21 things I’ve learned writing our business plan

Co-founder of fledgling social enterprise 3C Collective – which designs innovative hygiene solutions for people living in slums in India – and Pioneers Post columnist Helen Trevaskis describes the lessons she's learnt in taking on the daunting challenge of creating the perfect business plan.

  1. Never let other people write it for you – doh!
  2. Writing a business plan is like standing in front of a communal changing room mirror under unforgiving lights in London's Oxford Street Topshop when you’re 47 and everyone else quite clearly isn’t, and you’ve picked an outfit that’s too small and too catwalk for the reality of your body and your life. 
  3. If you don’t believe something, at some level, you can’t include it. 
  4. There will be disagreements while writing a business plan, many with yourself. 
  5. There will be gaps. 
  6. You will feel stupid as there are things you really should know and don’t. 
  7. You will think it’s finished. 
  8. You will feel stupid all over again.
  9. A business plan is a story with numbers: find your story, find your numbers - make them sing. 
  10. This means someone (maybe even you) needs to understand those numbers.
  11. If you write without a story you get a Frankenstein’s monster, a stitched together freak, barely able to tie its own shoelaces, let alone raise you a million dollars. 
  12. Remember business plans are a work of fiction.
  13. Remember all great fiction is rooted in reality. 
  14. Team. Problem. Solution. Market. Implementation. Financials. Risk. Don’t get clever with the structure, investors just need to find stuff. 
  15. A friendly investor who will read an early draft and give you feedback is worth their weight in gold.
  16. Listen to feedback without ego. 
  17. Beware he or she who loves to finesse language, neaten paragraphs, play with formatting, edit pictures, rework charts, restyle the index, add extra references, change fonts - this is not writing this is stalling.  
  18. Even when you’ve saved it as a pdf called ‘Business Plan Final’, written your deck and started approaching investors, your business plan won’t feel finished.
  19. But you just might. 
  20. So keep remembering why you wanted to do all this in the first place. 
  21. And that your business plan is not your actual business; it’s just a document, so get a grip, let it go and get on with some real work.

 

This article was published in Pioneers Post Quarterly, the printed edition of this magazine. To find out more about PPQ, including how to subscribe, click here.

Photo credit: Steven. S