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Can you really have a business plan without writing a…um…business plan?

Holy squeee!!!! You just made a the cutest fricken’ cake on the planet!  Seriously, you can stop looking at it. It’s so insanely adorable.

And you know it’s going to taste great because you used your grandma’s world-famous devil’s food recipe.

Mmmm…you’ve got a fresh cup of coffee ready & you can’t wait to chow down.

But dammit, you can’t bring yourself to pick up the knife!  This cake is just too full of squeee to cut!

You want to keep awww-ing over the epic cuteness but you also really want to chop the sucker up and nosh. 

It’s an age old quandary. What’s a girl (or guy) to do?

This is pretty much how we feel about business plans.

You want to know your business idea is sound, your goals are realistic & your strategies are, well you know, strategic.  But you really…really…REALLY don’t want to write a stupid, boring, stuffy, overwhelming frickin’ business plan!

And, you don’t have to…right?

There are a ton of slight of hand cakesters (oops, I made up another word) out there who will tell you you can eat your cake and still admire how pretty it is.  They have the magic beans.

And those beans come wrapped up in slick, pretty software.  All you have to do is fill out a handful of online forms and their software will supposedly write your business plan for you.

I don’t really want to name names. Oh, wait….yes I do!

There are point and click plans like The One-Page Business Plan and Biz Plan. Software programs like BPlans and LivePlan.  And the newly launched Enloop…which is what prompted this little rant. Enloop will not only create a point & click plan for you, but it will also give your plan a score that predicts its likelihood of failure.

That sounds GREAT, doesn’t it?

Honestly, I can’t suggest all of these products are made by shucksters. Some of the founders seem to have real, genuine, helpful intentions. But good intentions won’t turn plastic fruit into real fruit.

They’re selling fake cake. Please don’t buy it.

And here’s the biggest secret they aren’t telling you…

You probably don’t need a business plan at all.

Wait. It’s uber important that I clarify this:

Unless you’re want to use someone else’s money to start or grow your business, you don’t need to write a formal business plan. Or build one ad-lib style online. Or print some blathering, cookie cutter, point & click piece of crap from your computer.

This is important, so go ahead and read that sentence again. I’ll wait here.

Now that you’re happily floating on that happy bubble of relief, let me sharpen my needle.

What?!  But you said….!

Yeah. I know what I said. You read it. Twice.

I said you don’t need a formal business plan. That doesn’t mean you don’t need a “plan” (Feel free to use your Dr. Evil hand quotes while you read this).

If you want to hope for any kind of business success., especially if your business is expected to support your family, it would be careless to move forward without a “plan”.

Just like the awesome cake you want to magically eat without cutting… we all want to jump into a time machine and skip this part.   But, we can’t.

Eventually, we have to get over ourselves and cut the damn cake. Or never enjoy it at all. That’s totally your choice.

And…that’s my tough love-y side talking.

My compassion-y side insists that I tell you it really isn’t as crappy as it sounds. I promise.

In fact, you’re probably already formulating a “plan” without even knowing it.

You will never need 20 – 40 pages of canned facts & figures….not even if especially if you want to use other people’s money!

The whole point of creating a business “plan” of any kind is all the great stuff you learn from the process of creating it.

As a side note: If you are planning to ask someone for money, you don’t need much more information than the not-very-formal “plan.” You do need to take the extra step to format it…and proofread the crap out of it….and explain why you’re the best person on the planet to implement this plan.  Furthermore, you absolutely must be intimately familiar with every syllable in that document and why they’re in there. One of these business plan crankers will create a plan so irrelavant and dull you’re mom won’t even read it, let alone you or your banker.

So, now you have a new pressing question, don’t you?

What should this not-so-formal, probably-not-even-all-typed-up-in-one-place “plan” include?

Aw, I’m so glad you asked!

That’s spelled out step-by-step in Part 2: Your So-Not-a-Business-Plan “Plan” for your Business.

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3 Responses to Can you really have a business plan without writing a…um…business plan?

  1. Dave Kilroy June 10, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    What a fabulous article! Laura if I was wearing a hat I would take it off to you now.

    Today I also got fed up with the amount of awful stuff that surrounds business planning. Business planning is an exercise in THINKING and no amount of software will ever be able to think for you!

    So well done for writing such a lucid article, you have got to the heart of the matter and helped people – as opposed to the acres of (machine-written?) drivel availble online offering awful advice.

    Rant over – well done, nice work.

    • Laura White-Ritchie June 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

      Thanks Dave! I’m so glad you appreciate it! I’m writing up Part 2 now. Well, not now, but as soon as I’m done replying to you’re awesome comment.

      I hope you like it too!


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