Whether you are a freshly funded startup or an entrepreneur bootstrapping, every dollar counts. Yet what many busy entrepreneurs may not immediately realize is that making the most of your capital requires being prepared. Perhaps it’s because our organization specializes in education, but I think about this often: Not doing your homework can be inefficient and costly. Far too often, business owners hire a great service and fail to make the most out of their investment because they aren’t able to commit adequate time to prepare.
Here’s how to maximize key investments (and key moments) in your company’s growth by planning ahead:
The first time we hired a professional photographer for our marketing materials, it felt like a big leap. In the moment, we thought we were doing a great job of directing the project by offering vague instructions such as, “take headshots” or “get some action photos.” What we found is that our photo sessions yielded a few great shots and many more OK ones that we were reluctant to use.
A few years ago, we decided to approach our planning for these photo shoots like we would for an important client-facing event. Weeks before the photo shoot, our Marketing Director made an exhaustive list of all of the images we needed and coordinated with our team to make sure the logistics were in place. Over the course of many months, we also created a Brand Bible to streamline and communicate our company’s artistic vision. Whenever you bring in a photographer or another artistic professional, be sure to weigh in on the brand vision as well as the assets that are needed. It’s not enough to just prepare a list of shots for the photographer — know what story it is you’re trying to tell.
One of the quickest ways to unnecessarily exhaust your company’s funds is by building software without properly mapping out the ultimate goal. It’s easy to want to build software or to add a new feature to a currently existing one just because it seems cool or looks like it could potentially add value. Recently, however, our consultant posed an incredibly useful question: “What is the smallest change you can make that will yield the largest impact for your company?”
Thinking this way, particularly regarding our software development, has allowed us to avoid exhausting resources on developments that don’t have an immediate benefit. With this in mind, be sure you have one point person running the software project to filter all requests and evaluate their worth. Ultimately, by being patient and investing in our preparation (we closely vetted many software teams before settling on the right one), we have been able to build a foundation of exciting technological innovations that we continue to improve upon.
When we open a new location we create a detailed spreadsheet of our costs and prepare a 3D rendering of the space so that we can properly budget and convey our desires to our design team. It costs a few thousand dollars to do so, but the time and money are a worthwhile investment in getting everyone on the same page. Seeing a space in 3D helps avoid missteps that will inevitably cost more to fix later. At the same time, mapping out your vision will speed up the project as it ensures that many decisions are made in advance. The investment will even pay off down the road; if you plan on opening more than one location, you can reuse many of the design elements and spreadsheets in the future.
Every company has distinct needs and resources based on its specialty and lifecycle. However, one thing that always holds true is that spending more time during the planning phase of any internal venture will improve execution. Even if you prepare for a project that never comes to fruition, the very act of mapping out the possibility can yield important insight and help avoid mistakes. When your business is growing, time is one of your most valuable resources. And there is no time better spent than on planning ahead.