The previous chapter suggests building a plan like an artichoke, with its heart in the center and the rest of the plan wrapping up and around it. It also suggests starting anywhere you like, which is a bit of a contradiction, or perhaps just another paradox. You can start anywhere you like, but build your plan around the heart, which implies that the heart comes first. And usually it does.Heart of the Plan

The heart of the plan, which is also the heart of the business, is made up of a group of three core concepts that can’t be separated: market, identity, and focus. Don’t pull them apart. It’s the interrelationship between them that drives your business.

So let’s look at what I call the heart of the plan-as-you-go business plan, the core strategy, which is this enmeshed combination of the business identity, the target market element, and the strategic focus. I’m going to go through each of these in more detail in the rest of this section, but let’s first establish that they are completely interrelated, and that you never separate any one of them from the other two.

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Your Business Identity This element is about you and your business, what I call your identity. How are you different from others? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your core competence? What are your goals?
Your Market Telling the market story is about knowing and understanding your customers. Understand why they buy from you, what their wants and needs are, what business you are really in.
Strategic Focus You can’t do everything. In restaurants, you can’t credibly offer great food at bargain prices with great atmosphere. If you say you do, nobody believes you anyhow. So you have to focus. Make this focus intertwined and enmeshed with your choice of key target customer and your own business identity. All three concepts have to work together.

These three things are the heart of your business. Don’t pull them apart. Don’t take them one at a time. Don’t ever stop thinking about them. Remember, in planning as well as in all of business, things change. Keep watching for change in assumptions, in the environment, in your own team, or any changes that might affect your core or heart of the plan.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.