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Elmer Thomas Jr.
I had the fortune of attending a panel presentation at a TechBiz Connections http://www.techbizconnection.org/  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 - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/678/b2b  - 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 - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/559/94b

  • 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 - http://www.linkedin.com/in/tomfedro

  • 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 - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/3/b4a/ab

  • 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.

o             Monitor your resources with respect to the plan.

o             Be reasonable, take it step by step and focus on the short term and execute.

Bob Newkirk - http://www.linkedin.com/in/newkirk

o             Define your exit strategy. Are you looking for a lifestyle business or to go public?

o             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?

o             Implement a system that tracks milestones and activities such as BaseCamp.

o             When you are off course, the problem can usually be traced to lack of resources.

o             Your core ideology should not change (put these items on the front page of the system you use) while the tactics should be flexible.

o             Keep the time frame within six months for the executable plan with no more than five key objectives.

o             Look at partnerships and outsourcing for anything outside of your core competencies.

o             Tie the plan to the financial well being of the executors of the plan via bonuses based on the key objectives.

o             Spend time in research. People like to compare. Find out where the buyers buy and be there.

o             Choose three to five specific goals.

o             Remove babble and stay realistic.

o             Focus on cash flow in the financial plan.

Please send all feedback, topic suggestions and/or questions to TechTalk@AboveTheLimit.com.  Digital archives can be found at BlackVoiceNews.com and IngleWoodToday.com.

Elmer Thomas Jr. is Co-founder of ATL Innovations, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide and ThemBid.com, a service offering free advertising for businesses and makes finding services and products easy for consumers. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at ATLInnovations.com  and ElmerThomas.com.


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