The Business Plan:  Part One - "What's in it for Me?"

If you Google “Business Plan” today, the search engine produces about 112,000,000 results in less than one second. There are sample business plans, business plan templates, business plan software and a host of articles explaining the purpose and content of a business plan.

Looking for factual, objective information on a particular subject, my reading often includes Wikipedia. This link will take you to a Wiki article on the Business Plan that will explain the purpose and content as well as any of the other 111,999,999,999 articles out there.

For most of us, planning is second nature, whether it is planning the next meal, a route from point A to point B or a family vacation. We set goals; we analyze ways and means of achieving our objectives and make decisions, based on the tools and options available.

For would-be entrepreneurs, the planning process often gets overwhelmed by emotion, uncertainty and procrastination. There is a realization that, if the dream is to become reality, a coherent plan is needed. The challenge is to organize the many component parts in a way that sets out a clear path, leading to potential success.

If you are planning to launch your first business, the process of developing a credible business plan will expose many of the flaws in your concept and bring you closer to the real reasons you are so willing to put your life in harm’s way.

When I begin to work with a client in building a business plan, I ask a number of personal questions.  Typically, you won’t find this step in Business Plan how-to articles. I believe they are essential in developing a workable plan for a start-up:

Step 1:  What does your life look like now?

This covers the whole range; job, marriage, family, economic situation, age, health and fitness, assets, liabilities, skills, experience. Every first-time entrepreneur should sit down, with pencil and paper, or with an experienced planner and do a critical self-assessment. Entering a major career/life change requires a sober, objective grasp of whom and what you are.

Step 2:  What will your life look like after you have embarked on this great adventure?

It’s a before-and-after exercise, involving all of the criteria evaluated in the original assessment. What aspects will change; for better, for worse, and what parts will remain the same. A new business won’t resolve family conflict or cure a failing marriage. If you have difficulty in handling stress or have health and fitness problems, these will only be aggravated by a business venture. If your financial situation is shaky, a fledgling business will surely bring more insecurity. And, just how long do you plan to operate this new business venture; a few months, a few years or, for the rest of your life? If you don’t have the answers to these questions now, return to Step 1.

This before and after process often involves more than one question-and-answer session between the client and me. If you are working through this exercise on your own, you won’t get it all done in an evening or a weekend. The process will take place over many days or weeks. You should talk to everyone who would be impacted by your decision to go into business for yourself. You should assess every facet of your life in terms of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. I’ll talk about SWOT analysis in one of the later articles relating to the business plan. It’s a technique that is well-suited to the objective analysis of your fitness to establish, manage and grow your own business.

Step 3:  What's in it for you?

There is no doubt about it; there is an immense sense of pride and fulfillment in starting and operating your own business. You’re the boss. You sink or swim by dint of your own wits and hard work. It’s the feeling that makes you jump out of bed in the morning, anxious to get at it. It’s the joy that keeps you at your self-assigned tasks, long after your employees have called it a day. It’s the challenge of maintaining a level of success that assures your employees that their jobs and their lives are secure.

If these thoughts give you goose-bumps, you just may be an entrepreneur in the making. In the next segment, I’ll talk about assessing The Big idea and evaluating its chances for success and longevity.

Dave Hands

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