Experience for Innovators
A common thread amongst entrepreneurs is their passion for the idea that’s made them want to start a business. But, while passion for an idea can be a powerful catalyst, Glen Wakeman, founder and CEO of LaunchPad Holdings, has observed that it can also lead to a kind of tunnel vision in which the entrepreneur’s only focus is their end goal — the enactment of their business idea in the world. As a result, entrepreneurial innovators often can benefit from the expertise of others who are experienced in all aspects of running a business.
With these observations in mind, Wakeman has created a software tool, LaunchPad, to help early-stage entrepreneurs develop a business plan using his “Five Step Methodology,” designed to help make entrepreneurs’ ideas into a reality.
After leaving his successful career at his past job, Wakeman’s associates, and others referred to him, sought his counsel to help build their own startups. So, Wakeman provided his services — including capital consulting, CEO coaching, and entrepreneurial development — to help them raise money.
The companies seeking Wakeman’s help included: a retail clothing company, a portion of whose proceeds would go to a charity; a babysitting service modeled after Uber; and a firm that built roller coasters, which wanted to get into real estate in the hopes of expanding into new markets. For each company, Wakeman focused on what he deemed to be key aspects of each business plan — for the clothing company, supply costs; for the babysitting company, a stringent babysitter vetting process; and, for the roller coaster company, financial management.
While consulting for each of these companies, Wakeman noticed a common thread: often the entrepreneur’s passion was for the idea itself, rather than the value that the service could provide to others. “What I quickly realized,” Wakeman says, “was there was a genuine need for people to have guidance that allows them, in their minds, to separate what’s an idea versus what’s a plan.”
As a result of his experiences as a consultant, Wakeman was inspired to build a software that would be widely available and give entrepreneurs a structured process to analyze the fundamental aspects of their business idea, then provide them with a cohesive plan to enact their idea.
This software, LaunchPad, builds what has come to be known as Wakeman’s “Five Step Methodology” into the software that the company already uses to service its clients. Within LaunchPad, Wakeman’s Five Step Methodology walks entrepreneurs through a step-by-step process addressing key considerations for running a successful business.
Wakeman’s Five Step Methodology
The first step of Wakeman’s methodology, Marketing, forces businesses to focus on value to the customerof the product or service being offered — rather than the entrepreneur’s passion for the idea itself — by asking a series of questions (which Wakeman calls “the three basics”):
• What is the benefit of the product to the customer?
• Why is it different from other products on the market?
• Why would a customer buy this product from you?
Wakeman’s second step, Operations, focuses on a business’ execution of providing the service. Depending on the type of industry, the specific questions asked vary, but can be formulated generally as follows:
• Do you know what to do to create the product?
• Do you know the right order to complete the necessary steps?
• Do you have the ability to manage the product creation so that it is delivered on time?
In general, the more completely the business can answer these questions, the higher its likelihood of success.
After analysis of operational necessities, Wakeman’s methodology forces the business to perform an inventory of talentwith the following questions:
• Do you have the skills in place to execute the operational plan?
• If not, what skills do you need to acquire in order to execute it?
By taking inventory on its personnel, the goal of these questions is to force a business to assess whether its current talent matches its operational needs.
Rather than getting into abstract financial analysis and complex accounting procedures, the fourth step in Wakeman’s methodology, Financial, simplifies the process by focusing directly on cash, asking businesses:
• Do you have enough cash on hand to accomplish what you are proposing?
• How much cash are you planning on getting back?
These basic questions force entrepreneurs to consider a variety of financial factors, including product, advertising, and staff costs, as well as overhead and other not-so-obvious expenses. According to Wakeman, “It builds a very basic profit/loss for you, but it’s cash-oriented. It’s never really about accounting, it’s about how much cash you need.”
5. Risk Management
Wakeman’s final step, Risk Management, has businesses review their answers (or lack thereof) to the questions in steps 1–4, with the goal of helping to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed, asking what will ultimately be the most important question:
• Have you identified those things which are fatal flaws? (I.e.: Are their components that will cause the business to fail?)
The constructive purpose of the final question, according to Wakeman, is to identify potential workarounds for minor flaws. “All plans have flaws,” Wakeman concludes. “The question is, are they fatal?”
Enacting the Plan
As Wakeman points out, beyond the initial plan that LaunchPad helps to provide, businesses require constant reanalysis. But, when it comes to obtaining funding, LaunchPad can give a business in its nascent stages a plan to present to potential investors.
“If you can create a process where people are given the questions in advance and are forced to answer them,” Wakeman says, “the fundraising, which is the ultimate goal of this, is a lot smoother.”
More about Glen Wakeman at https://patch.com/florida/miami/glen-wakeman-s-tips-stave-small-business-failure-miami