The following is a guest post written by George Pyne, Founder and CEO of Bruin Sports Capital.
In the ever-changing world of business and finance, where market forces, technological advances, international events and fickle customer demands seem to shift on a daily basis, many companies find themselves navigating rough waters in search of the tremendous market opportunities that exist on the horizon. Some companies misread the current and find themselves under water--think of classic companies like Kodak. Others are able to ride the waves of opportunity due to careful planning, thoughtful research and diligently preparing for each contingency.
The importance of having a comprehensive business plan, with the participation of (and buy-in from) your management team cannot be underestimated, especially in times of dramatic economic and industry upheaval. The world may seem to be spinning out of control, but with a smart, thoughtful plan, surprises can be mitigated, crises can be controlled, and levelheadedness can lead to opportunity. I learned this lesson through personal experience early on in my career, and it has been a crucial component of what has made me successful in the disparate fields in which I have worked.
One of my first formative professional experiences was with the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. I was recruited and retained by a group of local business executives to analyze the financial condition of the Atlanta public schools. After months of research, analysis, interviews and assessments, we concluded that one of the fundamental problems facing the school system was, as a large operation working without a coherent business plan. This resulted in an inefficient use of funds that further depleted the resources available to the deserving children of Atlanta. The school system was a big business but did not apply basic management principles into its operation. For me, this crystalized the importance of having a plan.
Due to my work at the Chamber of Commerce, I was hired by the president of the Portman Companies to assist with strategic planning. As a young member of the executive team, I was often critical of executives that did not have a plan. Challenges and mistakes, however, have a remarkable ability to provide valuable lessons. They help us remember to practice what we preach. As my career progressed at the Portman Companies ,I eventually ran a business unit at a very young age. Guess what I forgot to do? I did not seek the input of my colleagues or thoughtfully analyze all aspects of my business. I did not have a business plan and boy what a mistake it was. After launching a business on gut instinct without a thoughtful business plan, I promised myself I would never approach business again without a well thought out plan.
What are the parts of a good, solid plan? First it involves sitting around a table in an environment where people feel comfortable debating, disagreeing, and presenting different perspectives. This back and forth pushes the boundaries of what is possible, generating the best ideas from your team. This can be a lengthy process--you cannot force creativity. But once it concludes and a framework is formalized, after verifying everything by the numbers, metrics, financials and relevant market research and analysis, I follow disciplined adherence to the plan and pursue it vigorously, checking in every month or so that we're still on the right path towards success.
In 1995, NASCAR had a terrific product but did not have a comprehensive brand awareness strategy and did not aggressively advertise the sport, resulting in limited interest and investment by Fortune 500 companies. After I arrived, we developed a sophisticated and disciplined approach -- a strategic plan -- that focused on consumer marketing. It led to unprecedented results for NASCAR. Similarly, strategic planning was critical to our success at IMG, where we re-invented various lines of our business which caused its value to triple.
Equally important during this internal planning phase is to not only consider the steps that will ensure success, but to develop contingency plans for unforeseen events and potential hazards on the horizon. This requires carefully and honestly thinking about the "what ifs" and "then whats" allowing your business to better handle shocks and surprises. With critical foresight, you and your team will be more surefooted as external forces push and pull you and your competitors in different directions. You will be able to stay on your feet and walk through the storm instead of getting tossed around--or even worse--sunk by it. Thinking critically of any possible deal or investment, no matter how attractive it may be, minimizes mistakes and limits surprises should Murphy's Law ever take hold.
Today, as head of Bruin Sports Capital, the twin yardsticks of devising a comprehensive business plan, validated by its financials, and the value proposition of finding companies riding a tailwind--in marketing, in digital and in fan experiences--have led me to make the investments we've made so far--four with our first year alone--and give me (and my investors) great confidence for success beyond Bruin's first birthday.
Bruin Sports Capital is a privately-held international capitalized operating company whose broad platforms span the media, sports, technology, marketing, hospitality and lifestyle experiences businesses.