I’m not a big fan of business plans, but apparently that’s not always been the case. In my Google Drive there is a folder called “Business Plans”. Inquisitively I clicked on the folder to see what it contained.
My last modification was on April 10, 2008 (6 years ago). None of the five businesses listed are still in existence and only two of them ever made money. I thought it’d be fun to open them up to see what I wrote.
The idea was to create courses on basic computers, the Internet, and Microsoft Office applications. Our target market was “small businesses and suburban schools.” Phonebooks. Business cards. Paper flyers.
This business plan contains a logo and the words, “Sustainable computer repair.” I’m not sure what that means. I ended up giving the rights to this company to a former employee, who never used those rights.
This plan is 9 pages long, 2,250 words. The objective was, “User-friendly, professional, sites with personality based on customer needs and desires. Generate Profit. Grow at a challenging and manageable rate.”
Like Comp Lube, this plan is nothing more than a logo and the words, “Film editing and conversions.” At least it actually described what it did. The idea was a “VHS to DVD” service, which dates it pretty well.
Watershawl was a “new media company specializing in computer services and design.” That’s pretty much true to what it was. I did a lot of web design and IT work, but what I loved doing was process management.
Are Business Plans Useful?
Planning is useful, but I’m not so sure the actual document is useful. It can be used as a way to flesh out ideas, but it doesn’t have to be a long document. One page should be enough to state what you’re doing, how you’ll make money, and who your target audience is.
A business plan is usually all made up numbers, but it’s easy to feel like you’re building your business by writing a business plan instead of actually trying to Sell First. Customer development is one way to figure out whether or not someone will buy what you are selling.
I’ve spent the last year and a half helping one of my customers develop a business plan while another customer has already sold tens of thousands of products. Not all companies can be bootstrapped I realize, but the sooner you can validate your idea, the better.