Two Good Metrics to Guide a Business Plan: Vector and Velocity

I grew up around cars and airplanes and still love them today.  Beautiful, powerful machines to take us where we want to go. All we have to do is point them in the right direction and pour on the gas.  It may not be that easy in growing your company, but applying the same concepts may help simplify building a solid business plan.

  1. Choose the right vector

You have 360 vector choices in your business plan and selecting the right one takes strategic thinking.

Stay the course? 

Back in Texas, we’re fond of reminding ourselves to “Dance with who brung ya,” which means don’t go chasing after what you think is better when something very good is standing nearby.  Companies can disappear by trying to be something they’re not.  If you’ve got an attractive product and your market isn’t saturated, consider moving on to the velocity section.  If not, continue with vectors.

Aim toward an adjacent market?

Offers of current products to new customers or new products to current customers can be appealing because at least half of the equation is familiar.  Some simple analysis to uncover adjacent markets might be helpful. Perhaps you’ve overlooked the appeal of your products to different customer sets, even foreign customers. On the other hand, if you look through current customer satisfaction surveys (you’re doing those, right?) you might discover unmet needs with your present clientele.

Head for the bright, blue yonder?

This vector, the new offering to the new customer, has potentially the highest payoff, but also comes with the highest risk.  Your design team came up with what seems to be a fantastic new gizmo.  Can you produce it?  Monetize it?  Sell it? I once witnessed an engineering division create a very cool device for classified computers.  Their government customers all said they wanted one.  But it couldn’t be profitably built.  On the other hand, we witnessed the tablet computer, a device many experts didn’t think we needed, take off and make millions. Big profits are linked to big risks.

  1. Choose the right velocity

Now that your business development plan is heading in the right direction, selecting the right speed requires tactical thinking.

Steady as she goes? 

This may seem like a safe option, but unless you’re in an ever-expanding market, it could require investment of more and more resources just to keep up with your competitors.  It’s the “Red Queen Effect,” borrowed from Alice in Wonderlandand the field of evolutionary biology to the marketplace: businesses must constantly adapt, evolve and proliferate simply to stay alive.

Pick up the pace?

You want your business to survive, so you need to think of some new things to do even if you’re in a “Stay the Course” vector.  You might consider investing in your people by giving them training and the resources they need to be more productive.  Good leadership can have outsized impact here.  A positive business culture can reap positive dividends.  And it doesn’t cost that much.

Press the pedal to the metal?

This is the trickiest.  If you’re all vector and no velocity you can stall out and die.  But if you’re all velocity and no vector you can veer off course – and also die.  It’s all about matching the two for your particular business situation.  For example, in a “Stay the Course Vector,” you could pour on the velocity if you think you can capture the market.  But in a “Bright Blue Yonder” vector you might want to throttle back a little because you can’t expect high win rates at first.

Vector and velocity are both important in achieving your business plan objectives.  They’re like two gauges on an instrument panel – connected, yet independent of each other.  If you’ve thought through strategically where you need to go and tactically how fast you need to get there, put your trip plan in action, trust your instruments and sit back and enjoy the ride.

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