Strategic Planning for Startups

Darryl Barber
Principal, Katoel Consulting


With a new idea, or a new enterprise in mind, what is going to make you stand out from the crowd, or even survive the commercial minefield, once you convert that idea into action? Too many great business ideas don't make it through the incubation period because the idea is not appropriately filtered through a robust, thorough, and practical strategic plan.

Forget the myriad strategic planning blueprints now available on the web – if you have a winning idea or concept for a business, you have to draft a strategy which works for your business. And it has to be a plan which can be referenced back to, and sanity checked in a dynamic and competitive business environment.

The well worn proverb, 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail' is never more true than for a start-up. In my experience, the key reasons why businesses fail are:


They failed to sufficiently forecast the cash requirements of the business, incorporating a worst case scenario;


They failed to spend sufficient time or resource on establishing their brand identity, or their identity was inappropriate for their offering;


They failed to adequately consider or manage risk;


They failed to accurately forecast the growth of the business, which reverts back to points 1, 2, and 3!

Cash is the lifeblood of any business, let alone a new business. Your plan needs to intimately account for how you will manage cash in and out; this plan needs to be truth tested for practicality. For example, many suppliers will not accept new businesses to account status until they have developed a trading profile.

Brand identity is what hooks new customers and keeps them coming back for more. The best product or service offering will not guarantee survival if your brand delivery fails you – one of the key risks for new businesses. Brand delivery includes how your business presents, and how it delivers service for the long haul. When drafting the plan, commit resources to engaging professionals who understand the importance of developing a brand, which, after all, is the hallmark of a sustainable and valuable business.

Starting a new business is rarely a smooth ride – understand and account for this, and acknowledge the investment in appropriate expertise which will ensure your business survives and prospers!