[image by csitscenter, flickr collection](http://www.flickr.com/photos/12438643@N08/)
image by csitscenter, flickr collection

i was in a meeting recently with a senior associate in my firm, and spent the vast amount of the 4 hours we had together furiously taking notes. unfortunately i couldn’t write as fast as he was talking, so i ended up not capturing all of the information that was there for the taking. for the most part, the vast majority of the time was spent discussing our earned value management capabilities at booz allen. we did talk some about business in general and building capabilities that can grow and expand, and it was from this discussion that my largest, boldest, “even used a highlighter on it” note came from. he said something to me that made a lot of sense:

always plan on success.

it’s a great quote. you may mistakingly take it as an inspirational message, but that’s not at all what he intended. it was actually meant to scare us, and remind us that we need to be prepared to succeed. to be successful in business, it’s not enough to have a good idea. even having passion and being a hard worker isn’t enough. when you’re trying to stand up or start up something brand new, you have to have certain things in place to handle the change in environment. nothing can kill a good idea quite like being unprepared to succeed. if you aren’t ready to expand with the business, you’ll undoubtedly experience growing pains—much like wearing a shoe that’s two sizes too small.

the main question you’ll want to ask yourself, “if 5 clients called me today, would i be able to provide this product to them?” here’s a simple checklist that should have you on the right track to answering that question with a “yes.”

  • do you have the right people in the right markets?

    business is about having the right contacts and having those people in the right places to get your foot in the door. securing a $12 million contract is going to be difficult if you don’t have someone helping you out from the inside. identify these connectors in your organization and get their buy-in with your new business venture because they’re probably going to be the ones who make the first sales pitch to your prospective clients.

  • do you have the right people to do the heavy lifting?

    you need to have a people strategy for the actual work as well. identify the skills and roles that will be needed in order to roll out new business to your clients and make a list of them. do you already have people on your immediate team that fit into those roles? if not, can you quickly obtain those resources either through new hire acquisitions or by borrowing from another team within your organization?

  • do you have the right resources to onboard new employees?

    along with the item above—if you are bringing new people onto your team or into your organization, you need to also have the right resources to train them and get them up to speed on how to deliver the expected results to the client. they need to understand their roles and responsibilities as well. you need their buy-in too, just as you’d expect from anyone else.

  • do you have the right resources to make a splash in the market?

    now that you have the right contacts, and the right people strategy, and the resources available to ramp up production of your new product or services—you have to ensure that your marketing materials are set. you should have an ‘executive summary’ brief developed that gives a high-level overview of the product or service and the benefits to the client at the enterprise level as well as the user level. it’s also important to have a brief that you can take to the user level of the client’s organization that shows why they want what you’re selling. are there conferences you can speak at? are there white papers in your organization you can help co-author? identify areas to get your name out there.

once you have the questions above answered, you can begin in earnest to develop your business. it’s always fun thinking up new business and being a part of it from the start. brainstorming and whiteboarding and cocktail napkin doodling are definitely the stories that people tell when people ask the question, “where did you get this new idea?” what many people don’t see are the strategic moves that happen behind those romantic stories of serendipity. it’s important that you don’t become enchanted with the stories of overnight success and put in the effort to build the foundations of long-term growth. always plan on success, because it just might happen.