Last Sunday, my husband walked into the kitchen and found me kneeling in front of the open oven, stabbing chunks of burnt char off the walls with a tiny kitchen knife.
He asked me what on earth I was doing as the oven had never been cleaned in its 20 years of faithful service to the family.
“A business plan,” I said.
Earlier that morning I had sat down to work on a business plan for a new product and was suddenly overcome with boredom and a sense of frustration. The questions laid out in the template were not the questions I wanted to answer.
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It then struck me that the traditional business plan is a document that actually runs contrary to the essence of sound business planning.
We start with a focus on the mission, the vision, the products we are going to sell and the customer we are going to sell them to. No wonder I was so bored I was cleaning the oven.
It is just too easy for entrepreneurs to write an entire business plan without actually getting to the crux of the matter.
What I wanted to do was start with the customer value. What value was I going to create for my customer? What problem was I going to solve? How much would it cost to solve that problem? How much did the customer want that problem solved? Where there enough of those customers that wanted my products to pay the price to cover the costs and make a profit? What extra value could I add? Could I bring in staff with the right skills to create the quality of product and service?
So I sat down and wrote a different plan, focused on the value proposition which took me in a very different direction as I tackled strategic problems that would not have arisen if I had followed a traditional template.
It was also a lot more fun answering questions that took you deeper into your strategy and exposed potential pitfalls rather than answering the world’s most stupid question: What is your mission?
And it was certainly a lot more fun than cleaning the oven.