7 min read

Implementing Your Business Plan: A Marathon AND a Sprint

How To Implement Your Business Plan

As a runner, I know the feeling of lacing up my shoes, stepping out the door, and hitting the pavement. It's not always easy. Some days, I'm full of energy and ready to take on the world. Other days, it's a struggle just to get out the door. But no matter how I feel, I know that consistency is key. I can't just run on the days I feel like it; I have to stick with it, day in and day out.

Implementing a business plan is a lot like my running routine. Like training and preparing for race day, you've done the hard work of business planning, secured the funding, and now you're ready to put that plan into action. (If you're still in the process of finding potential investors, check out our post on how to build an investor funnel.)

Just as I have to pace myself during my runs, manage my energy reserves, and adjust my strategy based on the weather or how I'm feeling that day, a startup must also manage its resources, and adapt its strategy based on real-world conditions.

In the next sections, we'll delve into the challenges of implementing a business plan and provide actionable steps to help you navigate the race. So, lace up your metaphorical shoes and let's get started.

The Challenge of Implementation

Implementing a business plan is a unique challenge. It's not just about taking an idea and turning it into a business. It's about taking a document—a business plan, often aimed at securing funding—and applying it into a living, breathing organization that evolves and grows over time.

A business plan isn't a set of turn-by-turn directions. It won't tell you exactly what to do every day. Instead, it's a roadmap, showing you the general path towards your destination. But the journey along that path? That's up to you.

This is where strategic planning comes into play. When you were creating your business plan, you weren't just thinking about securing funding. You were also thinking about how you would implement that plan. You were considering your resources, your timeline, your team. You were thinking about the market conditions, the potential challenges, the opportunities for growth.

But even with all that planning, the implementation phase can still feel daunting. It's like standing at the starting line of a marathon. You've trained, you've prepared, but now you have to actually run the race. And just like a marathon, implementing a business plan requires endurance, strategy, and the ability to adapt when conditions change.

Knowing When It's Time To Sprint

So, how do you run this marathon? How do you take this comprehensive, detailed business plan and put it into action? The key is to break it down into manageable chunks.

Think about it in terms of my running routine. If I focused on the entire distance I had to run each time I laced up my shoes, I'd likely feel overwhelmed. But instead, I focus on one mile at a time, one step at a time. This approach makes the task feel less daunting and more achievable.

The same concept applies to implementing your business plan. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

But here's the twist: Implementing a business plan is not just a marathon—it's also a sprint. It's a series of focused, intense efforts to achieve specific goals in a short amount of time. This is where the sprint methodology from Jake Knapp's book Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days comes into play.

In a sprint, you set an aggressive, focused goal for a short period. During this time, you concentrate your efforts on achieving this goal, minimizing distractions and other tasks.

But a sprint isn't about brainstorming or planning—it's about doing. It's about making to-do lists, categorizing everything that needs to be done before you open the doors, and checking those boxes off. It's about taking concrete, tangible steps towards your goal.

Here are some key elements of a sprint:

  • Block off your schedule: All of your energy needs to be on your sprint goal (in our case, launching your business). This means minimizing distractions and other tasks as much as possible.
  • Get things on paper: Write down your tasks, objectives, and progress. Use whiteboards, sticky notes, or whatever tools work best for you.
  • Make decisions and execute: Don't get stuck in endless debates. It's time to act.
  • Test as you go with target customers: Get feedback early and often. This will help you make adjustments as needed.
  • Reframe problems as opportunities: Challenges will arise. Instead of seeing them as roadblocks, view them as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Accept that you can't know everything: You'll learn as you go. Be open to new insights and be ready to adjust accordingly.

In the book, it's a 5-day sprint with a strict project team and timeline. But for my marketing plan, I've been doing a 30-day sprint, blocking off time each day to focus on my project implementation plan. The key is to maintain momentum and make significant progress in a short amount of time.

Action Steps for Business Plan Implementation

Step 1: Hire the Right People

The first step in implementing your business plan is building your team. Your business plan should have already outlined the key roles and skills needed for your startup. Now, it's time to bring that team to life.

Start by reviewing the roles that your business plan identified as critical to your operations. For each of these roles, you'll need to create a detailed job description. If you need help with this, there are many resources available online, such as this guide from Indeed.

Next, start the recruitment process. This could involve posting job ads, reaching out to your network, or working with a recruitment agency. Keep in mind that hiring is not just about finding someone who can do the job—it's about finding someone who fits your company culture and contributes to the achievement of your organizational goals and objectives.

The right team will not only bring the necessary skills and experience to your business but also serve as a valuable resource for your project team, bringing fresh ideas, perspectives, and energy to the table.

