When I first began in the business world, I thought that the business plan was the most important factor to any business’ success. I heard about statistics that would tell me that 80 or some other huge percentage of businesses that started without a business plan failed within the first year. That’s not something I liked hearing, especially considering how building the weight and responsibilities attached to something usually deters me from doing it. I like to always simplify things in my mind and remove the pressure from my mind so that I can address it with a clear mind. That’s may just be me though.
Regardless, as a person who often looks over his business plans to make sure his businesses are sticking to the vision they had set out to accomplish, I am starting to realize that using that business plan is actually limiting the lengths my visions would go to. It would limit my imagination and ambition, because it would bring it statistics, thoughts of competitors, and all of that nonsense, which would leave me at a plateau of confusion.
One of the greatest pieces of advice I have heard time and time again from friends of mine that are successful in their businesses AND are very happy, is that if you are passionate about something, relaying that passion is truly the key to finding success in your business. Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life. Not only have I heard this from friends, but when I would watch/read interviews with some of the most successful business people in the world, they all said the same thing.
So, how does this reflect in a business plan? In order for imagination and creativity to truly soar to their greatest lengths, they can’t be limited by drafted thoughts and ideas. Instead, they need to be set free, and allowed to flow in the directions life takes them. With the rapid growth and change of our society and the world of business, making some really long business plan, created over a span of days, weeks, months, or even years (yes, I’ve seen people take that long), is truly useless. By the time you finish writing the plan, your demographic, industry, etc. all would have changed.
When I think of a business plan, I think that it should be kept to simply expressing what the name implies: a plan for your business. That should answer basic questions, and shouldn’t go beyond a couple of pages (not the 150 or so pages I’ve seen with some businesses!). Here are the questions I ask myself when I write and re-evaluate my “business plans”:
- Why am I starting this project/business? Ask yourself what your vision is, and try to maintain this vision throughout the process of owning your business/project. Far too often, we forget our initial visions when our businesses become successful. Never forget why you started this. Reminding yourself of this vision will keep you grounded and focused.
- What do I want to provide to my audience? Figure out what it is your audience needs in order for you to fulfill your vision.
- How will I provide these things to my audience? Now that you know what you want to provide to your audience, ask yourself what venues and methods you can use to make your vision known, as well as how you can provide them the products and services they need to experience what you have envisioned for them.
- What will it cost me to provide these things? Figure out how much it will cost you to provide your products or services. This is the stuff that’s more “business-y”, but unfortunately, it’s necessary to keep you aware of what’s happening with your business/project, and how well you can truly provide your audience with what you hope to.
- How will I cover my costs? You are only as valuable to others as you make yourself to you. Basically, if you aren’t taking care of yourself and your costs, you won’t be able to give your audience the best version of you, and that’s dangerous not only to your business, but to your physical and mental health as well. Figure out what amount of money you need to cover your costs at the most basic level. If you’re anything like me, thinking about big numbers of clients and how much it’ll cost you to maintain your business will leave you feeling incredibly intimidated and vulnerable. Keep it simple, and know what you need to know at the most basic level.
- How do I give back to my community with my business? One of the things I’ve always believed in with all of my projects and companies is that it’s incredibly important to give back to the community in some way or other. Giving back always lead to more success, because not only are you helping people through their struggles, but you also feel more satisfied, and you get more clients coming your way after seeing that you’re not just about the money, but that you actually care.
Well, these are just some of my tips towards planning for your business. Keep it simple and don’t be the cause of your own panic attacks. Life is about experiences, and living them out in the best way possible. You have a vision, go after it, and make it a reality. And constantly remind yourself of your passion for it, and experience life. As I always tell my clients, “People spend too much time making a living that, in the process, they forget to actually live. Don’t be like those people. Remember to live.”