“You gotta have a business plan.”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard this sentence, or something like it.
Keep your hand up if this was followed in short order by a recitation of how hard and complex the business plan is to create, or a description of several “necessary” parts of the business plan.
And keep your hand up if this description made you wonder if you should hire someone to write it for you, ’cause that shit sounded hard . . .
Yep. Pretty much my experience, too.
I go into a lot more detail on the business plan in the Pajama Productivity “30 Days to Domination” email course, but basically, here’s all you need to know about the business plan for internet entrepreneurs:
It ain’t nothing like that.
Don’t get me wrong. You need a plan. Proceeding without one? Unquestionably stupid.
But the templates and the “biographical section” and the “financial projections” and all that happy horse crap? No.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Who you’re selling to
- What they need
- How you’re going to give it to them
- How you’re going to get paid for it
That’s it. Where it gets tricky for the web-based business owner is figuring out how to translate the answers to those questions into actual business. How, exactly, to create the #2 those #1s will #4 you in return, and then how to #3 it to them.
Um. OK, you get the picture.
The devil is, indeed, in the details. It might be tempting to skip even this minimal planning process in the rush to get a site up, and something out there, but it’s absolutely essential to solidify the answers to these four questions in your own mind.
Write them down on the back of a shredded beer-stained cocktail napkin from your favorite local store, for all I care. Just give them due consideration, and write ’em down somewhere.
Also? Be prepared to change those answers as you go along. We’re all guessing in the beginning, believe me. None of us have a crystal ball (though how awesome would that be?) and we can only give it our best educated estimate initially, even if we’re super-smart about market research and that kind of stuff (which I decidedly am not).
So when results begin to deviate from the expected return on your investment of time and money and effort, you have to be open to revisiting the plan.
Another way to think about business planning is by keeping the three-hat theory of entrepreneurship in mind and then work your way backwards:
- Your CEO will lay out the vision.
- The manager steps in and sets out the goals that will get you to that vision.
- The line worker takes over and figures out the actions that will accomplish the goals that will get you to that vision.
That’s the way the business is built on the web these days. Just keep asking yourself through every step of the process: Does this get me closer to my vision and my goals? If the answer is “no,” then re-evaluate and try again. Keep going until you have a page full of “yes”es.