When we think of a Business Plan, we usually think of the mighty tome that has been expected by Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors in the past. Dozens of books; hundreds of articles; and thousands of blog posts tell us exactly how to write this epic document.
“Plans are useless, but Planning is essential.” —Dwight Eisenhower
If anyone knew about the power of planning, it would certainly have been General Dwight Eisenhower. If his planning—and his ability to modify that planning on the fly—had not been extraordinary, we might all be speaking English as a second language today.
The emphasis here is on planning, not on the Plan. A business plan is good for about the same length of time as the morning newspaper … and worse yet, it never survives first contact with the real world.
At the same time, the prior post on this blog pointed out the necessity for writing down our goals and what we wanted out of life—and our business.
So, if we are to believe that a business plan itself is of little value, how do we reconcile this with the admonition to write down our plans?
Actually, it is quite simple: a business “plan” is a document, and business “planning” is a process.
Many of the experts are now calling this planning process—business “modeling”, or business “mapping.”
Regardless of what you call it, or what form you use to record things, you simply start by writing down your goals and then adding what you learn as you begin your planning process.
You can do this on a stack of cocktail napkins, butcher paper, in a notebook, or whatever form you choose—just be sure to write it all down.
No one else will ever see this material—it is for your planning process only. In fact, this may be all you ever need to do in planning your business—as long as you keep your planning up to date as you learn more and more about your business.
Also be aware that things are changing in the investment world. With the popularity of the “lean startup” concept, coupled with the “show—don’t tell” approach to presenting Business Plans to VCs, the whole concept of Business Plan presentations is changing.
So, don’t be hasty about writing a Business Plan—but also don’t forget that business Planning is essential.
What do you think—do you have your planning up to date … and is it written down?