Thursday, May 1, 2014

How to revise your business plan when everything goes wrong

Everything going wrong? Cool off. Relax. Then sort it out and try again!

    It is rare that "everything" goes wrong but there are times when you might have that feeling. Last fall I wrote business plans for two projects of my own and this week I've been taking stock of my success -- or lack of it -- with one of those plans. My initial impression was that everything had gone wrong.

    But what has happened is now water over the dam. Time to move forward. But if the business plan didn't pan out, if the goals weren't reached, if certain assumptions now seemed dubious, it's time to take stock of where things are -- now -- and what didn't happen that the plan had called for to happen.

    In short, it's time to re-work that business plan and bring it more in line with present realities. Going forward without a plan would be insane. The business plan is what focuses your energy and, if you find yourself lacking in energy toward your project, it may be that you need to rework your business plan, to make it more realistic, so that you can, once again, get excited as you go about putting it into action.

    I've been going over that business plan in which everything seemed to go wrong. What I've discovered is that certain points were overambitious and certain assumptions have proven doubtful. But most important, I've noticed that, while some money was made, certain necessary points were left out.

    The points that were left out didn't seem important to me last fall when I wrote my plan. Today they appear critical. Two issues stand out.

    First, I was looking at what I wanted to achieve long range without putting enough thought into how I was going to lay the foundation for this project, or what that foundation should be.

    True, I had it all in my head, but I've noticed that ideas that can seem so clear when they are in your head can suddenly become very muddy when you are forced to put them down on paper, to communicate to others. (That's why writing up your plan is so important!)

    The second point I seem to have messed up on was the classic inventor's downfall. I was more concerned with what I could build than with what it would do for others, and who those "others" were, or should be.

    I was reminded this morning of two people I know and have worked with who have made a good deal of money with their projects. The first had both hits and misses. The second had a few insignificant misses but a very strong track record of hits. Both had "creative" minds but I believe that this second person was far better at understanding the customer and building his projects around what people really wanted.

    So as I rebuild my business plan I'm starting with the market and what the thoughts and needs are of the people for whom I am developing my product. As I develop my product -- and write my plan -- I'll be thinking about how my product can serve these people in a way that will be so exciting to them that they will happily seek me out.

    I'll work more on the foundation of this business, developing a following with a core group however small it may be. I'll seek to improve my product to better serve the interests of that group. I won't project big numbers for now but project the need for the R&D, the development inputs, that will allow me to build a product, and a business, that in time will scale.

    These are the thoughts and inspirations that are now going into my, revised, business plan.