Taking Your Strategic Plan Public

In 2006, Elon Musk famously posted Tesla’s long-term strategy online. He ended his online post with “don’t tell anyone” – this as a way to ensure their strategy would be known globally overnight!.

That has encouraged entrepreneurs around the world to follow suit and be more transparent about what they are up to and why. We think this is a great practice. Making your strategy “public” helps potential investors to understand what you really plan to do. It helps with recruiting, as potential employees can decide if their skills are a good fit for your company. And it helps potential suppliers bring you technology which might help deliver your ambition.

The Really, Really Reason. Going public with your “secret plan” is a great way to engage your own people. No matter how many times you discuss your strategy internally, there is something very powerful about seeing your company’s plan in the local business paper or “revealed” online by CB Insights. When your employee’s friends tell your people about your company’s strategy, it adds a measure of inevitability to what you want to achieve. For example, here’s what Coinbase Founder/CEO Brian Armstrong said their strategy was – the emphasis being ours:

  1. “First, we will make it easy for consumers to invest in digital currency by building a retail exchange (Coinbase). The differentiators for this product are trust (security, compliance, etc.) and ease of use (access to convenient payment methods, intuitive interface, etc.). This will allow more people to own digital currency, especially non-technical people.
  2. Second, we will enable professional traders and institutions to trade digital currency (GDAX). This will support the investment use case in step one, but also scale it by driving larger trading volumes. More liquidity in the markets will reduce volatility of the underlying assets, which is important to enabling the payment network. The differentiator for this product will also be trust (security, compliance, etc.) to encourage larger, traditional investors to enter the market.
  3. Third, we will create a mass market consumer interface for people to start getting value from the payment network (Token). Now that a critical mass of early users have been drawn in by the investment use case, the industry is ready for its “Netscape moment.” This product will make it dramatically easier for consumers to use digital currency as a payment network, and for developers to build applications that utilize the payment network.
  4. Fourth, by lowering the barrier to create new digital currency applications, we’ll see an explosion in the number of ideas tried. We’ll invest in, partner with, or build a number of new applications in this space, including replacements for many of the services people use in finance 1.0. Some examples include merchant processing, remittance, loans, fundraising, venture capital, escrow, credit scores, and more.”

Presenting Your Strategy – How you present your strategy is a matter of choice for the entrepreneur. But this is a great opportunity to use the Five Questions | One Page®Success Planning approach to explain what you are up to. Here’s an example showing how to do this – for a fictitious firm in the software business.

The CEO of the ACME Pet Software Company, Mary Smith, was looking for a way to describe her business to the local Business Bugle. In case you are not familiar with ACME, they make specialized software that connects pet shelters across the U.S. to possible adoptive homes – both locally and nationally. To tell her story, she handed the Bugle reporter one sheet of paper with her 5Q |1Pâ plan on it. She walked through the thinking in each of the boxes below, explaining “Why,” “Where,” “What,” “How” and finally “Which” things they would not do.

  • “Why” does the organization really exist? – This is the emotional ethos of the organization – the reason people really come to work. People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it.

We help pets find homes where they will be truly loved.

  • “Where” is the organization headed long term? – This is a compelling, aspirational view of the organization’s long term future. This tells everyone where you are headed.

We will connect every pet shelter with every pet lover.

  • “What” will the organization achieve and how will we measure it? – This is a fact-based definition of success over the next 1 to 3 years, supported by specific, numerical measures called Goals (not shown here, yet!).

We will prove out our pet shelter software by connecting all 100 shelters in our home state, while preparing to go national.

  • “How” will success be achieved? – These are the choices about the work needed to deliver the “What”; who will be responsible for delivering it and when. No organization, company or country can execute more than 3 to 5 “How’s” at one time.
    1. We will build a pet shelter online community, aiming to connect them to 20% of all U.S. households.
    2. We will engage all the major pet food/supply companies as advertising sponsors.
    3. We will report our pet placement success stories on social media.
    4. We will focus on dogs only for the first three years.
  • “Which” work will the organization not do? – This is a list of the work the organization agrees to not do – so it can focus completely on achieving the “What.” This is your Won’t Do List®:
    1. We will not sell products on our site, so as not to lose credibility with pet shelters.
    2. We will not focus on cats for at least the next three years.

True, this is just a “made up” company. But you have to admit: It sounds like it could work! And if elements of this strategy were part of a local TV interview with the CEO, Mary Smith, it could make a real impression on Mary’s team. Here’s how the interview might go:

Reporter:

“So, Ms. Smith. What are you trying to do with Acme Pet Software?”

Mary:

“Very simply, we want to help every dog in America find a loving home. We plan to do that by connecting every local pet shelter to every dog lover in the country. Over time, we hope to add cats and other pets.”

Reporter:

“What a great idea. How can people help?”

Mary:

“We want everyone in the state to ask their local pet shelter to sign up on our website, AcmePets.com.”

You get the idea. Tell everyone what you are trying to do and then ask them to help. All you need to do is to tell people about your success plan and what you need them to do.