3 Steps to Building a Startup Playbook

A while back when I published the article about Crayon, I was excited to see people point out that they liked the concept of a startup playbook. In essence, your startup playbook is the set of rules and “plays” that you’ll use when you run your own startup. For example, you’ll have methods to deal with deliverables, product development, and promotional opportunities should those chances arrive.

Startup playbooks cut down on the time that it takes for you to make decisions, and it ensures that whatever decision you make will be a good decision (at least the best you could’ve made at the time).

Below are seven steps that anyone can use to build their startup playbook.

1. Identify recurring circumstance

The first key aspect of building a startup playbook is identifying situations that seem to be happening a lot. Let’s say you’re building an MVP and have a lot of customer issues coming up about it. By identifying that “customer complaints” is a recurring issue, you can create a procedure to address it in the future. Importantly, the process of identifying improvement areas also helps you reduce bottlenecks and tighten up your operations.

2. Test Solutions

There’s nothing complicated about this step. Now that you’ve determined what is a “categorical” issue that can be fixed, you need to test potential solutions for it. For me, running my startup, I realized that student outreach would be a major component, and I tested multiple different marketing strategies before I settled on one that consistently delivered results. Knowing the strategy that worked, I put that “play” into my playbook. If I have to deal with a similar task again, all I have to do is apply the procedure that I created.

3. Record Best Practices

Great. You now have a set of solutions. Where should you put them? I would say that record keeping is the most important step to building your playbook because it allows you to replicate results and pass it on to other teams. There are several ways this can be done. If you have a team project management system along the lines of Asana or Notion, you can create a team Wiki Page where you insert all these processes. Likewise, on sales interfaces like Hubspot, you can save the steps that you used to approach clients. My personal favorite is using Dropbox or Google Drive where I already store all of my team information. I mark the document as “1: Team Playbook”, meaning that it will always appear first on the page, allowing for easy access. Many “plays” are also based on past experiences that can’t necessarily be put into written documents. In this case, make sure you have a place to store the names of all these strategies so you can use them later in workshops or training.

Building a great startup playbook isn’t difficult, but finding the right strategies to put in there is. From my experience, I’ve found that the most important thing next to testing and action is proper procedures, and having steps lined out in case you need to re-use them can be a life-saver.

So today, try it out.

Make your startup playbook and see how it feels.