Mary had a delivery service business. Her idea was to market to senior citizens who couldn’t get out every day. She came to me as a SCORE counselor because her business was struggling and she thought she needed marketing help. She had been marketing to seniors for more than a year and was frustrated by her results. She hoped I would have the silver bullet that would change everything.
My first question to Mary was had she written a business plan. I wanted to see her marketing plan and forecast of sales. Mary told me she had written one before she started but she said she “just didn’t believe it.” A business counselor had worked on the cash flow section with her but the forecast was much more optimistic than she really believed possible.
It always astonishes me that people go into business with a business plan that seems impossible to them. If the business owner doesn’t believe it then who will? Not believing your own plan should be a red flag to the entrepreneur to go back to the drawing board.
The owner may need to redefine their market or update their idea to something that will generate the business the owner needs. It may take more market research (What does the market want? How much is the target market willing to pay?) It may take a more robust marketing plan in order to reach the numbers the entrepreneur needs to get the sales flowing. It may also take more money to fund the necessary marketing or support equipment or services.
Sometimes the entrepreneur just needs more confidence in his/her own ability to get the work. In that case it may be that the entrepreneur needs to work in someone else’s business first to see how it is done and gain that confidence.
Another tact that an owner might take would be to make a minimal investment in the business to get it going and find other work for self-support while he/she experimented with the business-a pilot or beta of sorts. This in effect would be real time market research.
As much as Mary didn’t want to hear it she really needed to rethink her business plan. She had already decided her target market wouldn’t pay for her services in enough quantity to support her. Now the task was to decide what her new target market would be and what her offering looked like.
Mary needed a new vision for her business and she needed it to be clear and compelling. It is the vision of the business that motivates the owner to do some things that perhaps the owner would ordinarily find tedious or even a bit scary. The very first part of a business plan is called the Business Description and it is here that the vision belongs.
Recently a participant in my teleclass “Taking the Mystery Out of Business Plan Writing” talked about a creative way she had for writing her business plan. She was taking magazine pictures and drawings to illustrate her plan. This way of illustrating her plan made it more alive and exciting to her. A vision needs to draw you to it. One possible way to make it that way is with pictures and illustrations.
Writing a business plan calls on the logical, analytical, and rational part of people. Scientists tell us this is an activity done by left side of the brain (logical, analytical, rational). It doesn’t have much appeal to people who prefer to use the right side of their brain (intuitive, creative, holistic). The entrepreneur needs to have the ability to access both parts of the brain for different tasks. A client who is very creative and loves being in that mode told me recently, “ Sometimes it is necessary for me to get very left brained so I can get some work done.” If you resist the idea of business plan writing but know you want to write one, try finding your own special way of getting it done-but do get it done!
Take Action 1. Learn more about left-right brain at this website: 2. Not sure which side of your brain dominates your behavior? Try this assessment: 3. What is your vision of your own business or your ideal job? Spend an hour writing down what it looks like and feels like. Get creative. Make it feel real! See it in your mind's eye.
Alvah Parker is a Business and Career Coach as well as publisher of Parker’s Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. Parker’s Value Program© enables her clients to find their own way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. Her clients are managers, business owners, sole practioners, attorneys and people in transition. Alvah is found on the web at www.asparker.com. She may also be reached at 781-598-0388.
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