Six Strategies for a Successful Launch

Starting an Association : Article

Launching a brand-new organization can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for even the most cool-headed individuals. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of biting off more than one can chew are just some of the reasons why organization leaders hesitate and why organizations have trouble getting off the ground. There is also the reality that often the people trying to launch a new organization have demanding day jobs, too.

As a Senior Launch Manager at Virtual, I’ve seen the gamut of launches, from slow and steady to fast and furious, and I’ve compiled here a list of crucial elements for an organization to succeed in their first few months.

Mission and Vision

Organizations with a strong and clear mission —and one that is articulated simply and fully embraced by the highest leadership — are the ones that succeed. The mission is the true north and should be visible and referenced routinely when making decisions. This holds especially true when developing programs and initiatives. If it does not clearly drive the organization towards the mission and vision don’t pursue it, it will only distract your team and waste precious resources.

Take the time to plan

It can be tempting to want to hit the ground running and just start making progress on what the organization wants to achieve. The risk here is that as time goes on programs can grow massive and if left unchecked, might be draining resources that could benefit your organization by being reallocated. Once you clarify your mission, it’s time to create a three to five-year plan. That might seem daunting when you are first launching the association, but having a realistic roadmap helps organizations set clear goals and meet them. You won’t be able to do everything in year-one.

Once you have your strategy and goals in place, it’s time to operationalize your plans. Knowing what each area is working on and trying to achieve will keep the organization focus and moving forward. Make the plans critical components of the management of the association by reporting on them frequently. Also, be really clear about who is working on what. Lack of ownership on initiatives is a common cause for the ones that fail. For the first year, focus not only on creating a solid foundation for the organization but looking to meet some early milestones. This will demonstrate viability and forward progress, which is important to keep the founding members engaged and to continue to acquire new members.

Having these plans will also be valuable when recruiting potential member companies. If they can see a clear path to helping to achieve the mission of the organization, they are more likely to not only join but remain engaged.

Get the right people at the table, and invest the time to get it right

It’s important to ask two questions:

What companies are in the best position to help us achieve our mission?

Are there specific individuals that could contribute to our organization in a positive way?

Getting the right people from the right companies will shape the new Org from the start. Companies that are industry leaders can help to have a bandwagon effect. Well-connected individuals are also key in the high-touch outreach that is often needed when recruiting founding members. Also, be sure to focus on diversity when shaping your board and workstreams. Different perspectives – even from competitors – often strengthens technology collaboration.

There will be a lot of meetings and time spent developing the structure, especially in the first few months. Finding people that are willing to invest that time and focus, while being clear with those expectations from the start is an important piece of success.

Create a strong member value proposition

In order to get the right people at the table for launch, and the right people to continue the org, it is essential to create a strong member value proposition. Create a value prop such that a member will feel that they (or their company) are at a decided disadvantage not being in the group or engaged in its work. Ask yourself, what the member will get out of their membership? Will they want to renew the next year or the years after that? Will the member benefits be the right ones to lure the right companies to the table? Is there any other org in your space that is working to address a similar problem? Make sure that your benefits are unique, or you will struggle to gain market adoption when companies can’t justify the spend on similar benefits.

While you may be recruiting companies to join, don’t lose sight that it will be individuals that represent their company’s interest in the org. Have meaningful ways for them to contribute and demonstrate value back to their superiors. This will be essential for member retention that will impact the long-term success of the organization

Don’t be afraid to make decisions

As with any major undertaking, there are many decisions to be made. It’s important to weigh the options, be thoughtful and be decisive. Course correction later is always an option, but the more decisive the leaders of an org are, the smoother the launch will go. Especially early on, action and forward momentum are keys to success. Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress.

Don’t go it alone

Every organization is unique, and Virtual spends many hours getting to know the players and the objectives of each Org we partner with. Our collective experience and forward-thinking team members are experts in guiding organizations big and small through launches, growth, and everyday business. Ask questions, and trust that we know how to make your organization successful.


Megan Cannon, Senior Launch Manager, Virtual Inc.Megan Cannon, Senior Launch Manager, Virtual, Inc.

Megan works remotely from her home in western Massachusetts. She enjoys hiking, kayaking, and crafting. When she’s not traveling the world helping organizations achieve their missions, you can find her at home making the world a better place by raising two fantastic humans.
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