Business Planning in the Palm of your Hand.
One of the biggest impediments to getting your good hustle up and running is actually beginning. Where to start when it all feels a little overwhelming. The lean start-up process is a continuous cycle based on three repeating phases: build, measure and learn. Good business planning is a continuous cycle based on three similar repeating phases: plan, review and revise. The two work together collaboratively to produce a blueprint for managing the nimble business of now, both digital and bricks and mortar. This is for many the single hardest part of the start-up process.
If you haven’t had much to do with the world of business, and are feeling clueless about where to begin, this can be where you yield to the temptation to abandon ship, and make a whole tonne of excuses why letting the moment go through to the keeper is a better idea than tackling a business plan. Of course it’s not. And remember, wisdom is learning through doing. No one was born with a silver business plan in their mouth, and at some point we all had to try and work it out. We’re not inventing anything new, and the good news is that it’s officially much easier than you might think. We’ve already talked about the value of the lean business model, and of course there is also a lean business plan to go with it. The one I use the most to demonstrate the simplicity of what you really need to know is Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup business plan one-pager.
Extracted from Chris’ excellent book The $100 Startup (which is a dharma manifesto if ever there was one), the business plan proves that less is more. You can grab a copy of it gratis at 100startup.com and it basically asks you, in one page, no more, to answer the following questions in one or two sentences: What will you sell? Who will buy it? How will your business idea help people? What will you charge? How will you get paid? How will customers learn about your business? How can you encourage referrals? Once these foundations are established, some measurements to benchmark success are posed including whether the success metrics will measure the number of customers, or focus on the annual net income, or something else. Then it asks you to do a little troubleshooting and risk management. Time to get those deep-seated fears out onto the page and look for an answer—if one exists, which at this time in the planning cycle it may not.
You need to write up your specific concern or question and your proposed solution to it. Choose your three most burning issues and address them; just the act of doing this will make you feel better about the things you don’t know. And with your new training of surrender and faith in the timing and the dharma, you can leave the answers to be revealed in their own sweet time. Know that risk is there, and will always be there; some risk will be able to be controlled, some not. Rather than trying to eliminate it, accept that there is never 100 per cent certainty in anything (except death – 100 percent).
Make sure you are comfortable with all of the potential outcomes of the risks you can think of. The other thing you can be pretty sure about is that whatever situations arise, they will be impermanent and somehow you will manage it. Everyone’s appetite for risk will be different. The belief in the risk likelihood with be different. Once you have had a shot at what you think the big issues are likely to be, you can bring in your close circle of collaborators and pressure test your thinking with a wider group.
The next question in the one-page business plan is a good one: how else will you make money from this project? I like the way he phrases this with ‘how else’, as he is shining a light on the opportunities that flow from action. So growth mindset. What could develop into the future?
What scope is there for other products or services to emerge from the original concept? This leads to broader thinking, such as whether you could charge to train other people in your method? Are there franchise or wholesale opportunities? Is there an innovative method or packaging you’ve created that has commercial value or intellectual property (IP) in its own right? This is the nudge to continue on the creative process you began when getting your idea refined to start with.
But remember, crawling, walking and running—in that order. With some stop-offs for meditation, yoga and meaningful conversations with future customers of course!
Time to begin.