Even the greatest of ideas must follow certain processes and procedures to ensure it is developed properly into a sound business concept and implemented. Each stage of the development process requires attention and extreme detail. An entrepreneur must have a well thought plan, right from conceiving the idea to launching it, in order to increase the chances of business success.
The K-CELL Planning Framework
The K-CELL Planning Framework is a tool to assist startup founders in transforming idea into a winning business concept through a systematic, strategic planning process. With a well-structured four-stage planning process – Conceptualisation, Evolution, Launch and LifeCare, the K-CELL Planning Framework gives you a roadmap to move forward – from idea to action. Whether you are planning a new business or launching a marketing campaign or any such business activity that needs careful planning, the K-CELL Framework helps you achieve the desired result.
Stage 1: Conceptualisation
Great ideas, technologies, and inventions that transform lives would never have been possible without creativity and imagination. The same goes true for business. Effective business conceptualizations entail a lot of brainstorming and planning. It also involves drawing up creative solutions to specific problems encountered by customers. When conceptualizing an idea, it is essential to ask questions like what is the problem that the idea is going to solve, who is the consumer for the idea, does the idea solve the consumer’s problem and how will the solution be delivered to the consumer. It is very important to direct one’s thinking to specific dimensions and search answers to certain questions that help in evolving the idea from the initial thought through the various stages of innovation.
Remember, your initial idea is just a hypothesis. Don’t fall in love with it just yet. In fact, you may have lots of ideas at this stage. You must keep track of all the ideas that are generated as all the ideas will be varied and potentially relevant. You must then review each idea to determine its appropriateness. Evaluate each idea and determine which one is most valuable and will generate the most profits. Remember, the idea itself has no intrinsic economic value. It acquires economic value only after it has been successfully transformed into a business concept and implemented successfully. You must evaluate the idea to determine if it delivers an actual customer value, whether the market is big enough, and just how the value-delivery will take place.
Your objective at this stage is to develop your business concept which forms the foundation of your new company. It should be clear and concise enough to generate interest of potential investors in helping you cultivate your idea further. You will not be able to attract venture capital at this stage, but you may try to rope in angel investors who may give you seed money to take your idea to the next level.
Stage 2: Evolution
At this stage, it is most important to focus on the big picture: don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees! Think through all angles. Evaluate the opportunity like an investor would—in an objective, thorough, analytical way. Who are the customers and what do they need? How big is the opportunity? Is the timing right? What will it take to execute? Is the payoff worth the risk? What’s the business model? A rough business plan is a great way to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
Within your business plan, you must clearly identify your business goals. You will need to lay down plans and create a budget for the key activities of the business – for development, production, marketing, distribution and finance. A well-defined business plan will steer the business in the right direction and will increase the chances of having a successful product launch.
In preparing the business plan you will come in contact with many people outside your start-up team. In fact, you may even rope in an expert to help you develop a comprehensive business plan for you.
You will also have to begin reaching out to your potential customers, i.e., by means of consumer surveys, to make initial assessments of your market. Always keep in mind that customer acceptance is an essential prerequisite to the success of your company! Scout out about possible suppliers and perhaps close your first agreements. You will also want to become aware of who your competitors are.
When you envision the product or service you ultimately want to offer, it probably has a slick design, and a full set of features. Keep that ultimate vision on the back burner for now. Instead, strip the concept down to the bare minimum offering to address the needs of your core customers. Build that basic product as quickly and inexpensively as you can. You need to make a prototype or beta-version of your idea. You should also create manufacturing and operations processes, plans for your marketing launch and your market testing plans. You may also release your prototype into the market to test your product. The market test results should confirm that this is a valid idea to move forward as a product. This whole process will not come cheap. The team must earn a living, you must run a rudimentary operation, and perfect a prototype.
Seed money will help you survive this stage. This stage concludes successfully for you as a new entrepreneur when you are able to raise funds or find an investor who expresses a willingness to finance your venture, so that you can take the next step – from business concept to launch.
Stage 3: Launch
Now that the conceptual work is largely complete, it is time to start implementing your business plan. It’s tempting to wait until your product is ‘perfect’ to start selling it. Instead, realize ‘perfect is the enemy of good enough’. Until your product is out in the market, you are flying blind, spending time and money with a limited ability to learn how customers react. Make a core product and get it to market quickly. Once you launch your product, you will learn which aspects of your product and marketing are effective and which aspects are now working for you. You will come to know whether you have correctly planned and executed your marketing activities, whether your business system and processes are robust and efficient to execute the tasks, and whether your employees are properly trained and ready to support the product.
Based on the market response, you can start improvising and can now really act in tandem with the market realities. You can start experimenting with marketing messages, promotions, sales pitches, and distribution channels to attract more customers. You must also keep measuring the results of your efforts to ensure that you achieve the desired results. Remember that at this stage, your role now changes from that of architect to that of builder. At this moment of truth, you will really know whether your business concept was a good and ultimately profitable one.
Stage 4: LifeCare
A Product Launch is a process that has a lifecycle. A product launch is a critical time, but each product has its own life cycle. It will be ‘born’, it will ‘develop’, it will ‘grow old’ and, eventually, it will ‘die’. Thinking of a product launch as a process may change your entire perspective about launching products. Many people think of a product launch as an event, something that happens with a big bang. There may very well be a launch event as part of a launch process, but it may be just one of the things that are part of a winning launch.
Recognition of the life cycle phases can help you design a product launch and subsequent marketing plan that will keep your product on the market for years. It is the responsibility of the founder to ensure that your product stays relevant and profitable. For that you need to constantly innovate and improve your product and/or service to help provide your audience with solutions to their needs through active and mindful marketing. This will help give your product an edge in the marketplace and set you apart from competitors. Those businesses that fail to innovate face the risk of losing to their competitors, losing the customers that they have built long-lasting relationships with and also risk reaching the ‘decline’ stage in the Product Life Cycle.
Remember, you need to build your business for the long haul. Revisit your business plan, and update your product, team, marketing, implementation, and finance strategies. Gather resources you’ll need to expand. If you intend to raise more capital, this is a good time. Now you can pitch to investors with lot of confidence as you have experienced the market realities and have got numbers to talk about.
In a nutshell
The K-CELL Business Planning framework is a systematic guide to help entrepreneurs go through a well-thought out stage of developing an idea into a successful business. But the key to success is to put your thoughts on paper which can help you make sense of what’s bouncing around your head. A carefully written business plan is a good start.
(Excerpts from the book “From Idea to Action: The Art of Writing a Business Plan” by Kashyap Pandya)