While writing a series of articles on business planning, I had the opportunity to discuss the real-world applications of these ideas when meeting with clients.
Recently I sat down with a couple of smart, experienced guys. One of them was completing a near year-long course in a highly specialized trade.
This person wanted to start his own business.
The course gave them some “training” in doing so. In fact, over coffee, he pulled out several workbooks that he was expected to fill in so that they could help him with his plan. “Great” I thought, as starting to jot down your ideas makes business planning easier, for you or whomever you hire to put one together for you.
The problem was that the books were blank. Yes, there were words on the pages but where the individual was to start… there was nothing.
That reminded me of a previous article on the “size and scope” of the business plan. When you work in a field and/or are writing on a topic, you do not often start with a blank piece of paper. What we mean by that is that you come with your thoughts and analysis; your beliefs and prejudices; your experience and your background. Each of these things impacts on your process and on your Business Plan.
We acquired a well regarded planning kit that we were considering for a client and whether we would offer it to the public. The kit was very good (even excellent for the price) BUT the kit assumed:
You knew where to start
You knew Word
You knew Excel
You knew PowerPoint
You knew Marketing
You knew Accounting
And of course, you knew YOUR BUSINESS and how to write copy to express your business.
That is a lot of knowledge.
That is a lot of assumption.
That is a lot of hope.
The reality is that if you go to anyone who is strong in Product Development, Marketing, Accounting, Finance, Human Resources, Legal issues or Computer applications – you are likely to get a plan that is strong in Product Development, Marketing, Accounting, Finance, Human Resources, Legal issues or Computer applications.
In our experience, you would be best served by hiring a copywriter (unless you have a gift there) – but will they have the knowledge of the above topics? Probably not, but they, like us Business Analysts, learn to ASK questions and LISTEN to the answers. Many of the other professional types that we mentioned are busy thinking about what they KNOW and what they think that you should do, that they are not really listening.
Our experience is that is it best to ask a few questions and listen for a while.
The business person is an expert in their field (or has the passion to overcome the lack of expertise) AND the smart ones will admit to what they need…if you let them talk.