Successful Business Planning and Execution

I had the fortune of attending a panel presentation at a TechBiz Connection meeting, with industry experts speaking on the topic of business planning and execution. As a busy tech entrepreneur, business planning admittedly stays at the bottom of the to do list. These experts give compelling reasons why this is a big mistake and they offer advice on how to successfully write executable plans. Following is a summary of the discussion.

I kept my notes organized by speaker and their points are summarized underneath their names. These are not exact quotes.

Depending on demand, next time I may bring my recorder and offer a podcast of the panel session.

Paul Ulyett – Moderator

  • Don’t use spreadsheets to run your business, that typically means there is no infrastructure.
  • Think of what your business should look like in terms of processes and systems. Look for ways to automate.
  • Break the plan into small chunks and execute aggressively and measure passionately.
  • The plan should not constrain, instead, it should measure and manage.
  • Summary of key points:
    • Planned reflection time off site, away from the day to day operations.
    • Use lear definitions.
    • Break into manageable chunks.
    • Set realistic goals.
    • Goals should be measurable and the tactics changeable.
    • Base your strategy on facts.

David Luke

  • Top level executives should use scheduled reflection time for strategic level thinking.
  • The business plan should be “connected”, meaning that the objectives need to be understood at all levels of the company.
  • Break the plan down into manageable chunks and simplify.
  • Learn how to write goals and strategy. You must learn how to express those goals and strategy realistically.
  • Start with simple steps to gain momentum.
  • Values should be shared across the organization and participation should be encouraged at all levels via brainstorming sessions.
  • Make sure the plan is a living and breathing document.
  • Keep your goals clear, with backup plans in preparation for change.

Tom Fedro

  • The plan should be simple, realistic and specific.
  • Have guiding principles that can be referred to in times of conflict.
  • Invest time in finding quality advisers.
  • Keep your focus on the primary goals.
  • Gain credibility early by obtaining key customers.
  • Make sure your product or service is solid and scalable.
  • Focus on revenue and customers. These two things trump a plan every time.
  • Make sure you have defined contingency plans.
  • Talk to experts in your industry to determine the viability of your plan.
  • Make sure you get enough funding to support your plan.
  • Know who you are offering your product or service.

John Capano

  • Money, time and effort should be measured and tied to job descriptions.
  • Don’t let planning tools bog down the process, instead match the tools to your process.
  • Always create your metrics based on the key goals.
  • Spend some time thinking about what to take off your plate.
  • The organization should be connected to the main goals, of which there should be a maximum of five.
  • Everyone in the organization should be focused on execution with respect to the main goals.
  • The strategic plan should be focused on execution with respect to getting from point A to point B, in detail along with supporting goals and strategies.
  • Typically, VC’s look at management, then an overview of your plan and then they dig deep into the business plan.
  • Monitor your resources with respect to the plan.
  • Be reasonable, take it step by step and focus on the short term and execute.

Bob Newkirk

  • Define your exit strategy. Are you looking for a lifestyle business or to go public?
  • Ask: Who are we? Where do we want to be? What are we passionate about? What will we be the best in the world at?
  • Implement a system that tracks milestones and activities such as BaseCamp.
  • When you are off course, the problem can usually be traced to lack of resources.
  • Your core ideology should not change (put these items on the front page of the system you use) while the tactics should be flexible.
  • Keep the time frame within six months for the executable plan with no more than five key objectives.
  • Look at partnerships and outsourcing for anything outside of your core competencies.
  • Tie the plan to the financial well being of the executors of the plan via bonuses based on the key objectives.
  • Spend time in research. People like to compare. Find out where the buyers buy and be there.
  • Choose three to five specific goals.
  • Remove babble and stay realistic.
  • Focus on cash flow in the financial plan.


If You Want to Make God Really Laugh, Show Him Your Business Plan: The 101 Universal Laws of Business
The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
Burn Your Business Plan!: What Investors Really Want from Entrepreneurs
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Special thanks to Gregg Gallagher for the invitation and Jack Bicer for making it all happen.

What business planning war stories do you have?

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