In addition to my Etsy and freelance writing business ventures, my husband and I are hoping to start a business within the next year or two that will actually provide our bread and butter (and mortgage, and car, and…you get the picture). We hold monthly planning meetings to set goals and one goal we really need to make progress towards is the big, bad business plan.
Book stores are my favorite places, but when I’m in the business section, I’m looking for something that jumps off the shelf and says, “I’m different from 90% of these boring books! I’m pretty! I’m fun! And you’ll learn!” Jennifer Lee’s The Right Brained Business Plan said all of these things and more, loud and clear. The book is filled with colorful sketches and photos of artsy, visual business plans that make more sense to me and retain my interest longer than a stack of forms ever would.
The basic premise is that “creatives” are right-brain dominant, non-linear, visually oriented, in contrast to those who are left-brain dominant, preferring order and logic. Of course, as Lee points out, in reality you need to use both sides of your brain, and “…creativity and business go hand in hand beautifully.”
Although I consider myself very artsy and driven more by beauty and emotion than cold, hard logic, I reconsidered when I read her description of left brain thinking: “The challenge is when left-brain thinking comes too early in the visioning and planning process and kills the party with it’s questioning, judgment, and need for every single piece of the puzzle to make absolute sense before taking that first step.” Hmmm. Sounds just like me; I love order. It may even explain exactly why I’m so gung-ho to make a business plan at this stage in the game. Interesting.
Lee says that, depending on your personal time frame and motivation, you can work through the book in 1-2 weeks or 1-2 months. I’m not sure how long it will take me, but I thought I would take you through my process. There are many opportunities for reflection and several exercises to do. You need to pick up a copy and experience it for yourself, so I won’t type them all out, but I will give you some of my own answers.
The Introduction provides a list of questions to determine if you are a right-brained entrepreneur, many of which I chuckled at, recognizing myself, and a few of which were not true of me.
In reflecting on my own beliefs about business, I am surprised that I have come to find even the dry details, the numbers and formulas of profit, to be quite interesting. I am more limited by fears–of messing up, of being inadequately prepared, of being taken advantage of. Liability, lawsuits, and taxes haunt me. I think these are legitimate concerns, but they are limiting if not dealt with.
Lee renames the business plan basics; the executive summary becomes “hearty highlights,” the marketing plan becomes “getting the word out,” etc. She suggests several formats and mediums for constructing this visually appealing plan–everything from a mobile to a scrapbook to a piece of jewelry–and gives a list of materials to have on hand (I was highly skeptical of the jewelry idea, but one of the many “success stories” in the book is on the next page, a pretty leather cuff with the seven key points of one business plan on it in elegant script. It was perfect. Shows what I know).
How will I make my business plan? I am considering several ideas–I picked up some old magazines at my mom’s today for making collages, and we already have a binder for our business with dividers, pockets, etc. Hopefully, we are moving soon to a location that will house both us and the business; I kind of like the idea of making one version (because I wouldn’t want to lose my only copy) of the plan into a series of letters to mail to myself when the time comes. I also thought about these pocket stickers I recently discovered, and surely this is a great time to use my beloved washi tape! Our business will involve nuts and bolts and machinery. Is there some way to incorporate this into the overall structure of the plan? Could we make it look like a how-to manual? A blueprint? A sewing pattern? All of the above? The nature of our business-to-be will in part be as an incubator to small businesses, so making an attractive business plan that we can share with our customers is an added incentive.
Lee details the different ways that the business plan can be used, answering my main question, “Can this be used as a real business plan, or is it just for fun?” She says that once you have gone through all the work to make the right brain business plan, you will easily be able to create the “buttoned down version” that will be outlined in later chapters.
I’m so excited to begin! Here are a few pictures of the work that I did while journaling/creating for the first couple of chapters. I can see myself doing several versions of the plan as I refine it and have new ideas.
If you have read the book, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. If not, what advice about business plans can you give from other experiences?