Monday, January 25, 2010

the secret truth about business plans...

As an enterprise/business advisor (a graduate of 2 university degrees in business, a member of various professional bodies, and published by peer review on business support), I've had a lot of time to think about business plans.

And there's a lot of stuff about them out there: courses, books, templates, on-line tools and programmes, consultants offering to write yours for you...

However, there always seems to be an underlying assumption that whenever you start to talk about trading or doing business that the universe demands you create a business plan, or else yoru venture will automatically fail, you'll be subject to horrible plagues and the world will end... (OK, maybe I exaggerated those last points a bit).

But I have a rather unusual view as a business advisor - you don't always need a business plan.

In fact, I think that there will only ever be 3 reasons why creating a business plan would be a good use of your time (and if you identify with them, they can often help you to focus your thinking and efforts to make the process a lot easier too):

1) Paranoia - you've never created an enterprise before, or run a business, so how do you know you've not forgotten or missed something? Post-mortems on most failed businesses show that they failed because of seomthing that with hindsight could have been picked up sooner and fixed.

2) Time Capsule - at the outset, you've a clear idea as to how this thing will work, what it will generate and how everything fits neatly together. But the world is messy and full of surprises - if you're not careful, you end up taking on lots of new things which start to pull you away from your original hopes and aims. As such, you can suddenly find yourself not enjoying what you do, running an enterprise you don't recognise, and generally being unhappy - all of which is avoidable if you have the opportunity for a 'reality check' every so often: compare what's happening with what you thought and hoped would in your plan; if they don't match think carefully about what you might want to do about it to get things back on track.

3) Ambassador - if you are going to ask anyone for any type of money, you'll be asked for a business plan: something that explains with no prior knowledge on the part of the money person, who you are, what you're doing and why/how its going to work.

And because you can't always guarantee that you'll be there to present it in person, it should represent your character in some way too, so get creative with using pictures, language and so on - don't let it be another boring thing someone has to read...

And that's it.

If you don't think that any of the above apply, nor ever will, then spend your time doing something more enjoyable.

But if you think that you do need to do one... well, that's another blog on the easy way to write business plans...

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