Right-Brain Business Plan

On January 25, 2013 I wrote a post entitled “Lost In the Details” in which I discussed my proclivity to avoid the micro-details that come with starting a business and more specifically creating a business plan. At the time I bought a book (mentioned in the post) that I believed would help me with the pesky details that I was so inclined to avoid.

It didn’t.

I fell asleep every time I tried to read it.

This is a problem that a lot creative types have with creating a business. They are bored or overwhelmed by the business side and thus end up abandoning the whole project or going on without a business plan, both of which are problematic.

When I started working on my business plan (which I did abandon after a while) I tried many different tactics to convince myself that despite how much I hated the process, creating a stale, static, business plan was good for me and a necessary endeavor. I soon realized that while it is good to push oneself and creating a business plan is crucial to creating a successful business, it also shouldn’t bore one to tears.

In my first business plan attempt I went in with the mentality that this was for other people. My business plan was to show others that I had a viable/functional, intelligently composed, highly detailed business and not just a hobby. I used language that was foreign to me and completely uninspiring. The format was a dull, black-and-white Word document that, much like my résumé, made me want to throw up.

Needless to say, I abandoned the endeavor all together.

Then I found this book:

Find it at your local bookstore or library!

Find it at your local bookstore or library!

It shocked me. I had no idea that constructing a business plan could be a fun and creative process. It also made me realize that a business plan is for the person creating it, not necessarily for the rest of the world. Sure, it is not encouraged that one take a hand-constructed collage, or poster to a meeting with investors or potential clients, but it is necessary to articulate to oneself what needs to be done and what one wants from one’s own business.

When I was taking that grant writing class (as mentioned in previous posts, including the aforementioned “Lost In the Details”) I must confess that I really struggled with the class because the jargon used did not construct a clear vision to me of what was essential to the organization and grant proposal. Sometimes the professional world uses overly-complicated language to mean the simplest of concepts and it can be a hindrance to those who don’t “speak that language.”

That’s what I appreciate about “The Right-Brain Business Plan;” it encourages artists and creative types to use their own language to describe the concepts that are necessary to understand for a successful business. After the right-brainer constructs their own version of a business plan, with all the elements that a traditional business plan has, it will make it much easier to create a more formal plan to use in meetings with investors or clients.

So if the idea of writing a business plan sounds like a grueling, tear and sleep-inducing process, check out “The Right-Brain Business Plan” and/or http://www.rightbrainbusinessplan.com/.

The Business Section

By Paulsmarsden (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today I have created my own business section for you. I have compiled some links to articles and business resources that may be useful if you are looking to start your own business as well as some interesting/inspirational pieces. This is particularly geared toward those who would like to start a small business in “developed” countries and in particular the US.

For general business resources including mentoring, workshops, templates & tools, and definitions for business related terms here are two resources:

http://www.score.org/ -A lot of great resources are provided like how to write a business plan, and information on the legal, financial, marketing, and management sides of a business.

http://www.investopedia.com/ -This has a great business dictionary, professional quizzes and tests, personal finance and investing advice.

Another good resource to have is a funding source like kickstarter.com. Kickstarter funds creative projects and has funded over 42,000 projects to date. Micro-loans are also available (as I have talked about a lot on this blog) and are not just for those of developing countries. Kiva.org is a great resource for that.

Here are a couple of articles that challenge some of the traditional ideas in business:

An article on creating a Business plan or business map?

Another article that challenges the need to attend business school

Finally, an inspirational yet in some ways challenging article about a business that I frequent and its business model: “For-Benefit” business

I’d like to end this post by encouraging you, if you are a budding entrepreneur, to think creatively about your business and find out how you can make a greater impact worldwide as well as in your community with it as a for-benefit business. Henry David Thoreau advised individuals to “be not simply good; be good for something,” but his advice can also apply to business. For-benefit businesses seeks to not only provide a good product and good service but also be “good for something” as well.

