When Tom and Karen were ready to write their business plan, they took a trip to an island…their kitchen island. Getting out of the office and into a comfortable setting for the business plan writing process was critical. No distractions and a more intimate setting where they could stay focused helped move the process along. Focused and determined, they spent two weeks on the island mapping out their plans to achieve their business goals. In doing so, they realized that this change of scenery helped create superior results.
Here are the top 5 insights gained from iQuantifi’s journey to create a business plan.
1. Business owners should write the business plan
Tom said, “After a period of reflection and refocus, my wife and I spent two weeks writing the business plan on our kitchen island. We realized that it needed to be written by us – the founders of the business, just as we believe all business plans should.” They shared a vision, so they should be the ones to write it. The founders are truly the heart, mind and soul of the business and the only ones who can accurately convey its purpose and goals. They realized that those who are most immersed and passionately involved in the business should formulate and write the plan.
2. Write a business plan as a narrative
They didn’t want it to read or look like a drab, contrived legal document. So once they realized that, they wrote it for themselves and no one else. They pulled from their personal experiences as business owners. They stayed away from dry language and wrote in a more narrative form. Using comparisons and case studies, colorful and meaningful charts and graphs helped to present the background of the company and accurately express their goals as well as the action plan to meet those goals. They found that instead of sticking to the formula found in a template, a business plan should be customized to meet a company’s needs. The language, direction and focus of the plan should express the company’s unique mission.
The initial purpose of the business plan is for the company to hone its focus. Who is your market? What are your goals? Do you self-fund or look for investors? It is a necessary exercise for those running the company, not just a document to present around a board table as a technicality. When they began writing their business plan, Tom and Karen discovered that they needed to narrow their target market and were able to illustrate a competitive analysis between iQuantifi and other online finance companies. The exercise helped them to determine what aspects of their services and market set them apart from similar companies. The action of writing the business plan generates ideas and allows owners to focus their plan and their perspective accordingly as they go along.
4. View a business plan as a living, breathing document
Karen said, “A business plan is not a concrete document. It is a living, breathing evolving thing that is almost outdated once you write it.” It will change as the company grows and goals will need to be adjusted and fine-tuned. As you read this, Tom and Karen are already rewriting, reorganizing plans and tweaking their goals. It’s an ongoing process. Be flexible and don’t be afraid of changing the plan if something isn’t working. Karen said, “We have seen many people get bogged down once the business plan is written. They believe that everything is etched in stone and shouldn’t be changed – just stick to the plan.” However, use your experience, wisdom and instinct to recognize when important aspects of your plan need to be altered.
5. Edit discerningly and be open to criticism
Send drafts to close friends or colleagues for review. Pick it apart. It is important to formulate ideas into a cohesive document. Upon presenting the plan to your most trusted advisors, be open to criticism and discussion. Tom said, “My wife and I are lucky that we work well together and that we are not afraid to share our ideas as well as constructive criticism, which helps us to decide the best course of action. Without each other’s input and collaboration, our ideas would not evolve into well-developed goals or an appropriate plan of action.” Also, colleagues and advisors might spot something that you didn’t due to being so close to the project.
Spending some time on the island mapping out your plan is a great place to start. However, writing a business plan is only a small part of a company’s journey. At the end of the day, a business plan doesn’t get a company up and running, you do. Bon Voyage!