You are probably wondering what on earth I mean by the title to this post? Did I get caught up in a James Bond marathon event on TNT or read one too many conspiracy theories online? Not exactly. The idea came to me when a friend told me the story of a colleague that they hadn’t seen in a few years but ran into at a conference recently.
The story serves as a great case study in business planning. The colleague (we’ll call them “Jane”) was a top level executive, well educated and knowledgeable about their profession/industry. They received a very high dollar buyout from their corporate position and decided to strike out on their own and start a business.
Since Jane had a sizeable sum of money at her disposal, she did not need to apply to investors or banks for startup capital. She had devised a business plan but since she did not need financing, she wasn’t forced to show it to anyone. Jane’s business plan remained just a file on her computer which never got opened or read.
Jane did not realize that there may be something wrong with her plan until she visited the business across the street from the building she had purchased to house her venture (remember she had a lot of capital). You see, she was in the process of laying off her staff, and closing her business down and was wondering if she could lease some space to her neighbor. She was surprised to learn the amount of resources her neighbor allocated to marketing and sales. Jane had not spent any time or money on bringing business in the door, she made the same mistake countless others have made: “if I build it, they will come”.
If only Jane had shown her business plan to someone else. You don’t necessarily have to spend money to have your business plan vetted. Start with showing a few friends, your spouse, your family members. There are resources at the SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) that can help you for free as well. Of course, you can always hire a financial/business professional particularly if you need to borrow money to get started.
Don’t be shy! Learn from Jane’s mistakes. Your business plan is your roadmap to success. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions (get the roadmap metaphor? – thought you would).