box next to the milestone can provide a multitude of excitement and relief.
Starting a business is hard work. No matter what the many books out there will tell you, building a business from the ground up is a grueling process that makes you lose sleep and question your choices. It’s definitely not for everyone.
However, it can be an extremely gratifying and learning experience when you take the correct steps to set your team up for success. Creating and rigidly following a short term strategic plan is definitely one of the first steps.
As the first quarter comes to a close, I’m pushing myself extra hard to achieve the milestones that we created when we first started on January 1st. I’m excited about the progress that I have been able to make in all four ventures and I’m optimistic about what the second quarter will bring.
I love using three months as a period of time to focus on a certain set of milestones because it’s short enough that you can stay focused and long enough that you can make significant progress. The goal is to always make the business look drastically different from what it was 3 months before. When you can do that, you’ve found an equation for making true impact.
Creating and beginning to follow a short term strategic plan increases your chances of building a truly impactful organization from the first day that you start. It’s a simple process once you have followed through with the Four Pillars of Startup and are ready to launch your business. Don’t get caught up in the excitement and forget what is most important. The most focused and steady win the race.