“We All Wanna Change the World”

RevolutionWhispered rumors of revolution are blowing through the country. The economy is floundering, people are losing all that they have worked for, and the debts are mounting: a perfect formula for change. Those at the bottom have become the first to receive the blows and as more and more people’s wealth and security are destroyed they begin to see the flaws in the system and join the movement to advocate change. Workers are no longer being taken care of, and everyone is at risk.

This is a time of revolution, and it is one that may not look like any other. This revolution is far more covert. It is the creative revolution. No longer will the US working world be filled with drones and robot-like humans, rather with people who have ideas of their own. It will be a full embrace of the individualism that the US has always preached, but never actually achieved. People will be seen as valuable and in Seth Godin‘s words they will be “indispensable.”

We hear more rumors of this in other places too. TED notoriously has speakers preaching this idea. From David Kelley, to Julie Burstein, and Elizabeth Gilbert to Sir Ken Robinson’s two talks on this subject, all these speakers believe that the time is now to release the creative genius in all of us in order to not only have personal fulfillment but to make society more productive.

We hear the success stories of countless risk-takers who made invaluable contributions to society because they were willing to let themselves be creative and different. Apple. Google. Inception. Gotye. All vastly different contributions to the world, but all were hugely successful because of their uniqueness, creativity, and because they were fueled by a vision.

The world before today was full of mediocrity. Not because the people of that time were mediocre intrinsically, but because they CHOSE mediocrity. Because the world rewarded mediocrity with stability. Cue Seth Godin and his book Linchpin:

“Where does Average Come From?

It comes from two places:

1. You have been brainwashed by school and by the system into believing that your job is to do your job and follow instructions. It’s not, not anymore.

2. Everyone has a little voice inside of their head that’s angry and afraid. That voice is the resistance–your lizard brain–and it wants you to be average (and safe).

If you’re not doing as well as you hoped, perhaps it’s because the rules of the game were changed, and no one told you.

The rules were written just over two hundred years ago; they worked for a long time, but no longer. It might take you more than a few minutes to learn the new rules, but it’s worth it.“

Today, those old constructions are crumbling. What the world needs now are people who think for themselves -those who are willing to offer fresh ideas and new perspectives.

The good news is that every person on the planet is able to do this job if they allow themselves. We are all creative by nature and are all unique, but we must take a risk to unleash that creative potential. With the past promises of security crumbling, there is very little to lose. The time is now. Jump into the revolution.

Risk Aversion and a Moment of Vulnerability

I’m a pretty private person and recently I have begun to have some self-realizations (as 20-somethings often do) with regard to this idiosyncrasy. I have discovered that if something is really important to me and I’m not sure how people will react to it, I tend to conceal it. This is true with beliefs, guys that I am seeing (or want to be seeing), and things I create -among many other examples. When I was younger (and even now to some extent) I concealed my artwork or some other type of creation from my parents, even though I knew they would probably think whatever I was doing was great. There was something deeply personal about what I created. I guess it’s a part of feeling vulnerable, which all humans struggle with at times.

Therefore, this business that I am starting is definitely stretching me out of that comfort zone. I am having problems taking the plunge. It’s not that I can’t handle criticism; in fact, I feel like criticism is never nearly as bad as the prospect of criticism. Usually when I receive criticism I can handle it pretty well. I am usually able to see what’s valid about the other person’s statement and what isn’t and go from there. It’s fear of the unknown that holds me back.

Anyway, starting a business is a huge risk, and although I like to think of myself as a risk taker, I am just as big of a coward as anyone because of the potential of being judged.

Luckily, I have found inspiration for taking risks in many places, a lot of which I have shared on this blog already, such as the article from my previous post: Lessons from an Article. One part of this article that I did not address in the other post was this quote: “Coming to terms with failure is not enough –you must learn to ignore shame.” I’m sure that is something that everyone has dealt with at some point in life. We all fail and we recognize this and often accept this as a part of life. But shame? That’s the part of failure that we all like to ignore but it is also the part that prevents us from completely leaping whole heartedly into the ventures we dream of. Shame is the deal-breaker for most, but this article argues that it shouldn’t be because when shame is ignored we are liberated from our fears and fear is what prevents us from taking risks.

