We work with startups at every stage to develop strategic plans that focus internal effort yet can adapt to changing conditions.
Early-stage startups tend to evolve their target markets, PMF hypotheses, and GTM strategies very quickly, which makes it difficult to sustain and coordinate effort from quarter to quarter. Effective strategic planning in these conditions requires foresight about which systems and investments will be essential regardless of future changes.
Later-stage startups must coordinate bigger and more diverse teams with increased capital and heightened external scrutiny. Horizons for strategic planning extend, and systems get more rigorous. Startup veterans see these changes coming and prepare for them in advance.
Successful startups take a proactive stance toward future growth. They synthesize two perspectives: go-forward planning that accepts and emphasizes the immediate must-dos, and work-back planning pegged to upcoming and predictable organizational milestones—fundraising rounds, product launches, pivots, major hires, etc. Merging these two perspectives often reveals unexpected dependencies and creates a roadmap for the organization that can survive future bumps.
When we work with startups on their strategic plans, the two main challenges we encounter are: (1) ambiguity and implicit lack of leadership team agreement about the core business strategy, and (2) resistance to planning, which leads to a lack of accountability for execution. In other words, the strategy gets chewed up because the culture eats it for breakfast.
We’re very good at assessing the business and interpersonal situation quickly and facilitating the right conversations so the team can commit to a strategy and from there build a plan that—like a codebase—can be edited and expanded over time.
Startups tend to have clear preferences regarding their strategic planning processes (e.g., OKRs, V2MOMs, Traction) and tools (e.g., Asana, Airtable, Trello, PowerPoint, Monday, Quip). We find that some of these work better than others, but we are conversant with all of them. We can create infrastructure when it does not exist or adapt to your preferred toolset so that buy-in for the strategic plan, once earned, is automatic and very strong.