Companies that succeed best in the long term take a step back and plan. But in this unprecedented time, how do brands move from reactionary to proactive? A recent Naturally Network webinar explores the five steps to planning the next 12 months of a company’s growth.
Leading the panel, Maura Mitchell, managing partner of Brandology—a firm specializing in powerful and profitable growth plans—walked through her five steps to success, joined by entrepreneurs all facing unique challenges within the framework. The founders were Sadie Scheffer, founder of Bread SRSLY, Pete Brennan, co-founder of Soñar Foods, and Danielle Vincent, founder of Outlaw Soaps.
Here are the steps that companyies should use to start thinking about growing, scaling and thriving in the next year, and how to pivot within the steps based on unique business challenges.
1. Create two to three imaginary future scenarios.
This exercise will help brands prepare for how their category will look in 12 months. Work on creating a best, worst and somewhere-in-the-middle circumstance for how the company may face and overcome challenges. Mitchell expressed caution around mixing scenarios—each should have a clear differentiation and action plan.
Use each scenario to plan for systems that are out of the company’s control. Currently, companies may be facing a scenario where e-commerce is dominant and brick-and-mortar retail is less powerful for their category. Within this scenario, assume that the company’s product or category is not being fulfilled quickly or prioritized on Amazon. How could the strategy pivot based on this assumption?
Planning should always be in a relatively small trusted group. Make these scenario-planning decisions with key leadership and valued mentors. Be careful not to have anyone in the room who would require a lack of honesty and openness about the state of the company.
2. Find common ground and define what "winning" means.
Determine how your brand will win in each area of business, then identify the commonalities. Across channel, products, sales, marketing, operations, finance and human resources, how can the company win? What is needed to pivot within unknown and unforeseen circumstances? Use this planning to balance long-term views with short-term survival. Figure out how to time the tactics so that you can work toward getting ready for the long term, while staying afloat (and cash flow even) for now. Recognize that "getting things done" may look different now than when they are tenable and have an impact.
What does it mean to ‘"win"? This is a crucial step to define in the process.
3. Assess: Stop, start, continue.
Determine what the company needs to start, stop and continue doing to get from the circumstances of today to the next 12 months. To carry a company from now to a more scalable future, founders and teams have to really look at not only what they would like to start (which proves to be a bit easier), but what they have been doing that is no longer serving the team or working. Be careful not to take more on without letting go of other priorities as a group.
4. Identify pivotal external events and develop a ready-for-action plan around them.
Identify "forks in the road" and "signposts" that will guide decision-making. Mitchell defines forks in the road as external events that a company should be ready to respond to in real time. Use these to determine how and when to act. If food service is an important channel for your business, develop a timeline and workplan around how the company would like to be ready when the channel reopens. If Fulfill by Amazon is strategic, how will the company pivot when the channel starts accepting new SKUs?
Mitchell also expressed the value of keeping signposts in view, which she defines as external metrics that a team should monitor to help them understand the future, to increase the level of comfort with all scenarios as plans progress.
5. Reflect often. Review progress and dashboards weekly. Fine-tune but don’t overhaul.
As with all changes that companies face, there are always wildcards that may influence and interrupt planning. Mitchell stressed the importance of sticking to a plan and not letting too many outside factors radically overwhelm the plan in place. Review the 12-month progress as a team and check in on the rapid changes that are happening. Think about fine-tuning actions but try not to make big changes that can lead to overwhelm.
Watch the full webinar.