I’m big on having a game plan for your startup. Even way back when I was 22 and started Spunlogic in my dorm room at UNC-Charlotte, I had a game plan for where I wanted to take the business. That North star helped guide us over the next ten years to eventually achieve our goal of being acquired.
What most startup game plans, or business plans, aren’t ready for is the eventual punch(es) in the face. Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everyone has a game plan until they’re punched in the face.” He may be a crazy, don’t-want-to-run-into-him-in-a-dark-alley kinda guy, but he knows a thing or two about face punches.
Here are five ways to make your startup game plan face-punch ready:
1. Make the goal firm but the path to achieve it flexible. I’m a big believer in knowing what your end-game is before you launch your startup. Some people are very much against that, but its worked for me in the past so I’m sticking with it. Knowing where you want to end up, but being flexible in how you’ll get there, will allow your startup to duck and weave as it gets punched in the face.
2. Evaluate your game plan quarterly. Sometimes the punches you’ll take are small in nature but they can add up to the knock-out. This is why it is critical to evaluate your plan on a quarterly basis to make sure you’re still moving in the right direction.
3. Be smart about your pivots. You’ll have to change your path along the way. There’s almost no way around that. However, make 100% sure you’re doing the right thing before you change course. Work with advisors, your leadership team, whatever vetting you need to do in order to feel confident that you’re making the right choice. And then don’t be afraid to make the hard decision.
4. Make sure you have the financial means to survive the big punch. I always try to have three months of expenses in the bank incase my company hits hard times. This will allow for the ability to make the necessary changes and not crush your company in the process.
5. Embrace the punch. If your startup gets punched in the face, you need to roll with it. Learn from it. There’s a reason you’re getting punched in the face. Maybe you’re learning that a critical assumption of yours isn’t panning out. Or that the market has changed. Roll with the punch, assess why it happened and change your startup so that it doesn’t get that kind of direct hit again.