Category: Strategic Planning

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Steve Blank says that no business plan survives first contact with the customer.  That’s a riff on a quote ascribed to Helmuth von Moltke,  a German general from the 19th Century who said “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

The point is that the value of the plan is in the planning; in the understanding about your customers, products and markets.  It’s in the learning of your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  It’s about pivots and reacting to what you learn when you enter the market.

A plan gives you a set of objects to get started but immediately, you run into things you didn’t anticipate.  Your planing should include “what-if” scenarios and careful measures to provide data on how you are doing.

It always takes longer, costs more and is more challenging that you expect to get your company launched and your product in the hands of the customer.  Stay lean, flexible and pivot!

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Take your best shot at analysis, place your bet on the table, work your ass off, and don’t look back. That’s how you build a great company.” – Guy Kawasaki

Planning is important.  Analysis is as well.  It is useful to search for patterns that could reveal some repeatability and predictability.

You need to do the market research and you need to pour over your financials, but as Pete Seeger wrote, there’s “a time for every purpose under Heaven.”  Planning and analysis must soon end because neither generates cash.

Confirm your instincts, get the data for the pitch and make sure the numbers tie together.  Then go get your product in your customer’s hands!


Read Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add,… ” – Antoine St. Exuprey

“…but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

To celebrate the coming of 2014, I share my favorite quote.  It speaks to everything.  It’s about simplicity in all you do.

For the entrepreneur, it’s about your Minimally Viable Product and your feature set.  It’s about managing your time.  It’s about crafting your pitch, your mission statement, your strategy.

It’s about filtering out all the noise that distracts you from accomplishing your goals; email, Twitter, Facebook and those who don’t believe in your dream.

And perhaps, blog posts…

Happy New Year!

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” – Peter Drucker

I love the word “degenerate” and  I’am sure Dr. Drucker chose the word intentionally.

There is no value in any plan except that it translates to action.  The word “degenerate” emphasizes that the plan must transform and go away as soon as it materializes.

I’ve heard it put another way…   “Don’t just plan there,  DO SOMETHING!”

Strategic Planning and Business Modeling, although important and vital, are worth nothing in themselves.  As soon as you have a plan, test it in the market with your customers.  They will let you know if you are on the right track.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Hope is not a plan, Mr. Callan” – Hetty Lang from NCIS LA

“I hope so” is all to often the reply when the question is asked, “Do you think it will work?”

Hope is inspiring and keeps the light burning.  We need hope to get us through the dark hour.  But hope is not fundable in itself.

I was involved in a “take it or leave it” scenario and it was us who conveyed the ultimatum.  The strange thing was, we were surprised when the other side said, “Ok, leave!”  We were sure they would see it our way and we did not have a Plan B.  It cost us quite a bit of money and time.

For every big decision, every potential life changing scenario, you need to think through all the possible chess moves and consider what happens if things don’t go your way.  Definitely have Plan B ready.  Plan C and D should be in the wings; each just a phone call away.

“Can I bootstrap if funding falls through?’

“What if this key guy won’t agree to be an advisor?”

“What if this cracker jack programmer wants too much cash?’

Even in chess there are a limited number of potential moves and usually, three or four most obvious.  Always have a backup!

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Doing nothing is very hard to do … you never know when you’re finished.” – Leslie Nielsen

Get a good, cheap project management app or a killer To Do list app.  I like Basecamp.  At the very least, use a spreadsheet to map out your major milestone categories and tasks.

I did some customer discovery work a while back to find out what tools our clients used to keep up with all the stuff they had to do.  I was interested in finding an app that combines strategic management with a task list.

After about 30 interviews, I determined that the most popular app to manage milestones… email!  Some had simple spreadsheets but only referred to them every couple weeks; not daily.

You can’t keep it all in your head and email keeps you focused on what’s happening right now, not what needs to be done by next week or next month.

What are the top three business goals?  Every morning should start with a priority of tasks aimed at those goals.

Reading email is not even close to #1.



Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Start a ‘Stop Doing’ list” – Jim Collins from Good To Great

We often use “To Do” lists to keep up with all the stuff we have to get done.  It’s never ending.  To make it worse, entrepreneurs are typically wired to get things done.

Jim Collins suggests that having a “stop doing” list is perhaps more important than than our “to do” list.  Learning to say “no” is vital for making time to get the important things done.

Sometimes this happens automatically because we tend to gravitate toward the things in our minds that are the most important.  But this can based on emotional responses.  Even worse, we let the agenda of others manage our activities.

A deliberate process of identifying the things that are strategically important and the things that are not can go a long way to helping you get things done.

“Hedgehogs…understand that the essence of profound insight is simplicity.” – Jim Collins

The Hedgehog Concept described in Jim Collins’ “Good To Great”  is a great tool for developing a strategic vision for your startup company.  It is the intersection between what drives your passion, what you can be really good at, and what can make you money.  These are the essence of a good startup.

Read “Good To Great” by Jim Collins

“Entrepreneurship is like playing chess in a hockey rink.” – Steve Hane

Part of strategic planning is to think…well ahead…of potential outcomes.  It doesn’t end there.  Develop scenarios that represent how you would react to those potential outcomes.:  “If this happens, we’ll do that.  If that happens, we’ll so this”.

Even this is not enough.  In the heat of business, customer expectations change in a blink.

When you hit the growth stage, you have to capture market share as quickly as possible, rapidly iterating.  Geoffrey Moore calls this being “inside the tornado”.  Jim Cramer puts even more simply, “sell, sell, sell s,s,s SELL”

Hockey players can react quickly because they spent the time practicing the moves, ahead of game time.  That is how they slow down time.  Even while the mind is trying to analyze the situation, the body says, “I’ve seen this before,” and slaps the winning shot.


“The thing all startups fail at is not having a full discussion about expectations,” – Cameron Teitelman

It’s good to understand the end game early.  Nothing is carved in stone, but especially with multiple founders, the earlier you talk about exit, the better.  A term sheet negotiations is the wrong time to discover one founder want to take on equity and the other does not.

For that matter, you should have that conversation with yourself.  An advisor can facilitate the conversation and the thought process for you.  Ask the tough questions.  Plan scenarios and understand the details related to each possibility.  You can’t plan when opportunities will land in your lap.  Don’t be surprised.  Be proactive.