A few friends asked for pointers in writing business plans for home businesses. They were women exactly like you and me, starting in the diaper manufacturing business and wanting to be professional despite our lack of business training. Before I opened for business, I created a plan.
Writing the Plan
If you want to write a business plan, start by looking at the SBA. They want to help you, but you have to have some of the work done before you approach them at the Small Business Development Centers.
Once you have an idea what the general outline is, go to the library, a big library, and take every business plan book off the shelf. Flip through them. Keep only the ones that are intriguing. Then read the tables of contents. Discard more. Whittle the stack down to 2-3. Read a bit. Take one home. Read it through. Then write the plan.
If that sounds too easy, it is.
Back to the Beginning
You need to back up and start at the beginning. That is YOU. Are you doing what you really want to do? Keep notes from the very beginning. Get a notebook–an exam book or a spiral, maybe a 3-ring binder if you want to be able to add and subtract, and keep all of your notes and your business journal in it. Every time you sit down to read, take your notebook. Take notes. Write your thoughts about life, your brilliant paragraphs to be added to the first draft of the plan.
You need to set aside time when you will not be interrupted to read and think. Go outside. Go to a coffee shop. If your husband leaves for work at 8am, get up and 6am, leave him with the kids, and go to breakfast all by yourself. It sounds impossible, but so does building a business in your dining room. If you can do it every day, you will notice a change in yourself. If you can only do it once a week, the change will come, but slower. Take one night a week off and go away to work. If you want to build a business, your job is much more than sewing.
- Know yourself (when are you fabulous? what are you excellent at? what makes you happy?)
- Know what you really want in your creative, professional life (what are you most deeply committed to?)
- Figure out your role in that life (you the CEO? you the artist? you the consultant?)
- Write the future (dream the dream of everything you want out of life and business)
- Then make the map to get there (that’s the business plan)
* Best book to prepare the ground for writing a business plan:
* Best book to help a woman take her first steps in business:
* Best book to help a woman find her public face for business:
Make a Name for Yourself, Robin Fisher Roffer. Start with her Eight Steps.
* Best book to watch a woman build her empire:
Mothers Work, Rebecca Matthias, founder of Motherhood, Mimi Maternity, and A Pea in the Pod.
You may not want to build an empire. That’s why you should get to know yourself before reading about others’ empires. This is the point at which I wrote my Smallering article, just to remind myself that I didn’t want what Rebecca Matthias got.
I read these books when I started my business. They were all published around that time. Maybe they are even dated. I haven’t re-read them. The point is: read, understand yourself, and understand your vision. You aren’t the first one down this road, so benefit from your sharing sisters.
Keeping Digging into Yourself, and Dig Yourself!
Get to know yourself before you start. Perhaps these can help.
Read these until you really understand the concept of inside out. Listen to her tapes in the car. If you are fabulously wealthy (and who among us isn’t?), hire her to organize your business space. She’s available. I’ve seen the results of her work.
Keep reading. Get to know your industry. Read work-at-home books, home craft books, whatever there is on your industry. Really know who is doing what on a large scale, so you can understand how you fit into the picture on a small scale. How are people trained to do what you do? Do they have textbooks? Can you get hold of those textbooks? Read the business plans and mission statements of others. You may find these online or in books. I want you to see the level of detail that really counts. I recall the dawning moment, reading the Celestial Seasonings marketing plan, when I realized how much detail I really needed to make a map I could follow.
Now, Go Write Your Plan
Once you’ve done that, go back to the SBA site and the business plan books, and write what you already know.
And, a Conclusion
My first business plans are long-winded (you can’t believe that, can you) and self-congratulatory. I was optimistic. I’ve revised a couple of times. Now I am getting more realistic. I write them with more punch, clearer purpose. I’m sure there are many improvements ahead that I can’t imagine.
You are creating a detailed map, listing every turn, adjusting when necessary. If you can map it, you can do it. If you don’t bother mapping it, you might not bother doing it. On the other hand, some people shoot from the hip and seem to start out OK. Do you want that? It might work for you. If you want more, work for it.
Text copyright © 2002 – 2017 Lori Taylor. All rights reserved.