You need a good nail-gun, a saw and more to be a carpenter. To be a car mechanic you need a wrench, a computer code reader and a good socket-set to name a few of the essential tools. If you are a regular mountain climber then you likely have good rope, and plenty of high quality caribiners in your tool chest. So, what are some of the important tools required if you are the CEO of your start-up or established business.
#1 Business Plan (for start-ups): An exercise and accompanying document you complete PRIOR to launching a new business. Properly done it will force you to be clear on what your business is all about, the product or service you deliver, how you plan to deliver it, and supporting evidence for why customers will buy from you over competing alternatives. It will also tell you how much money you need to keep the business operating effectively before you are producing sufficient cash flow to cover operating expenses. Experience says you will find this document will be obsolete in the first six months of operations as real life will be surprisingly different than your assumptions. Regardless, this step is critical to success.
#2 Strategic Plan (for established businesses): An exercise and accompanying document that combines your future vision of the business and real life market realities to define in a measurable way what your company will look like 2 to 3 years from now. It is the spot on the map you select before getting into your car for a road trip. Customer mix, revenue, market penetration, operations and people are all addressed in this document. A well done strategic plan will leverage you current strengths, acknowledge and address weaknesses, exploit market opportunities, and counter external threats. Everyone in your company should know your strategic plan - this is how you create an “aligned” workforce.
#3 Tactical Plan: An annual document that defines specific actions (beyond day to day operations) to be taken by specific individuals in a specific time-frame (usually quarterly) that will incrementally move your company one step closer to the Strategic Plan goals. If you were to envision your business as a movie, this would be the “script”. You are the director and your employees, the actors. You are tasked with completing this movie on time and with no overruns.
#4 Targeted Customer: Exactly who did you design your product/service for? It is not “everyone”. Your target customer is the bullseye of your sales dart board. The better you are able to describe the critical attributes (job, race, gender, age, income, business, hobby, etc...) the better and more efficient your marketing and sales force will be in finding and winning them.
#5 Sales Strategy: A process where you analyze the depth and breadth of your market opportunities, the intensity of the competition you expect to face, and given resources you possess to devise a sales plan of attack. Similar to war planning you may choose a broad strategy that secures a large number of small victories or concentrate your resources to score a big impactful strategic win. It defines how and where you will deploy your limited resources as well as the weaknesses of you competition you plan to exploit to win new business.
#6 Marketing Strategy: Marketing is all about generating qualified leads for your sales team to close on. Developing a marketing strategy is a left brain activity as it involves analysis and critical thinking. A well done marketing strategy involves analyzing your customers (who they are and how they buy) then exploring and selecting the most effective tools (web, social media, billboard, collateral, TV commercials, car wrap) within given financial constraints to garner their interest. You compete and hire marketing experts and service providers for their right brain creative skills to implement your strategy.
#7 Sales Process: A replicable and thus written method for how you take a warm lead and turn him/her into a happy customer. As you might expect this is one of the most important steps in your business processes and should not be relegated to the personal techniques of any given salesperson. In addition to more consistent win rates, a defined sales process will allow you the owner to engage in a conversation with any of your sales team and know exactly who is in the funnel and where they are in the sales cycle.
#8 Critical Processes: Those unique, replicable steps your company completes to generate leads, win business, deliver a consistent product or service and collect financial compensation. Documenting these steps provides two major benefits, (1) reduces risk by creating a back-up should you be unfortunate to lose a critical employee with all of the corporate memory due to a job change or accident and, (2) it establishes a baseline upon which to develop improvements. Say your company name is XYZ then what makes your product an XYZ product or service performed and delivered the XYZ way?