Peter Drucker says the customer defines the business. Many executives don’t like the sound of Mr. Drucker’s admonition because it is perceived as a diminution of their executive roles. But if the customer was not always the centerpiece of strategy in our industrial past it is tantamount to a law of nature in the service and information age.

Corporations are only now realizing that the outcome of the strategic business planning process – as it is practiced nearly universally by corporations large and small – renders no strategy at all.  It is, regrettably, little more than a feel good exercise which yields only a three ring binder full of inert plan documents.


The reasons are at times complex but they are largely the result of a failure to create the conditions and the environment under which strategy can emerge. Nobel Laureate and economist Frederich Hayek stated that the knowledge necessary for planning is never given to the planner. The point the great economist was making is that the knowledge necessary for planning must be elicited from those who possess it. In the service and information age the customer is an important arbiter influencing the direction of strategy. Further, knowledge must also be sought from leaders in the corporation whose functions are more beholden to the needs of the marketplace than to the priesthood in the planning department.


The RPH Business Plan Protocol is a rather grueling workshop requiring the participation of all key executive team members in an innovative planning exercise. The process is designed to provoke the hard-edged discussion necessary to engender only the most relevant factors for inclusion in a company’s business strategic plan. The crafting of the business plan is thus illuminated in a way that would not be possible in the absence of the rigor demanded by the protocol.

The Business Plan Protocol is recommended for start up businesses, joint ventures, development-stage enterprises, and  legacy company spinouts. Established companies challenged with the need to traverse difficult inflection points for their continued success, if not survival, can also benefit from participation in the protocol. Companies with a potentially valuable portfolio of intangible assets can also choose to participate in a separate survey and review process to establish the value of such assets.


The protocol normally takes two to three  days depending on audience participation and issue complexity. The protocol covers every key function of the business such as sales, marketing, service, finance, legal, talent, insurance, and technology. It also covers, in considerable detail, those capital raising strategies most appropriate to the business in question. The protocol has been road-tested to anticipate or preempt thorny investor or key customer queries that can derail a less well thought out business plan. Over one hundred and fifty  issue questions are raised during the protocol which must be answered with conviction and certitude. The RPH facilitator’s role, in addition to keeping the team from group-think, is to ensure there is clarity in a response before moving on to a subsequent issue item. Crafting a business plan in the absence of such clarity can sound a death knell when confronted by a counterparty trained to look for a venture’s weaknesses. At the end of the session,  a flash drive is left behind with all of the discussion items thus providing the team with a blueprint for crafting a bullet-proof business plan. At the conclusion of the protocol process and at the discretion of the client, RPH stands ready to assist with the actual crafting of the strategic business plan.


The upshot of the protocol process is that, perhaps for the first time, corporate executives will have an in-depth and harmonized grasp of the business, with all of the attendant benefits on morale and focus of execution. The protocol process has also been found to be the most important antecedent prior to the completion of the firm’s business strategic plan. With a business plan fueled by the inputs provided by the protocol, prospective investors  will have a full appreciation of the value of the enterprise which in the absence of the prescribed strategic rigor demanded by the protocol will leave the entrepreneur vulnerable to the enterprise valuation opinions of others.

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