The business plan is dead. Long live the business plan!
A few years ago I wrote an article about the death of the business plan – the traditional business plan, that is. That long, weighty document usually designed to convince a bank manager that your business is legit, is a waste of time in my opinion. It focuses on the past, it takes months to create, it’s often full of half-truths, and it almost always insists on a five year plan. And who even knows what’s happening in one year, let alone five?
Having said that, creative businesses still need a plan, and not just to please a lender or fulfil the requirements of a grant application. Without a plan small businesses are effectively forced into being opportunistic, reactive, and rudderless on the stormy business sea.
A business plan helps you to:
- imagine the near (and far) future, and put a strategy in place to get there;
- think up new ways of making money, including services and products to generate revenue;
- get organised, and make deliberate choices about how you’d like this business to work;
- market your creativity to your potential and existing clients and customers, and;
- stay afloat!
So, it’s time to get started on – or finish – that plan. So what’s stopping you? Here are a few theories.
Traditional Plans are Pointless – so why bother. As mentioned, I agree with the idea that the old plan is a waste, but it’s time to think modern. A creative business plan is more of a self-written manual that outlines what you want, your assumptions about how to get there, and a few details about financials, risks and marketing. The thought of embarking on an old-fashioned plan is enough to thwart anybody – even me! However, a considered strategy is a great idea, even if it’s a gigantic piece of paper with post-its and drawings all over it (like ours!).
For some ideas on how to shake up the old-fashioned planning process, I recommend looking at the Business Model Canvas and The Lean Start Up for a fresh take. You can also check out our Mini-Business Plan Quiz for some inspiration.
Just Do It! Sorry to dump some Nike on you without warning, but this phrase sums up one of the blockages beautifully. Why have a plan when just jumping in is so much more fun? Creative people don’t generally intend to be a business anyway, we throw ourselves in to our creative practice or field and then eventually find ourselves freelance, self-employed, and running a business whether we intended to or not.
Writing a plan doesn’t have to stop that action from happening. In fact, an action-oriented and entirely practical plan is the perfect way to combine the thrill of jumping in with the calm thoughtfulness of a strategy. Hurrying towards your dreams is just fine, as long as you don’t let yourself get distracted or disoriented on the way. A plan can be the map you need to make your journey more meaningful, and your goals more possible. Check out our blog on Map Making for more.
Ignore that knocking sound… When your car starts to make weird noises it’s tempting to ignore the issue, because you know as soon as you pop the hood you’ll be faced with some scary mechanical issue that could lead to lost money and time. Some creatives don’t want to take the time to plan because they don’t want to test their ideas too much. What if those concepts can’t withstand the scrutiny? What if they’re no good? A business plan, taken seriously, will show that some ideas won’t work, and even tell you that some businesses should not be started.
That’s a scary prospect – but isn’t it better to find out now, through planning and contemplation, than to find out afterwards when you’ve spent all that money and time? And if you’d like a fun way to test your business idea, try this quiz from Moo.
Lack of Accountability. This is, by far, the main blockage that we see in our advisory clients. Most people know they should complete a plan, but without any consequences or accountability this important task slips to the bottom of the to-do list. By finding a form of accountability, whether that’s an advisor, a buddy, or a program to help you stay on track, the intention of a plan might never become a reality.
It’s not necessarily going to be as fun as jumping in, or as easy as ignoring the issue, but starting AND FINISHING a business plan could make the difference between a fantastic creative business dream and a reality. Consider your blockages, and see what you can do to step out of your own way and get that f*!&cking thing finished!
If you need some help, why not check out our fabulous One Page Business Plan? It’s pretty nifty!