Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pick One Strategy and Go For It!

As a Part Time CFO, I have clients who are either startups looking for investor money or are startups that are self funded and are putting together their first strategic plan. I am an entrepreneurial CFO so I understand the thought process that goes into the strategic plan. We see so much opportunity with multiple market channels to pursue.

As entrepreneurs we always think we can go after all the markets and all of the channels all at once. Create our strategic plan around attacking every possible opportunity. Fire all the guns at once! After all, why leave a stone unturned? The logic is if one or two of the market channels are doing well you can just focus more resources or all resources to those channel(s). However, in reality when we try to go after all market channels we dilute our resources and find that we are not successful at any channels because each channel individually deserved more resources and more attention in order to be successful. I can't tell you how many times I went kicking myself thinking about a specific market channel and saying "if I only had more resources I would have been successful in this channel". Knowing I would have had more resources if I did not try to pursue all the market opportunities at one time.

The challenge is convincing yourself and any investors why the channel you did not select is not the right strategy, however what your plan can ultimately show is you think one channel, let’s say "mom and pop retail shops" is the best opportunity in the short term (first 2 or 3 years) and then when the company has more resources or is ready for another round of financing it can incorporate "the big box retailers". Then down the road once after it has established itself and profited with big box retailers maybe the Canadian market channel can be pursued and then international and so forth. If it takes 3 or 4 years instead of 2 or 3 years to profit and be successful with the mom and pop retail shops then so be it. At least you preserved your resources so that you could survive the extra time it needed to profit in that market.

The other thought that goes through the mind of the Entrepreneur that makes going after all the market opportunities so tempting is beating any competitor to the punch. Once again you need to avoid this temptation. In my view if you are first to the market place with a product or service you should choose the channel that gives you the most brand recognition opportunity. That way you will always be perceived as the pioneer and being first in the market place when you finally enter that new market channel, even though someone else beat you to that new market channel. There is always a distinct brand recognition advantage in being first to the market place no matter what channel is pursued.

I know it is hard. I know you want to go after it all. I know you have good reasons to go after it all. Avoid those temptations. Pick the best market channel and pour all of your focus, energy and resources on that one channel and you will give your startup the best chance to succeed!