Tag Archives: business plan

Set Execution Tactics

Strategy needs tactics for execution. In practical terms, this is your marketing plan, your product or service plan, and other tactical plans. Aim for strategic alignment: match your tactics to your strategy. You should be able to think of your business as a pyramid, with strategy at the top, execution tactics in the middle, and concrete specifics at the base, as in the illustration here.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, and tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tsu

– Sun Tsu

Strategy Pyramid

Although a book is sequential, your thinking and planning isn’t. This chapter is about the middle area of the pyramid, the tactics, mainly marketing and product or service plans. The previous chapter was about the strategy at the top, and the next chapter is about the bottom on the pyramid, the concrete specifics. Don’t think of these as separate or sequential. Develop them together. They are sequential here because of format and logistics only.

These tactical plans in your lean plan are as simple as possible, ideally just bullet point references. Don’t worry about writing descriptions and explanations, or compiling background information, until you have a real business need to explain them to outsiders. Do worry about thinking all of your marketing and product plans through and planning them well. Even without the big text, you do want to plan and manage your important tactics.

If you’re not absolutely sure about execution, do your best and remember you’re going to review and revise every month from now on.

Marketing Execution

Marketing, in its essence, is getting your customers to know, like, and trust you. To do that, you must understand your customers: know how and where to find them, how to help them find you, and how to present your business to best match your strategy and business offering. You have to make choices for pricing, messaging, distribution channels, social media, sales activities, and so forth. For your lean plan, these are mainly bullet points. They are defining the tactical decisions that you make. In the lean plan they are for internal use only.

I do recommend, however, that every business leader take a fresh look at the market at least once a year. Markets change, new markets develop, and you don’t want to get lost thinking that what was true in the past is still true and will be true in the future.

Product Execution (or service, or both)

These are about the business offering. Product or service tactics are the decisions you make about pricing, packaging, service specifications, new products or services, product launches, sourcing, manufacturing, software development, technology procurement, trade secrets, bundling, and so forth. Your lean plan contains the decisions you make on these items as bullet points. You know your tactics by heart, so you just list them, briefly, in your lean business plan.

Not sure? Do your best. Only you can decide whether you need to do more testing, research, or prototyping, or launch and develop improvements as you go. That’s up to every business owner. There is no certainty ever, so do your best. And remember, you’re going to track results, review your metrics, and revise every month. Nothing is written in stone.

Other Execution

Tactics often include financial tactics, or team building, hiring, recruitment tactics, or logistic tactics related to, say, taking on new office or manufacturing space. I group these in the third part of the pyramid shown in the illustration above.

This chapter also includes:

The Business Plan Event

The “business plan event” is any business development that requires you to show a business plan to somebody. The most common business plan events relate to getting investments or business loans. Both of these business events require presenting a business plan to somebody outside your company. A Divorce or death in the family might require a business plan. Or opening a merchant account, bringing in partners, selling the business, and so forth.

Lean business planning is the lean plan you maintain all the time. The formal plan comes on special occasions only.

Investors do Read Business Plans

In investment, don’t get fooled by people who say investors don’t read business plans. I can’t speak for all, but I can speak from my experience in working with venture capital and as an angel investor. Investors will reject some businesses without reading the plan. They can often tell, from the pitch or the summary memo, that they don’t want to go further and won’t even want to see the plan. But — and this is important — every investor I actually know and have worked with (about 60) will either read the plan or have somebody they trust read the plan, and thoroughly, before agreeing to invest. In investment, we call the process of investigating a startup “due diligence.” And it includes poring over a business plan.

Investors do read business plan before they invest. But they often reject a startup from just summaries and pitch, without reading the plan. The plan comes in when they are really interested.

And what happens with banks and commercial loans, in my experience, is that having a business plan doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the loan. But not having one, especially before you know the bank well, can guarantee that you won’t.

Don’t do the Big Plan Until You Hit the Business Plan Event

Don’t do the extra work of the full formal business plan unless you have a business plan event scheduled. Keep your lean plan up to date. When you run into the event, then you go from your lean plan to a formal business plan. The lean plan lives on your computer and isn’t polished or edited for outsiders. The formal plan is tailored for the specific business need.

For example, that formal version of your plan that you send to investors ought to have good descriptions of management backgrounds and exit strategy. And the one you send to the bank has more on the personal assets of the owners, payment history, and ability to cover the interest expense. Don’t confuse these formal versions with your lean plan. Your lean plan stays alive and flexible on your computer and gets reviewed and revised each month. Both the formal versions are outputs from your plan, intended to serve some specific business need.