Burn your business plan

Burning paperI’ve never been a big fan of formal business plans. Often, they don’t embed enough flexibility for the entrepreneur to pivot, based on new experience and a changing competitive environment. (Marketing plans, on the other hand, are essential tools in managing and prioritizing an entrepreneur’s valuable time.)

What I have found to be more useful for people who are just starting their business is to ask themselves the questions. Note that there are no right or wrong answers; what’s important is getting a clear picture of who your clients are and how you amaze and astound them.

* Why are you starting a business? What appeals to you the most about being an entrepreneur? What the least?

* Describe what gives you enormous satisfaction professionally. Is it passing along a great insight to a client? Writing a report that you’re really proud of? Having a client tell you how you saved their butt? Describe the most gratifying source of professional satisfaction for you.

* Describe how you picture an ideal day in your new business. What kind of work will you be doing? Imagine the ideal client to work with and describe that client.

* What 3 things scare you the most about starting and running a successful business?

* What 3 things do you dread the most about starting or running a business?

* How are you going to fund your first 6 months of business? (This includes your start-up expenses and overhead.) Are you planning to pay yourself a salary for your first 6 months in business? If so, how soon do you expect to be bringing in enough revenue to start paying yourself a salary?

* How do you plan on creating word of mouth marketing? How will you tangibly demonstrate to prospective clients that you are the person they desperately need?

* Describe one of your client groups.
o What are their job titles?
o How will they initially hear about you?
o What services or products will you provide to them?
o Why will they highly value these products or services, and be willing to pay your regular hourly rate?
o How often do you expect them to use your services?
o How much do you expect an average project to cost? [and how did you arrive at this number?]
o How much does this client group overlap with your other client groups?

* Describe another of your client groups.
o What are their job titles?
o How will they initially hear about you?
o What services or products will you provide to them?
o Why will they highly value these products or services, and be willing to pay your regular hourly rate?
o How often do you expect them to use your services?
o How much do you expect an average project to cost? [and how did you arrive at this number?]
o How much does this client group overlap with your other client groups?

* Describe one more of your client groups.
o What are their job titles?
o How will they initially hear about you?
o What services or products will you provide to them?
o Why will they highly value these products or services, and be willing to pay your regular hourly rate?
o How often do you expect them to use your services?
o How much do you expect an average project to cost? [and how did you arrive at this number?]
o How much does this client group overlap with your other client groups?

* What is your official launch date? This is when you officially consider yourself running a business. On this day, you will send out all your personal letters to your contacts, telling them about your new business. You will announce your business on social media. You will send out a press release. You will officially be In Business. What’s the date?

* How will you decide whether this is a going business or not? Fill in these blanks:

If, by {this date} I have not {started paying myself a salary/have X clients/whatever your criteria are}, then I will {close my business? conduct an all-day retreat to re-think all aspects of my business? revise my business and marketing plans and set a new course?}.

If, by _____________________ I have not _________________________, then I will ________________________.

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