Business Planning

Running Initial Planning Meetings

Written by Adam Roy for Gaebler Ventures

Business planning is a valuable skill, but the most important skill you can acquire is to master the art of running initial planning meetings.

Do you know how to make something from nothing?

Running Initial Planning Meetings

If the answer to this question is no, then you have some practicing to do. Contrary to popular belief, making something from nothing is not the job of a magician, but rather that of an entrepreneur. When entrepreneurs enter into a venture, they face the monumental challenge of bridging the gap between the rough concept in their minds and the well-designed organization that their business must become, a trial of skill for even seasoned businesspeople.

This brand of entrepreneurial magic is most critical in the project's initial planning stage. The initial planning meetings are where entrepreneurs must lay out and survey the task before them and their team, building a strong base for their subsequent efforts and revisions. While no amount of know-how can replace the basic willingness to take the initiative, having a good idea of the purpose and methods of running productive initial meetings can help you efficiently lead your core team through the first stage of your venture.

Of course, a plan is only as valuable as the people who make it, so it's best to begin taking a look at who will be planning alongside you. It is critical that your entire core team be present for the initial planning stage, even those with specialized skills, such as product designers. Even if they fail to contribute anything to the initial framework, every member of your core team will eventually play an integral role in the development of your business. If this were not the case, you would not have chosen them for your project's core team.

Once everyone is in attendance and you have confirmed that they all know the basic concept of the venture, it's time to begin planning. The key to building a solid framework for your business is to use a "problem solving" approach. First, plot out the "problem", the product or service that will be the final output of your business. Then, work out your "solution", the business structure that will enable you to provide that product or service.

When laying out your "problem", the approach that you take and the thoroughness that it requires will largely depend on whether you are seeking to provide a product or a service. If your "problem" is a product, there is little planning that you can do. If it is a manufactured product, as opposed to a raw material, you can probably plot out what materials you will use, the type of facilities you will need to produce it, and perhaps even the general design philosophy. Anything more specific than that, however, is probably best left to a dedicated team of engineers and designers.

If your "problem" is a service, however, you have a lot more planning ahead of you. With the aid of paper or a whiteboard, you should now work with your team to chart out the different services offered, the different groups that will have to coordinate to perform the service, and the practical concern of how they will maintain organization. For example, if Bill and his team are starting a legal writing company, they might decide to meet with each client before and after the briefs are written and to offer a rewrite service at an additional cost.

After you plot out your problem, it's time to turn your attention to solving it. Discuss with your team what administrative structure to employ, what kind of customer support you will have, whether to keep lawyers on retainer, how you will manage your accounts, and whatever other matters of this type which apply.

Remember to focus on the particulars of the "problem" throughout the "solving" process. Returning to our earlier example, Bill and company would need to decide whether to have separate writing and research teams, how their researchers would conference with each other, and what law libraries and databases they would use, among other concerns.

Although your business still won't be ready for launch at the end of these difficult first meetings, you will have built the base that your company will rest on. While this groundwork may change drastically by your company's launch, the important thing is that it now exists as an evolving and viable plan. Where you began with nothing, you now have a basic plan which, with time and effort, you and your team can raise into a full-grown, competitive startup.

Let's see a magician do that.

Adam Roy is an accomplished writer specializing in business writing and topics of interest to entrepreneurs and small business owners. His own fast-growing small business, Roy Writing, is based in Northbrook, Illinois.

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