Punched in the mouth

Strong leaders stick to the plan; wise leaders have a Plan B

It’s always a good idea to have a plan for everything you do — from cutting a sheet of plywood (measure twice, cut once) for a home project, to a detailed business plan to attract venture capital to take your idea to market. But, plans are the easy part. Execution is what’s hard.

It takes a strong leader to stick to a plan, but a wise leader to know when it’s time for Plan B to kick in.

Breaking it down

Business plans set the direction of an organization and are used mainly to provide investors and stakeholders with the confidence needed to invest and support management.

At Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, we assist CEOs in crafting the business plan; we don’t write it for them. CEOs and management teams need to take ownership of the business plan, and with a little guidance, make it happen.

A strategic plan gets the buy-in of the team and board of directors and sets the tone of operations for the next few years. This is where the board has its input, providing direction on the goals of the organization.

Tactical plans are the nuts and bolts of the process, providing the detailed steps of every action needed to deliver results and carry out the overall plan to achieve business goals. Tactical plans are detailed to the nth degree at PLSG.

An annual budget is a simple plan, but I often see companies struggle when either sales or funding starts falling short of targets, or expenses start creeping up. If companies don’t have alternatives figured out, they will struggle to stay afloat during a crisis.

We have had several crises of our own here at PLSG, and we were able to manage through them because each staff member was part of the planning process and were all committed to achieving overall success.

Reeling on the ropes

Former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson is quoted saying, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

I have found this to be on-point, and the visual you get of a dazed fighter hanging onto the ropes, looking for an alternative plan, and quick, is close to the reality of missing a milestone when seeking funding or missing quarterly revenue and income goals and getting hammered by Wall Street.

Venture capitalists expect a good CEO to have a contingency plan as changes to the market and competitive landscape force a swift but calculated response and change in direction.

I cannot stress enough the importance of leaders getting complete buy-in and understanding of the organization’s plans and budgets, and of course the mission, at all levels.

At PLSG, our team is always bought into the details and fully understands and is committed to keeping our eyes on the prize. And, when we have been “punched in the mouth” in the past, we all kept in stride with alternate approaches to stay on track and achieve our long-term mission.

 

John W. Manzetti is the executive chairman of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. As President and CEO of the PLSG from 2006 to 2016, John and his team assisted 455 companies, investing $22 million into 80 companies, which leveraged $1.5 billion of additional capital into the region. These companies brought over 134 products to market. He is also the founder and managing director of Accelerator Fund LLC, an early-stage, for-profit venture capital fund focused on high-impact investments in life sciences and health care.