Strategy and Strategic Planning for Startups: What the expert says - Episode 2
Q&A with Anthony C. Taylor, Managing Partner at SME Strategy Consulting
Francesco | 21.05.18
Strategy and Strategic planning for Startups: Questions and Answers with Anthony C. Taylor
In this second episode of our Strategy and Strategic Planning Q&A series, I’ve interviewed Anthony C. Taylor, an internationally known speaker and author on the subject of strategic planning.
Q: Hi Anthony, first a big thank you for accepting to be interviewed! Ok, 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: As a new business, you can be successful without a formal strategic plan or business plan, however having a documented plan that you reference will keep you focused, and ultimately give you a more effective use of resources (see: less waste)
I’ve seen lots of businesses (including mine) who have a great product and rush it out to market; unfortunately product is only part of the strategic equation.
The way you position your product, how you get it in front of your customers, the alternatives for them as a purchase, and the price that works are some of the factors that impact your success.
All in all, the biggest obstacle I’ve seen for new businesses is “product market fit”, having a strategic business plan will accelerate the time you spend validating your business and your business model.
This is one of the many lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur and that I share in my book “I wish I knew: Entrepreneurship lessons I learned the hard way”.
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: There are many templates for business plans and strategic plans online. We walk through the strategic planning process on Youtube and in our online course.
At a high level there are 4 steps.
- Where are we now (Swot analysis, core competencies, competitive advantages, and Pestle analysis);
- Where are we going (vision, values and goals);
- What is going to get in our way (risks and roadblocks);
- What do we need to do to get to where we want to go? (Strategic priorities, action planning)
Take our course and create a focus and aligned strategic plan for your business.
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: We suggest focusing on a fewer number of strategic priorities (3) so that you and your team stay focused on what’s most important in the short term. Set measurable targets for each and stay focused on them until they are done.
Creating a culture surrounding your organization is important for the behaviour change required to take on a new strategic plan. It’s not enough to have new actions to take, you need to put new thinking and behaviours to support these new actions.
Your vision has a huge impact on the success of the plan. If the successful future is unclear or not exciting enough then people won’t be inspired to take on these new actions as part of the plan. The vision should inspire people and pull them into action. We say: “The benefit of the future should be greater than the pain of changing.” The vision, the new future needs to be worthwhile above all else.
Q: Last question: What’s your best advice to new founders and entrepreneurs on strategic planning?
A: Learn a process that works for you. Review it every 1-3 months. Rinse and repeat. Use it as a foundational tool for your growth.
Strategic planning is a tool box. You might not need all the tools at once, but if you’re building your business you need all those tools to be successful.
As the saying goes: if the only thing you have is a hammer, everything you see is a nail.
To be successful you need to take dozens of different perspectives on your business to build a business that is sustainable and successful long term (your own perspective, and that of potential customers to start).
Strategic planning looks at your business from the inside and the outside and will help you see opportunities and risks before they happen, and will also help you manage short term and long term thinking all at once.
Thank you very much, Anthony, for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us!
Anthony C Taylor is the Managing Partner at SME Strategy Consulting. They are an international consulting firm helping organizations create and fulfil their strategic plans by creating a clear future and aligned teams for their clients.
Want to work with Anthony and SME Strategy? They offer meeting facilitation services, strategic plan review, and a course on how to create a strategic plan. Visit www.smestrategy.net and contact them today.
Need an help in planning and sharing your strategy? Here's I am Why, a tool developed specifically for startups and SMEs.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via our social media channels.