Young Ben Yoskovitz of Startup Spark blog fame has challenged his email list of entrepreneurs with this question:
Should an entrepreneur
write a business plan, or not?
My answer may come as somewhat of a--you guessed it--Surprise.
Ironically, just before the holiday, I was going through boxes of docs after a re-modeling of my basement when I stumbled upon the business plan that Garner and I had put together in 1999 for "The Funniest.com," our Internet humor portal concept (the one that followed Eyeball Glue and eventually morphed into Airborne Entertainment).
Oh. My. God.
What a ridiculous, naive collection of far-fetched business concepts, unbridled hype and hallucinatory financial projections! It was a document stuffed with pie-eyed optimism, 3D Technicolor dreams and near-preposterous promises. It brought back repressed memories of Garner and I trading thrice-daily (at least!) email revisions back-and-forth over cellphone modems from our respective ski hill getaways over the course of a (so-called) winter vacation.
And I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world.
So my answer Ben is, Yes.
A big fat juicy Yes, in fact.
While miles away from where we ended up (by the way, very serendipitous timing as per my Monday post), our business plan gave us a point from which to start. It got Garner and I thinking about the future, put us on a similar wavelength, helped us learn how to deal with conflict and disagreement, and taught us how to work together.
As a destination, he business plan was a failure, but as the start of our journey, it was imperative and a majestic success. It is not the end, it is a means to it, and an indispensable one at that.
Putting together our business plan was our first step. It gave us the confidence to seek financing and strategic partnerships. We knew we would have to adapt, but (uh-oh, here he goes again!) as I say in my How To Do The Impossible speech, directions are way easier to change when moving than when standing still.
One great business plan anecdote. Garner and I were presenting our Airborne bizplan PowerPoint to Ivan Fecan, CEO of the Bell Globemedia conglomerate, and we got to the financial slides. We had worked painstakingly on these five-year projections, trying to make sense of an industry that had yet to even exist on these shores. These three slides were our crown jewels.
Fecan's taciturn response:
"Bullshit, next. Bullshit, next. Bullshit, next."
We were mortified, but he explained:
"Guys, I've been doing these projections my whole life. I know that you can't predict where this business is going. Nobody has a clue. Nice shot, but I know you're faking it.
"If anyone's going to invest in your company at this point, it's not about your numbers. It's about your conviction."
So Ben, tell your entrepreneurs to demonstrate their conviction and get their thoughts in order on a business plan. Many would-be moguls don't even have enough discipline to get through the arduous process of putting one together. If nothing else, it's great training for the hardships, the euphoria, the misery, the uncertainty, the sweat and the cheers to come.
And one day, it will make cleaning out their basements a whole lot more fun as well.