How to develop a successful business plan

In his book “War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam asserted, “…if one of the news magazines had wanted to run on its cover the photograph of the man who had played the most critical role in achieving victory [in the Gulf War], it might well have chose [John] Warden instead of Powell or Schwarzkopf.”

John A. Warden III, then an Air Force Colonel, was key in developing the military response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a response that has been credited with the U.S.’s swift victory. Retired in 1995, Warden has since written and consulted with businesses on effective strategy. His book “Winning in Fast Time” is on Mike Roberts’ bookshelf and Warden is on the LYFE Kitchen board. His job has been to help the LYFE team develop and adhere to their strategy.

Here is how he would advise others to do the same.

Step 1: Work from the future back. “A good strategy is always future back,” explains Warden. “The first step is to look three, four, five years ahead. In that time frame what is it that your restaurant is going to be. It needs to be a high-resolution thing with as much granularity as possible. What kind of business are you going to be? What are the people going to look like? How is the business going to be run? How are people going to be incentivized?”

Once this picture is developed, make sure everyone involved in the strategizing agrees on it.

Step 2: Look at the internal and external worlds. “Figure out what needs to happen in the external world—the market—and what needs to happen in the internal world for you to be successful.” And then, what do you do if those things don’t happen? What will your response be if your customers don’t react the way you expect them to?

Step 3: Identify centers of gravity. “There are lots of things you can spend time on,” says Warden. “Most of them are useless.” Your centers of gravity are those most important details that will help you get where you need to go.

Step 4: Make it happen fast. “The right question to ask about time,” says Warden, “is how long do I have to be successful? That is a different question than how long is it going to take? Most people don’t ask the right question. Time is the enemy. The faster you can make things happen the better off you’re going to be. Force yourself to make things happen in a compressed way.”

Step 5: Build in the exit plan. “Say you have a four-year future picture. Say you are 100 percent successful. The majority of people say, ‘This worked, let’s keep doing the same thing.’ That is rarely the right response. When we get to the end of future picture we’re going to re-plan it all.”


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