Ideas are worthless without Execution, and Execution is Chaos without a Plan.
— Mack Earnhardt
You have an Idea. It may transform your business or launch a new one from scratch. It may transform your life. But understand these limitations:
- By itself, an idea isn’t enough to transform an existing business.
- By itself, an idea isn’t enough to launch a successful business.
- You can’t raise money on an idea alone …and sorry, family doesn’t count.
To achieve those results, you need a Plan. Let’s step back a sec.
Your idea probably started with a spark and grew into an amorphous blob with bits sticking out everywhere. Somehow — and that’s a story for another day — you got some clarity with the disjointed bits fused or discarded. Your idea has transformed into a Concept; it’s rational and complete enough to explain — and defend at dinner or cocktail parties without embarrassment. You have goals and you see your Concept as the vehicle to new achievements.
So now what? The completed Concept is more cohesive than the amorphous blob it was, but it’s also larger and more complex. And most importantly it’s not a business. At least not yet.
Seeing your life-altering Concept reduced to a set of steps is tough emotionally. Actually reducing your life-altering Concept to a set of steps is tough mentally. You may field the tough questions in a conference room or pitch competition with passion and grace, but that isn’t going to launch anything but your ego.
How to transform a Concept into a Plan is more worthy of a book than a blog post, but in extremely overgeneralized terms:
- Identify the very foundation of your Concept; the cornerstone on which all relies.
- Briefly list — and yes it’s hard — the various things that must be true or done to build the foundation. Let’s call them steps for simplicity. They could be done in sequence or in parallel, but they must all be done. If any are optional, erase them.
- Some of the steps you listed have their own steps that must be true or done as precursors. Write all those down as well.
- Rinse and repeat until you’re out of precursors. Write everything down.
- Identify who is willing and qualified to handle each step. Or at least who is cheap and willing to learn. Or budget to outsource it.
- Every step must have a person, agency, and/or budget assigned. If your don’t believe me, erase the step.
By this time you’re probably wishing you had a project manager on your team to whip up a Gantt chart to visualize the interrelationships between all the steps. Take heart. If you really make the list you’re ahead of most founders.
Congratulations. You’ve given birth to a bouncing baby Plan.
Now everything is awesome, amiright? That Plan is the bomb. This time next year you’ll be flying your private jet to Europe on a whim.
Or not. The next step is harder and usually takes longer than anyone wishes, and many founders wouldn’t have started if they realized what was required. Let’s talk about making the winning move. Someone will take Action or you fail. You will take Action, inspire others to take Action, or you fail. You will ensure the Action is sufficient, or you fail. You will pay any price, bear any burden, or take your toys and go home covered in the stink of failure as if you bathed in it.
Sensing a pattern? Just as ideas are worthless without execution, your Plan is only a guide in the next stage of your journey. If you buy into the Law of Attraction, you’re probably thinking positive thoughts. You might be waiting for something magical to happen. And it might, but it will involve someone taking Action according to the Plan.
But please keep thinking those thoughts, because passion and optimism are exactly what you need to draw the right team members to your side. Remember no step in the Plan is optional, and as you build your team you’ll need a clearheaded assessment of their capabilities. You’ll determine what steps in the Plan they’ll handle vs what you must do yourself. If you can’t do it yourself, keep looking for that person or agency.
Finally, what are you waiting for? Get to work! You made the Plan; now take Action. You’ll immediately discover places you were wrong. Perhaps many places. Revise the Plan and keep taking Action to move forward. Rinse and repeat and repeat.
Ok NOW we’re done. Except for this one thing:
What did you accomplish? Much like “pics or it didn’t happen,” you need metrics or it didn’t work. It’s too big a topic to cover here, but you need meaningful metrics to help you decide whether you’re winning. Seeing your bank account grow is nice, but if you’re watching the wrong things your business may be terminally ill months before you notice. Learn to know the difference between vanity metrics and leading indicators, or start composing your post mortem, patting yourself on the back for how much you learned from your …epic …public …failure. Wow, that new Vision Jet from Cirrus looks nice, doesn’t it?
Pedantic much? Yes please, medium rare with snark on the side. Thanks for reading!
Oh and one more thing… We help create those pesky Plans.