“Now What?” is never the right leading question. When a project goes live, execution is the only option. Whether it is a new business, product line, or market opportunity, leaders start executing. Success is now the only objective! Unfortunately, too many casual observers pay attention to the new entity only upon birth. But, its success results from several events leading up to that point. Then, the birth culminates in passion, pain, uncertainty! And, what’s next? A whole new set of challenges that are immediately exposed to the world. Essentially, new business projects have the same trajectory. Yet, regardless of the events leading up to the launch, including passion, pain and uncertainty – WE’RE LIVE!
Every entrepreneurial activity starts with a plan. It may be detailed. It may be strategic. It may be by the seat-of-your-pants. Nevertheless, a plan exists. Before launch, as soon as the idea starts to grow, the importance of planning inevitably surfaces. What do you want the venture to be when it grows up? The plan clarifies that hope. Documenting your intentions is a good start. Entrepreneurs may want to provide jobs for buddies, or cash out for $100 million, or delay adolescence while making a living. In all cases, good planning improves the odds of achieving the desired objective. Plans feature clear assumptions, quantitative targets, organizational expectations, and expected activities. All of these point toward delivering explicit results. Yes, the plan should include marketing, finance, operations, human resources, and strategic sections. But at the core, the plan answers the question: “Once this is alive, what do we want to be when we grow up??!”
In launching a new venture, successful efforts focus on providing benefits that the product or service delivers to a target market that values them. Develop. Rehearse. Repeat the process. A new venture needs to prepare to deliver the good or service so that every client interaction delivers the promised functionality and performance every time. And, from where does the consistency come? Practice. Successful new ventures thrive as a result of repetitive excellence, yielding a competitive advantage. Fundamentally, the best way to perform better is to invest the time and resources to prepare better. New ventures succeed when the total delivered value defeats the incumbent provider. Better preparation leads to superior performance which precedes victory.
But, what exactly is superior performance? In launching an entity or product, it literally depends on the competitive goal. To a major consulting firm, profit margins below 30% are absolutely unacceptable, and will trigger severe cost reductions. To a smaller, nimbler competitor, profit margins are irrelevant. As long as the principals hit their income targets and spend less than 50% of their week on the road, they are successful! The old saying says “what gets measured, gets managed”. When birthing a venture, what gets measured dictates what gets done! Set specific goals and pursue them relentlessly. Perform, operate, deliver, and/ or execute; just get it done for the customer!
So, the new endeavor is finally live. The ecstasy and pain of birth is in the rearview mirror. Maturity and growth is just ahead. Plan, practice, performance represent the three steps to take a running leap at having a successful venture. And, if discipline started with P, we could reasonably add a fourth step. Nevertheless, the product, the idea, the venture has arrived and it is a living breathing thing. And, to answer the question of “Now what?”, the entity must fight for its life every day and win over the long run!
By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter & Beyond