Four steps to business success

Theresa M. Szczurek //September 29, 2009//

Four steps to business success

Theresa M. Szczurek //September 29, 2009//

A legendary study of graduates from Harvard University showed the importance of goal setting and planning.

People (and organizations) with a plan outperformed those without one. The 3 percent of those with a written plan greatly outperformed all the others, who only had a mental plan. Having a written plan is a key factor in effectively pursuing any passionate purpose. You know that, right? So where’s your plan?

Strategic plan

Gazelles, companies growing more than 20 percent per year for more than four years, know what is important: A clear strategic plan which is implemented with best business practices.

Process. Use this 4-stage ‘pursuit of passionate purpose’ process to build your plan:

• Assess progress – look at your current situation and determine ‘who are we now?’

• Find your passion by clarifying core values and competencies – determine ‘what is our passion?’

• Align that passion with a purpose and vision – Define a Big Hairy Audacious Goal or BHAG® on ‘where you want to get to?’

• Pursue purpose — Identify and implement strategic initiatives on ‘how do we get there?’

It is iterative and ongoing–over time, go back to “Assess progress” phase and revise your plan.

One-page Plan. Organize outputs of this process into a 1-page strategic plan. Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, says, “A vision is a dream with a plan.” This communications tool aligns everyone in your company with the passion, purpose, and priorities to pursue your vision. It works. The fastest growing companies have a good plan and a well-developed habit of continually using it to evaluate progress. Keep the plan alive – monitor, assess, revise, and continue to pursue.

Example. Consider the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology ( TMS helped them create the iCAST strategic plan, implement a system for executing the plan, and better manage its exponential growth. “We found great value in establishing a clear direction and roadmap for iCAST’s future,” said Ravi Malhotra, iCAST executive director and founder.

Business Plan

More detailed than the strategic plan, the business plan explains the model for turning an idea into a viable venture. A solid business plan explains:

• Company passion, purpose, and vision (or core idealogy), background, and strategic business model to achieve its mission

• Market need and why current competitive alternatives are not satisfying them.

• Company’s solution, the product and services, offered to solve the unmet need with a sustainable competitive advantage

• Sales and marketing approach to bring the solution to market including pricing, distribution, partnership, and promotions strategies

•Realistic projections of forecasted sales and resulting revenues

• Proforma financial statements showing how the firm makes money, becomes profitable, and makes a full triple bottom-line impact

• Management and human resources available to create and execute the plans

• Explanation of what other resources, financial, human, and otherwise, are needed to succeed

The plan guides the firm’s efforts, ensures there is a solid business to be built, and helps attract resources. At AT&T International as line of business manager, the plans I created convinced the Board of Director to internally fund the effort. At my entrepreneurial venture Radish Communications Systems and with my consulting clients, the business plans are used to attract outside investors. The plan must be professional and comprehensive; otherwise you set the company up for failure.

Critical Mistakes. It is not easy to create a good business plan. Nearly 250 venture capital companies across the US, were asked, “What is the worst mistake an entrepreneur can make when completing their company’s business plan?” Eight critical mistakes were reported at not clear in explaining the opportunity, unrealistic projections, simplistic assumptions, weak analysis of competition, failure to describe a sustainable competitive advantage, mistakes, errors, and misleading information, overstated management strengths, and incompleteness such as insufficient financial data.

Example. Phil Lyman, founder and CTO of Boundless Corporation (, a Colorado corporation focused on innovative energy storage for high performance systems, wanted to expand into new markets. He made a smart decision-to build a business plan and to get help from TMS to more efficiently do so. He used this plan to attract funding and guide the firm’s operations.

Lyman explains, “One of Boundless’ keys to success has been to narrow our focus onto emerging target markets with urgent need for advanced technology. Strategic planning is paramount for establishing adequate focus.” Boundless was a finalist for an Innovation Quotient (IQ) award from Boulder County Business Report. With the right product and plan to bring it successfully to market, the firm augmented government sales with commercial sales of large-format lithium-ion batteries and packs.

Implementing the Plan – Pursue Your Purpose

Establish a strategic plan. Then expand to a business plan. Use them as tools to guide the company and its people. It takes relentless pursuit using a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, ongoing assessment of progress, consistent team communications, and mid-course corrections.

How to Build a Good Plan?

Combine your vision of what you want with relentless effort to get it. Follow the 4-stage process. Get help from the right players. Then pursue your passionate purpose! Real rewards will follow. 

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