Business First, Business Plan Second

How many of us were told we needed a business plan for our business idea? Hands up, please.  And how many of us believed those outside voices about having a business plan first before we started the business?  And what did we do: we listenede and we wrote one.  Well, we tried to write one.  But between the executive summary and the projected revenue, we got lost a few times.  And rightly so.  How are we really suppose to know what we’re going to spend over the next three years or know how much profit we’ll make in the next five?  What if we decide to add a product, expand of service or completely transform the company?  How do we write that into our business plan?

Truth be told, business plans are a necessity for nonprofits and those companies seeking capital from outside resources, such as lenders and investors.  For the rest of us, business plans are nice, neat little guides for us to follow in the hopes that everything will nicely and neatly fall into place.  YEAH, RIGHT!  Things change quickly and radically and no business plan can be so well written for the unseen moments as to be a saving grace for when all hell breaks out.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t need one or can’t have an outline to help you along the way.  But business plans are more suitable for after the business has been started.

Yes.  Write your business plan after you start you business.  It may seem counterintuitive, but that document will come more inhandy once you’ve done some fine tunning.  New business owners are going to make a number of mistakes no matter how carefully they’re prepared or cautiously enter into agreements.  It’s just the nature of business.  People change their minds, change what services or products they want to offer.  And most of us, new or seasoned, continue to tweak our businesses as we go along. 

Let yourself make as many mistakes to progress to the path you want to be on.  Build the support team you’ll need to bounce ideas off of.  Figure out how much money you’re going to need before you starting asking and taking out loans.  And really let your business settle into a groove or rhythm that you can operate at.   The business plan is to be a reference for the stages you want your business to grow through, not a concrete tablet in which no adjustments can be made.  Business plans don’t predict the future, provide kits for disasters or bail you out when the money dries up.   

 Think of your business plan as part diary and part outline.  Look at it as this is what you’ve learned and this is where you need to go.  When you combine both experience and vision, then you’re ready to write a flexible business plan that will bend and change with your business goals and aspirations.  First the business, then the plan.

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