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.
I really like the idea of biz plan as story.
I’ve recently read McKee for the second time and agree completely – stories are the most powerful ways to launch one’s ideas into the world.
But they do take work to create.
You stirred up my thinking and for that I am grateful – thanks for sharing with us out here in the blogosphere!
Tony, your post is timely from my perspective. I am rapidly moving from the idea stage into implementation and I haven’t written down my plan yet. Oops!
And that word niche keeps following me around these days. I’m beginning to understand that specializing is likely to be more profitable than generalizing. So that is probably the biggest piece I need to nail down at this point.
Thanks for pointing out something I need to get a handle on!
Thanks, Michael. Taking a different view of things â€“ like in story form â€“ is a great exercise for any business person.
Much like the improv post you wrote last week, we can learn a lot from different disciplines. I’m currently reading “Improv Wisdom” by Patricia Madson, and there are many applicable tools for everyday business conversations.
I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment.
Chris â€“ I know where you’re coming from. Getting it all down can be really freeing, though.
Having to carry all those ideas and plans around in your head, makes for some instant stress. I know â€“ I do it all the time 🙂
I’m starting to follow my own advice though â€“ it helps with my sanity.
Great post Tony… you know I’m down with the stories, and using one for a business plan is solid advice.
After all… how do you think you’ll end up verbally pitching the idea to investors anyway, if one decides to go that route?
Thanks, Brian – and that’s a terrific point. The best pitches I’ve delivered or heard told a compelling story.
One of my favorite books on presenting is “Presenting to Win” by Jerry Weissman. He focuses on using the concept of storytelling to get the message across.
Great blog article… I’ll be recommending it to my readers at the Carnival of eBay Sellers in the next issue.
Keep up the good work.
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