When I’m talking to someone about launching their home-based business, and the subject of business plans comes up I usually get one of 3 initial responses – a glazed over look, a quick change of the subject, or a nervous laugh. Many think they’re unnecessary or a waste of time. If you’re talking about a 200 page detailed prospectus of your planned scrapbooking venture or home-based event planning company, then yes – that would be a total waste of time. But from the perspective of really understanding what it is that you intend your company to be – a business plan is invaluable. If it’s done right.
Put Ideas into the World
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” – Robert McKee
I can only think of a handful of people I know who love reading business plans. Compare that with those that like stories. As McKee’s quote recognizes, it’s storytelling that really gets ideas across. Now, if you are the CEO of a startup looking for VC finding, or are approaching a big financial institution for a loan, a nice story is probably not the way to go. But for most of my audience here – home-based and wannabe home-based ventures – a simple narrative that captures the core elements of your business can be a powerful tool. It’s also much more fun to write. The idea here is to write it for you and a few interested parties. It’s a great exercise for ensuring you have a firm handle on what you plan to do, and for identifying possible gaps. It also helps spell out some clear actions, and an overall flow for moving forward.
The Elements of a Story – Business Plan Style
Here are a few ideas to get you started. These elements are similar to what you’d find in a more traditional business plan, without all the pomp and circumstance. Well, maybe a little pomp.
Book Jacket Blurb – try to capture the essence of your business in a few paragraphs. This is like your executive summary, only not as stuffy. Write it like a book cover synopsis, designed to grab the reader.
The Preface – identify your mission and vision for your company. What is the main goal of your company – and what value are you providing?
The Setting and Cast – who are your customers and what is your niche?
The Actions – the important steps and actions you need to take to move your company forward. This is the meat of your story.
The Goals – the motivators in your story. What objectives are to working towards?
You’re the Star of Your Story
My guess is that if you’re really going for it, you’ve thought things through pretty well. No formal piece of paper’s going to help an asinine idea – and tons of formal business plans are sitting on shelves of struggling businesses collecting dust. For the nest based professional – you are your business. The unique passion and talent you bring to the marketplace is what you are building upon. Writing your own story will help you better understand what that is.
And if all else fails, here’s another thought – try substituting it for Goodnight Moon and see how quickly your kids fall asleep.