People who work with me often compliment me on how smart and intelligent I am. And they haven’t even seem my business plan.
In the moment though, I say: “noo, not really, I’m no smarter than you...”. And I say this while trying to look coy and sweet.
But on the way home, I have this conversation with myself: These people for real…they have no idea of my capacity to do some things which cause so much stress in my life...To constantly break the rules.
And invariably one of those stressful, break-the-rule things come to mind.
Like the time I decided I was going to write a business plan with super balance. Really, who sent me?
But I was going to write a business plan that had meaning for me and to hell with the bank and other lenders! (Even though I wanted them to finance my business.)
Let me tell you the story so you can see how I got there…And maybe, you will write one too.
First of all, by the time I decided to write my now famous business plan, I had studied many approaches businesses took to having a business plan or not having one.
What I concluded about business plans:
Having had to evaluate hundreds of proposals, business plans, etc, in my pre and post entrepreneur life, here’s some of what I concluded.
1. Every business does not need a 100-page business plan…
to start making money. As a matter of fact, many successful business owners I know, don’t even have a business plan – including my son. When I suggested to that boy to let me write one for him, he politely declined.
Moreover, he went on to explain that sometimes people like me needed to write these plans to justify the time and money we spent in business school. Sighhhh…
2. You MIGHT need a 100-page business plan…
if your project is substantial and you’re seeking venture capital. And please, don’t forget to place it in a 3-ring binder, weigh it and sell it by the pound!
3. Whether you have no business plan…
a 10-page one or one that weighs 5 pounds, you must be able to state your business idea in no more than two short sentences. I would repeat that but I’m afraid Google might penalize me for duplicate content.
The “regular” things I included in my business plan
However you do it, formally or informally, you have to give some thought to certain aspects of your whole business idea. These will vary from business to business but here are some of the questions I wanted my plan to answer for my business.
1. What’s your big picture or big “WHY?”
What’s your BIG Why? Why do you really want this business? What problem are you solving? What need(s) will you meet that’s not being met?
And for me: what non-productive process will you disrupt and streamline? Are you ready for the hard work of setting up a business? How much money will you need? Does running a business fit in with your personality?
Answering this question is critical to your business success. Yet, when I ask people “why did you start this business?” so many of them answer “this is something I always wanted to do!” or “it’s my passion!”
Sentimentality and passion aside, you want to be clear and solid on why you’re starting the business. This is because when you hit hard times, its your “WHY” that will keep you going.
2. What is your business model?
Many small business owners I work with have not heard of a business model far less given any thought to theirs. Your business model is simply how you plan to make money with your business idea.
Will you go after the upper end of the market or the lower end? How will you sell? online or from a physical place? Will you be profit-driven or service-driven?
As a matter of fact, if you are clear about your business model you will hardly need a business plan. I lay it all out in this post for you.
3. What will you name your business?
Think about this carefully. Your business name should give some indication of the business you’re in and in this age of internet, it should have your keyword(s).
I hate (yes hate!) most of those names that are a combination of two names, like those of a husband and a wife. The problem with those names and using your own name is that it makes selling your business difficult.
And by the way…the husband and wife combo keeps you together long after you’re separated.
4. Who will buy your products/service?
Who are your ideal clients/customers? Where are they located? Are they young? Old? The more specific you get on this, the better for your business and your expertise.
And please don’t come around me with this smug attitude, “I’m selling to everyone!” I place those on the bottom right corner of my desk, in preparation for File-13.
5. How will you manage your cash flow?
This is so important. Yet, I’ve seen many businesses pay little attention to this. So they make money and still go out of business because of poor cash flow management.
It’s also classic business plan requirement, even though not may of your projections will match reality once your business begins operating.
Anyhow, by answering these questions, I was able to write what I described as a slim, super, sexy business plan which really delighted me. You have to read on to see the impact it had on my bank manager.
What did I leave out of my business plan?
No, I did not forget things like competition, marketing, teams, etc. I just left most of them out. But you can put them in yours if you want.
With regards to marketing, I was going to outsource to my girlfriend who needed the practice and was going to do it for free. I did mention this fact in my plan.
Even now, I still don’t understand the big focus on competition. For me, I focus on my customers and the many ways I want to serve them and they want me to serve them. Therefore, I included those details.
As teams go in a business plan, I had to include my dog. She is the only “person” who had the staying power to stick with me when I work long, hard hours.
My moment of “business plan” insight
So, after I covered what I thought were the essentials in 3 pages, I was suddenly inspired!
But wait…I said to myself. This business was about to turn my life upside down. Why can’t I reflect this in my business plan? Won’t this also bring super, super balance to the business plan?
Best of all, it will up-scale the odds of my implementing it by at least 50%…wow!
So, you guessed it…I added a lifestyle component to the plan!
Add a lifestyle component to your business plan
I am really serious.
Don’t be afraid to do this because as an entrepreneur, your business life affects your personal life and vice versa. This is not to say that I didn’t get the memo that you should keep your personal life separate from your business life.
But I just sucked my teeth at that!
I know it’s another rule that was not written with your small business in mind and you will have to break it.
You don’t believe me, here are some examples:
It works until your babysitter gets the “last-minute-flu” and you have no choice but to bring your kid to work. And the poor child has to hang out in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet in your office.
It works until you need a vehicle for your personal transportation which has to double as your business transportation.
For example, I totally get it when my plumber turns up in a nice sports car with the pipe for the job, cut to fit the car. As long as I don’t have to pay for his joining it back to fit the job, I don’t mind.
Your business plan lifestyle component can address such areas as:
- how many hours you want to work
- how much time you will spend mastering necessary skills
- where you want to work
- how much vacation you would like
- and what your work/life schedule would look like
The secret is to come up with business strategies which support these lifestyle goals.
You may find that you have to devise strategies for hiring additional staff, streamlining operations, creating better business systems but it will be worth it.
When you’re small, you and your business are one and the same and trying to separate them, instead of embracing this reality, is usually the first mis-step on the road to success.
And if you work from home, God help you with that separation. I have discussed substantial deals while at the same time stirring my beef and black eyes soup.
What’s the fall out?
What does it matter that including my lifestyle component moved my business plan from 3 to 6 pages? And my fair-weather friends wish me “good luck with that!” Or what if my Bank Manager asked me to seek psychiatric evaluation?
Strong negotiating and selling skills plus my excellent credit rating won the day for me.
Does a bank care about your lifestyle when they’re evaluating your business to lend you money?
They don’t…but they should if their financing premise is not going to be flawed. When you default on your debt, it just might be too late for both of you.
Your next”business plan” steps…
By now I hope I have convinced you of the importance of writing a business plan which reflects the fact that you and your small business are not as separate as business theory tells you that it is.
So do what entrepreneurs like you do…take a risk and create super balance with your business plan, by adding a lifestyle component.
If you can’t actually include it, write your business plan with your lifestyle in the front of your mind.
Who knows it might change your business. Or your life…Or both.
If you want more help writing your business plan that reflect how you live and work, go on…contact me.
To the lifestyle component in your business plan…