Trying to charter the rough waters of the startup world without a to-do manual is asking for trouble
Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or a team of two or four people, carrying around all the visions, projects and processes in one’s head, subject to human limitations of memory and undependable communication, is risky.
Like a blueprint for a house
However, putting it all down in a document, with a vision statement, objectives, purposes, processes, procedures, milestones and financials is essential. Like a blueprint for a house from which the rest of the construction procedure follows — such as the requirement for manpower, material, cost and timeframe — a startup too must define its internal targets, processes and policies clearly.
The earlier it is all put down formally in writing, the better are the prospects of a startup holding a steady course towards its desired objectives.
It is wise, at the outset, to create a well defined document, that’ll serve as the common point of reference for the entire team. When done correctly and thoroughly, this document will pave a clear way towards ensuring that there is uniformity and consistency in the practices and processes adopted in the startup.
It provides clarity
The defined policies and processes will also serve as a bible to avoid internal confusion or lack of clarity in action and execution at any point of time. When hiring new people, it will also be critical for assimilating the new members into the culture, goals and expectations of the organisation.
Prior to scripting this roadmap in the very early days of your operations, you will be forced to think of and resolve a lot of issues. Topping the list would be some of these questions you would need to ask yourself:
- The issue of whether you are certain to go the whole hog in this uncertain terrain?
- Whether your product or service fills a need in the market?
- Will it still be relevant five years down the line?
- How will you roll out the service or manufacture?
- Do you have the necessary resources in money, material and expertise?
- Do you have the space and location necessary for the business?
- How will you manage your outward and inwards payments?
- How will you manage inventory?
- What people you need to complete your tasks?
- Which market are you aiming for?
- How will you target your customers?
- How long will your money last?
- How will you compete with others?
It’s a catalyst for focus and resolve
Only when these questions are addressed will the startup be truly up and running. The very process of making an internal document acts as a catalyst to focus and resolve the key parameters for running a business.
The plan should be diligent in outlining the key elements which will be instrumental in running your company, but should not be lengthy. The idea is to crisply outline the essentials without any unnecessary details, so that it serves as a quick reckoner, and is not relegated to some corner within dusty files.
It should describe the business, explain the product or service, and outline the milieu within which it has to compete. Next, it should explain how this business will make money through a business model, chart out the necessary steps to market it, and describe the process of manufacturing or delivering the service.
Then, it should come down to the structure of the executing team and the financial projection of initial and post launch investments needed. It should also identify the various processes across different functions and list down the standard operating procedures (SOPs), so dependency on a certain set of people can be minimised and continuity can be maintained.
It promotes fair play
You should also define the various policies that’ll be applicable to everyone across the board. This will help eliminate any bias at work and ensure a sense of equality and fair play.
As a matter of fact, the policies and process formulated by the startup ought to be embedded in the complete roadmap of the company, so it can serve as the basic foundation on which the startup is built over a period of time, while maintaining an element of consistency and uniformity.
It fosters consistency
That’s not all. If well documented and well communicated, these policies and processes can help a startup fend off unforeseen risks. For instance, by defining and maintaining a single line of external communication, you can ensure that there is consistency in the message you want to convey to the outside world. This will help prevent any confusion or miscommunication, which, in turn, can end up damaging your goodwill.
Similarly, a clear SOP to address customer grievances will ensure that the customers’ issues get resolved in a proper manner within the stipulated time, so there is minimum impact of the issue on the relationship the customer enjoys with the company and vice versa.
So, simply by laying down clear processes, policies and practices, you can have complete control over the execution of various functions and can keep a check on any deviations.
As an author for guiding startups, Barbara Findlay rightly puts it, “What you need to have is a piece of paper that details the main things that will keep your business on course.” As with everything in life, you will have to make changes to the policies and processes document, as you grow. As the size of the business changes and new challenges come up, this roadmap will need to be reviewed and tweaked.
Business advisors, established businessman, bankers and investors, all stress on the need to develop this document before starting the business. This will help you confidently move forward, take decisions, and create value.
Vikram is Co-founder, Chief Mentor & Accelerator Evangelist at GHV Accelerator
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