Talk to any budding entrepreneur and watch their eyes glaze over with boredom as soon as the business plan is mentioned.
Everybody wants the sexy part of business – the adoring, satisfied clients, the perks, the accolades, the money.
No one wants to deal with the hard slog. Business plans are too hard, too boring.
I often have conversations with people who are thinking of starting their own business, or have an idea for an innovative product or service.
Almost inevitably I hear some variation of: ‘I just need money to get it to the market. The rest will sort itself out, because everybody needs a (insert product/service here). And if problems or obstacles arise, I’ll just throw some more money at them. That’s why I need investors, man. Do you happen to know any?’
Many people think that a business plan is some boring document designed to convince bankers and VCs to invest in their idea.
It certainly does serve that purpose, but primarily, the business plan is an opportunity for the entrepreneur to have a ‘dry run’ of their business.
Let me approach it with a metaphor: would you star in a play without rehearsing it first?
You might be able to wing it – you may be that brilliant, but I doubt that you would, even if you could.
Most brilliant people I know of rehearse like crazy and as a result, when they get in front of an audience, they deliver a brilliant performance
It is the same for a business – rehearsals are critical.
You owe it to yourself, to your customers and anyone else involved, to deliver a brilliant performance!
To the investors you owe it quite literally.
The business plan is a virtual stage where you get to rehearse your business before you invest months and years of your sweat, blood and tears and a whole bunch of money – your own and other people’s.
Here’s another metaphor: a business, any business, is a battle. It is a battle for market share, a battle for the hearts and minds of your customers, a battle with yourself (focus, discipline). You wouldn’t go into a battle without a battle plan, would you? Not when your soldiers’ lives are at stake. In business, lives may not be at stake but there is still much to be lost by blindly fumbling around.
Another thing many people do not realize about business planning is that it is a continuous process.
It’s not like you can write your plan once and put it on a shelf – it requires on-going revision, tweaking and sometimes even a complete change of direction in response to the market conditions.
There was a saying, back in the day, that no battle plan survives the first volley of arrows. Yet, if thousands of years of warfare taught us anything, it is that failure to plan is a plan for failure. You have to plan and you have to be agile and you have to be good at both.
Try finding a single serious business that does not plan – you will not. They are simply not around because such businesses do not survive long.
This is not to say that your business will survive just because you have a business plan. Remember: even the most brilliant role still needs to be performed brilliantly, else the entire play will flop.
And now that I’ve completely mixed my metaphors, here’s another, a visual one:
This image can be used as a metaphor for people who dive into a business without a plan.
They think that throwing money at an idea and getting it to the market will make a successful business.
Just like this woman thought that buying a bikini and getting to the beach will be enough.
I will conclude in Yoda speak: plan you must, or perish you will.
If you have a business idea, if you are working on a start-up, even if you are already running a business but still don’t have a business plan, you can take action now and sign up for the Turn An Idea Into A Business Plan workshop.