Elon Musk is an exceptional person and he seems to be trying more than any other businessperson to make a better world with his products.
Not only that but he is also very straightforward about Tesla and SolarCity’s growth over the years. Ten years ago, Musk told us about his first so-called master plan and researched how the future would be like for his beginner companies at that time.
Ten years later, part one is nearly complete and part two almost being there as well. And the question is – how does he do it? What’s the secret in those two plans and how can we emulate it? Here are four takeaways.
Plan without planning
Like for any other project, you need a plan. When you really read through all the articles and history of the most successful companies, you’ll notice that they had huge plans before they even took a step.
“As you know, the initial product of Tesla Motors is a high-performance electric sports car called the Tesla Roadster. However, some readers may not be aware of the fact that our long-term plan is to build a wide range of models, including affordably priced family cars,” Elon describes Master Plan Part One.
Musk here is talking about what a long road it is. It’s taken years for Tesla to be recognized as a name it is now. He didn’t mind his company being mistaken as a luxury brand which took only rich into an account. A branding is the problem and Musk then talks about it in past tense in his master plan two and he was alright with a layered and cautiously organized rollout of different items over numerous years.
However, not much is said about timelines. The limiting factor here is a revenue which isn’t spoken about a lot of times but is mentioned as a problem that is stopping the company from achieving its goal. Musk even said:”The reason we had to start off with step one was that it was all I could afford to do with what I made from PayPal.”
The takeaway here is that planning for the future is very much possible even when it might seem like pipe dreams to others. The not so good side is your plan, which is supposed to be achievable and detailed, shouldn’t pay too much attention on possibilities that you cannot control. Instead, see bottlenecks as part of the process, and build your plan according to them.
Claim Your Place in the World
Apart from the company being profitable, what else is there to it? At first it might seem like you’ve got to create the best possible widget the world has ever seen or to inspire people to share and talk about your products on social media.
In order to plan your startup future, it requires more than just a business plan although it can be somewhat useful as well. You need to know what kind of world you want to live in and how you’re going to build it.
“The overarching purpose of Tesla Motors … is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution,” Musk describes Master Plan Part One.
Musk knows what kind of world he wants to build and live in. People expect a lot from their brands and corporations and it’s important to have a cohesive and worldly mission statement and a company culture to match. There is not point if your company doesn’t end up being a productive citizen.
Eliminate Duplicated Effort
Master plan part two begins now which is exactly ten year after the first one started. It’s truly amazing how Musk has been able to strictly stick to his first ambitious plan. Although it’s a question about staying power of Tesla and SolarCity. The truth is, the part two is even more ambitious than the first one.
Musk has made it clear what he needs to do in order to make it happen. The autonomous vehicle and solar power revolutions are inextricably linked but Musk had to wait for Tesla and SolarCity to be old enough for him to officially link them.
“That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history. Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.” – Master Plan Part Two
The lesson here is to eliminate duplicated effort because no matter what your startups are, the duplicated effort is a wasted one. When it comes to startups, waste of any kind can completely murder your bottom line along with your optimistic ideals.
Even though the Tesla/SolarCity merging has been met with a lot of pushback, Musk wouldn’t be able to go forward before those two were moving in the same direction. SolarCity is about delivering cutting-edge solar technology and Tesla is opening up the ways for the batteries that will bring it all together. Merging them together makes a lot of sense when you put it that way.
Even though the stakes might not be too high for your startup, it’s still important to get rid of any waste as soon as you can. If two teams in your company aren’t working together as they should be or are doing parallel work on similar projects, you should re-examine your startup structure. Don’t be scared to play with the formula even after several years have gone by.
Think Outside the Box. Then, Throw the Box Away
Even though Musk and his company have appeared to have followed an extremely detailed schedule and a plan in order to work out their projects and grow their businesses, there is still a little doubt about it: Controlling a trend-setting startup needs quite a lot of forward thinking and inventiveness.
So, the final advice is not to be afraid to take chances. Even though Musk’s two-part master plan may seem pretty rigid, there is still certain amount of boldness and creativity to such an extent that he seems to want to create an entirely new industry:
“You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button … and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation … potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost. This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5 percent to 10 percent of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not.”
Uber is often given credits for the sharing economy but Tesla has yet to play its part.
If this master plan is anything to go by, then car ownership, commuting and ride sharing is going to look very different in the future than now. If Tesla has its way, it’s definitely going to change life in this country.
Not many companies can say that. You can’t do much better than Elon Musk if you’re looking for a role model. If planning, outlining and extrapolating sounds like something that would stifle creativity and passion, it’s probably a time to plan differently.
A plan should be practical, above all else, however it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be creative, bold and dramatic. Find your balance, just like Elon Musk did.