Strategy

Strategy and Strategic Planning for Startups: What the expert says - Episode 1

Q&A with entrepreneur and startup consultant Abdo Riani
Francesco | 17.04.18

Is strategy really important for an early stage startup? Is there a ‘secret recipe’ for creating a strategic plan? How to successfully translate your strategy into execution?

Since those are some of the most common strategy-related problems new entrepreneurs face when starting a new business, I’ve asked experts in this field to provide their best answers and advice. Let’s hear what the experts say!

Questions and Answers with Abdo Riani

In this first episode of our new Strategy and Strategic Planning Q&A series, I’ve interviewed Abdo Riani, entrepreneur and startup consultant. Abdo builds programs and tools to help entrepreneurs bootstrap (self-fund) their startups and side hustles. His website is full of resources for startup founders and new entrepreneurs. Moreover, he’s the owner of the popular AmateurPreneur Slack community, a community where “future success stories can network, ask questions, seek and provide feedback.”

Connect with Abdo on Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube.

Abdo Riani

Q: Hi Abdo, thank you for accepting to be interviewed. Here’s the first question: Many founders think that they don’t need a true strategic plan. All they need to do is to build something and test it fast on the market, if the product is good it will automatically be a success. Do you think they are right? If not, what are the risks of not having a real strategic plan?

A: Startups fail for many reasons and failing to plan strategically is one of the main reasons. Building something fast and testing it on the market is not always the right strategy. Imagine if the investment app Robinhood released its broken MVP in a week, who’s going to trust them with their money? On the other hand, the food delivery app DoorDash launched their MVP in an afternoon and acquired the first paying customers the same day.

The industry, business model and whether the startup addresses consumers or enterprise clients are some of the few things founders should account for before even conducting their first round of interviews during early customer development stages. The go to market strategy is the first step in entrepreneurs’ path to building successful startups.

Q: For founders and entrepreneurs with little or no experience, it’s often very hard to come up with a sound strategic plan. Can you suggest a standard process or a kind of ‘step-by-step’ guide they can follow to develop a well-crafted strategic plan?

A: For first-time entrepreneurs with little or no experience, I suggest following these steps:

  1. Identify 5 companies with similar business models, in a similar industry that address a similar target. Essentially, direct or indirect competitors.

  2. Research and study their approach, the things that worked and didn’t work for them, give them a call and ask to interview them. Document their journey so far. You’re looking for what they want to accomplish, why and HOW they are accomplishing (and accomplished) what they set to do.

  3. Use what you learned from the first two steps to define your execution strategy.

  4. Identify and reach to 2-3 mentors with experience in the space. Ask them for their opinion on your plan and iterate accordingly.

  5. With your vision in mind, execute. The vision will keep you moving in the right direction even if you change your strategy.

Q: Let’s speak about another very common problem: The ‘strategy-execution’ gap. We spend a lot of time in creating a beautiful strategy, but then very often we don’t implement it fully. According to your experience, what is the best way to ‘close’ this gap?

A: Most entrepreneurs quit at the planning stage. Tens and sometimes hundreds of planning pages later, most entrepreneurs get discouraged and feel lazy to execute on their plan. The simplest solution is to begin by focusing on the most important parts of the plan, the core. In a way, consider it the strategy MVP.

Q: Last question: What’s your best advice to new founders and entrepreneurs on strategic planning?

A: My best advice is to follow the 5 steps I listed above. Your execution, strategic, marketing, hiring, management and growth strategies are the foundation of your short and long-term success.

Thank you very much, Abdo, for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us!

Stay tuned for the next episode of the strategy and strategic planning for startups Q&A. And if you have some more questions for the experts, let us know at hello@midiply.com or via our social media channels.

Sign up to our monthly newsletter about smart thinking at work