Once you've hired your team, it's time to delegate. You've hired these individuals because they have the skills and expertise that your business needs. Trust them to take on some of the implementation tasks. This will not only lighten your load but also empower your team and give them a sense of ownership and investment in the success of the business.

Step 2: Develop Your Marketing Plan

Your business plan should have provided a high-level overview of your marketing strategy, including your target audience, key messaging, and marketing channels. Now, it's time to take that strategy and turn it into a detailed, actionable marketing plan.

Start by reviewing the marketing information in your business plan. This should include your customer personas, marketing channels, and any promotions or campaigns you plan to run. Use this information as the foundation for your marketing plan.

In the early stages of your business, it's crucial to prioritize the marketing efforts that are most likely to generate revenue. This might mean focusing on the channels where your target customers are most active, or the tactics that have the shortest sales cycles. Generating revenue as quickly as possible will not only help fund your ongoing operations but also provide valuable feedback on your marketing strategy.

For more detailed advice on implementing your marketing plan, especially in the early stages of your business, check out our post on early stage marketing. Additionally, HubSpot's Marketing Plan Template Generator can be a useful tool for outlining your marketing strategy and identifying top initiatives.

Step 3: Get Compliant

Ensuring legal and regulatory compliance is key to your successful implementation process. Start by reviewing the legal and regulatory requirements outlined in your business plan. This could include business licenses and permits, insurance requirements, employment laws, privacy regulations, etc.

Next, take steps to meet these requirements. This might involve filing paperwork, purchasing insurance, developing privacy policies, or consulting a lawyer or compliance expert to help navigate the complexities.

Non-compliance can result in fines, penalties, and damage to your business's reputation. It's worth investing the time and resources to ensure you're fully compliant from the start. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a comprehensive guide on how to apply for licenses and permits, covering both federal and state requirements.

Step 4: Establish Efficient Systems and Processes

As you start to implement your business plan, it's vital to establish clear systems and processes. These will serve as the backbone of your operations, helping your business run smoothly and efficiently.

Start by dividing your business into key areas, or "frames". These frames align with sections of a standard business plan and include Executive, Legal, Products & Services, Business Intelligence, Sales & Marketing, Management & HR, and Finance. For each of these frames, outline the main tasks and processes involved, and assign a member of the team to oversee its progress.

Incorporating the right tools is an integral part of establishing your systems and processes. For example, a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like HubSpot can help you manage your customer interactions more effectively. Similarly, a project management system like Basecamp can be a great way to organize tasks and keep your projects on track. 

One important document to establish early on is an employee handbook. This should outline your company's policies, procedures, and expectations. It's a key tool for onboarding new hires and ensuring everyone is on the same page. The Employee Handbook Guide from Indeed, which includes a free downloadable template, is a good starting point. 

Remember, your systems and processes should be designed to support your strategic objectives and make your life as a business owner easier, not more complicated. They should be flexible and adaptable, able to evolve as your business grows and changes.

Setting and Measuring Performance Goals

The objectives outlined in your business plan are your big-picture goals, such as revenue targets or customer acquisition numbers. The challenge now is to translate these into actionable tasks that you and your team can work on daily.

This is where SMART goals come into play. SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific: Your goals should be clear and specific, rather than vague and general. Instead of saying "increase revenue," specify a target revenue figure you aim to reach.
  • Measurable: You should be able to track your progress towards your objective. This means setting goals that are quantifiable.
  • Attainable: While it's good to be ambitious, your goals should also be realistic. Set targets that are high, but within reach given your resources and constraints.
  • Relevant: Your goals should align with your overall business plan and contribute to its success.
  • Time-bound: Your goals should have a clear timeline. Setting a deadline creates a sense of urgency and gives you a timeframe for measuring progress.

Once you've set your SMART goals, the next step is to break them down into smaller tasks. For instance, if your goal is to acquire a certain number of new customers by the end of the quarter, you might break this down to: "reach out to 50 potential leads per week," "write and publish a weekly blog post," and "launch a customer referral program by the end of the month."

Peak Performance: The Payoff of Proper Training

In a marathon, your performance is a direct reflection of the training effort you've put in. Similarly, the success of your business is a mirror image of the strategic planning process and the work invested in your business plan. It's important to remember that a good business plan goes beyond securing funding—it's about preparing to execute your business model. A business plan without a clear path to implementation is akin to a training plan that leaves you unprepared for race day.

I'll leave you with this last thought: In his book 'Sprint', Jack Knapp advises us to “Start at the End”. This means that your strategic planning should be done with a clear vision of its execution. Picture what success looks like for your business, then work backwards to identify the steps needed to get there.

And with that, you're off to the races!

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