It can be overwhelming to put pen to paper and come up with a workable, detailed and water-tight business plan. You know it’s important because without a plan you have no direction, and of course you’ve been told by every business guru around, without a plan you are doomed to fail.
No pressure, right?!
You know something? Business plans really are just guesses. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Check out this snippet of wisdom from the book “Rework”.
You don’t know what the market is really going to do and how it will impact your business. If you sat there and went through every worst-case scenario you’d be working on your plans for months and be thoroughly depressed in the process. Then throw in Murphy’s Law – that one scenario you didn’t plan for, will be the one that actually happens – and then where are you at?
So now that you even more daunted about the prospect of writing a business plan, let me change your focus a little and make it less daunting and more… fun!
Is a business plan important?
Yes a plan (or guess) is important, you need to write one for your financial backers, your business partners and you need one for yourself too. It is a place to start from and a place where you can refer to when you need to make big decisions. “Should we invest in the R&D department or marketing?” Referring back to your business plan will help you come to the right decision.
Planning is vital, it will save you time in the long run. Think of it this of it this way, just imagine that instead of giving your web team a clear brief, you said: “Oh just make me something, but I don’t know what I want until I see it.” You know what? You’ve just created the perfect storm for massive delays, budget blowouts and a creative team who will despise you.
A business plan works like that too. If you don’t know what you want the end result to be, how will anyone else?
Don’t get hung up on it.
But don’t worry that the plan has to be perfect. Just because you’ve written it once, doesn’t mean you’re ‘one and done’. This is a starting a place, a plan which you will revisit and tweak, that’s normal and expected. One of the first things we learn in marketing is “Adapt or Die”, if you don’t adjust to market conditions your business will go under. Your original plan may have only mentioned Widget A, but you always knew that there was a possibility that you may need to change to Widget B.
How to stop procrastinating
So you know it’s important and you know you need to start. You also know that the business plan will adjust over time, but by golly you seem to be more interested in washing the dishes and cleaning the house than writing that business plan.
So rather than having a goal of “I will write my business plan this week”, think more along the lines of a ‘system’. James Clear has some great advice on how to change your thinking and achieve more in the long run.
The idea is rather than making it a big scary goal, break it down to a process.
Something like: “Every Monday and Friday I will complete a section of my business plan.” So rather than thinking of it as a goal, think of carving out time every Monday and Friday. Then, before you know it … thy will be done. It may not be as fast as you had initially hoped, but it will get done. If you ditch the need to have it done by a certain date, and commit to writing on certain days, you will feel more satisfied and successful.
So let’s have a little fun with it. By coming up with ways to make it less overwhelming, you may be inclined to get the plan written today – rather than sometime in the future. You could try one of these ideas:
- Write from the first person. Throw in a lot of ‘I will sell…’ ‘It is my belief’ etc.
- Don’t call it planning. Call it something else, mind-mapping, soul-searching, brain storming. .. whatever makes it more palatable.
- Not a writer? Use your smartphone and voice to record your plan – and get someone else to type it up if needs be.
- Incentive (or call it what it is – bribery). Every section complete means you reward yourself with something.
- ‘Not specified or TBC’. Don’t be afraid to use these phrases. As we know it’s all just guesses anyway. You really don’t know how many units you’re going to sell. So put TBC in there for now and come back to it later.
- Just write it. Don’t worry about the structure and making sure you fill in all the blanks, just go for it.
- Done is good enough. Just get it done, don’t go for perfect … it is a work in progress doc.
- Use a variety of media. A business plan doesn’t have to be a 20 page block of text. Use video, audio, graphs, notes, diagrams to lay out your content.
- Use a variety of APPS. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to online business tools. Consider an app such as Evernote, Pinterest or iMindMap to keep your plan visual, mobile, easy to access and add to.
A really fun way of getting a pretty complete business is plan is:
“Your business plan in 10 tweets” method.
Since we live in the social media age you probably think and write in 140 characters anyway. Use this to your advantage. This will help speed things up and make it fun!
Think of these categories as a tweet which you can come back to and flesh out where needed. So here are 10 categories that you can fill in – a total of 1400 words.
- Describe your business. (Value Proposition)
- What ‘problem’ are you solving in the market? (Market Need)
- Describe your product and since visuals sell, include an image. (Your Solution)
- Who is your competition and why is your product better than your competitors? (Competition)
- Who is going to buy your product? (Target Market)
- What’s it going to cost? i.e. How much to produce the items, and how much are you going to charge your customer? Go for gold and decide how many you are going to sell and what profit you are going to make. (Financials: Budgeting & Forecasting)
- How are you going to market your product? (Sales Channels & Marketing Activities)
- What have you already achieved and what do you want to achieve? (Milestones)
- Time to introduce yourself – why are you the right person to lead the team? (Management Team)
- How much money do you need to launch the business and how are you going to spend the money?(Funding Needs & Use of Funds)
You could even do this in your lunch hour during the work week. All you’ll need is some ‘extreme focus’ and you could have it done in no time.
Of course you may need to flesh out the above sections if you are after financing. But what I’ve found is that the hardest part is getting through this first ‘draft’. Once things are clear in your mind and on paper, it’s much easier to take each of these sections and dig deeper to make it more palatable for your potential investors.
If you look at writing your business plan from a different perspective, it can be a fun and rewarding process.
And if you can’t get started yourself then get someone to facilitate the process (my specialty is arse kicking!).
My question to you today is then, should writing a business plan BE FUN?