Business Plan: Living Document or Brain-Eating Undead Zombie?

The business plan.

<sigh>

As everyone says, it’s "a living document".  But sometimes, it feels more "undead" than living.  I keep thinking we’ve nailed it and put it to bed, only to have it rise again needing a couple more tweaks.  Don’t get me wrong, I greatly appreciate the feedback we’ve had (thanks go to Jock, Jamie, Adam and my long-suffering wife), but it would be great to bury the thing and NOT have it climb out of the ground and chase me down the street the second my back is turned.

There are several factors that exacerbate that zombie feeling:

1)  The Entrepreneur’s Time-warp.  Every day seems like a minute and yet every minute seems like a day.  I barely seem to have blinked and another week has gone by.  But then it feels as though we’ve been working on some things for a really long time.  I’ve lost track of the number of revisions I’ve made to the document at this point and I’m sure there’s more to come.

2)  My Inner Realist.  I am, of course, an optimist about many things.  I don’t think you can be an entrepreneur unless you have a decent streak of optimism (masochism just isn’t me).  But I also try hard to be a realist.  Just because I can build a castle in the air doesn’t mean I’ll move in with my furniture.  There’s tons plenty a chunk a nugget or two in the business plan that I am reasonably certain will play out as described.  But there’s an awful lot that will remain pure conjecture until we gain traction in the market, or die trying.  With the best will in the world, all you can do is fire up the machine and throw stuff at customers.  You have no real control over what they do with it, what sticks and what works.  Or if you prefer the business speak, define and execute the plan, measure results and modify accordingly. 

Now I fully understand the importance of a solid business plan, both in terms of the exercise of thinking through the business and in terms of building a plan of action.  But we all know that most of it will be thrown out as we move forward.  I, for one, would like to be honest about that. 

It would be great to walk in to a meeting with a potential partner and cut right to it: "Here’s what we’re building and why we think it’ll work.  We’ve got a bunch of ideas about how we’ll make money and some more ideas about how we’ll reach our customers.  I don’t have a unique silver marketing bullet figured out yet (mixing up my zombie metaphor), but we see generating revenue as a primary goal, so we’ll try everything within out power to make it work.  In the mean time, we’ll stretch every dollar as though it’s the last and track our results with the determination of a presidential candidate sucking up for votes."

That would feel good.

3)  The evolution of the business.

Despite the Time-Warp, things really are constantly changing and moving forward.  As a result, the ground beneath the plan is in constant flux.  It’s like setting up a tent in a sandstorm.  Everything is moving and some of that motion is caused by the plan itself being caught in the wind.

As close as I am to the business (1 year and counting), there’s a common theme that I see running through everything we’ve done.  But with possible exception of Logan and Andre, I’d bet I’m the only one to see it.

But almost all good Zombie flicks end well.  I’m aiming for a "Shaun of the Dead"-style happy coexistence with this particular Zombie.  We’ll keep you posted.

2 comments for “Business Plan: Living Document or Brain-Eating Undead Zombie?

  1. July 30, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    I think business plans are sort of dead 🙂 Particularly traditional ones. Its about taking your idea and morphing / adapting it to the market.

    Power Points are still good, but 70 page word docs are out.

    Alex

  2. DisMonkey
    July 30, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    I think they are a little more alive on the East coast than the West coast, but I do agree.

    Our plan is about 30 pages, which feels long to me, but you have to hit all those key points to keep everyone happy…

    Popping out now for some stakes, holy water and a de-capitation machine to make sure the beastie doesn’t rise again for a week or so 😉

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