Another quote that has been inspiring me to take a risk is from the previously posted TED talk by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon when she says: “never import other people’s limitations.” I had a chat with someone close to me yesterday and even though I felt like she was supportive when I first told her about my business venture, yesterday her support seemed to be waning. This is perhaps because she has also been trying to start her own business for the past several years and has had little monetary success. It’s understandable how her slightly bitter emotions toward entrepreneurship would rub off on how she viewed my latest undertaking, but I should not let it affect my attitude toward my business. Our situations are very different and her support (or lack thereof) is not indicative of my success so I shouldn’t let it limit me.

My next inspiration comes from a source that seems a bit cliche, and perhaps even conceded, but isn’t intended to be that way. It comes from myself. Not because I think that I am grand supreme in the awesomeness category, but because I have taken risks in my life and these risks have gotten me successes that produced nothing but blue skies and more success, as well as crippling, humiliating, painful failure. Through my running (I ran cross country and track for over 10 years) I took lots of risks. Every race there were risks. My senior year I ran so boldly and so gutsy that I nearly lost my life because I wasn’t willing to stop risking. Although not every risk was good, I didn’t care, I kept doing it because it had the potential to produce great things. I look at that part of my life now and think of it the way Harry Potter thought of his first patronus charm. He told Hermione afterwards, “I knew I could do it because I had already done it!” That’s how I feel now. If I can take bold risks in one aspect of my life, I can in others.

Finally, risk taking reminds me of other women who are trying to start their own businesses, or even those who just have a dream, and have fears that are far worse than quiet rejection and subtle judgement. There are women who are prohibited from speaking, or being seen, or to some degree from thinking at all. In some parts of the world rejection takes a lethal form. The crazy thing is that there are women who still jump, who still take risks, even when the stakes are 1000 times higher than mine. Talk about inspiration.

So today, I am addressing risk and all the possibilities of criticism, failure, and shame that come with it. After all, it’s just cards! But it is also about recognizing that it is more than just cards to me. Today it is about deciding what kind of person I am/will be. Will I be the risk-taker who launches herself out of her own comfort zone in order to grab all that life has to offer, or will I play it safe?

I think I know what the right answer is: risk-taker. It’s the only known remedy for a boring life.

Lost in the details

While I don’t believe that the world is ever completely divided into two separate categories, there are definite opposing sides to any issue. That being said, in the working world there are two main groups of people: big picture and detail-oriented. Again, people are usually on some sort of scale with regard to the two as their gifts and talents are a bit more nuanced than black and white, but to make matters simple, people usually define themselves as one or the other.

I would consider myself to be one of those big picture people. The details usually overwhelm me if I don’t overlook them completely. The problem with starting a business is that if one is doing it alone, one must do both the big picture and detail-oriented stuff. Today I am working on the details. Needless to say, it is rough. I’m reading a book entitled “The Perfect Business Plan Made Simple.” It’s thrilling. I think I’ve spent more time staring out the window than actually reading it. It does have some valuable information, but the language and details get to me. I felt the same way when I took a grant writing class in my final semester in college. Grant writing is a highly detail-oriented aspect of non-profits and after not being in the class for long, I began to feel like I really didn’t belong there. At one point the professor made a joke about how the big picture people in a non-profit have their heads in the clouds while everyone else is getting stuff done. Everyone in the class laughed, including me for a bit until I realized that she was essentially talking about me. (She later professed that big-picture people are important to the organization too, but it was obvious that she didn’t quite understand them.) One of the most frustrating things about being big-picture is that there are no entry-level jobs other than self-starting.

The thing about self-starting is that while it is touted as a primarily big-picture person activity, it requires a lot of work in the details. It feels like I can’t win. I can only find two solutions to this problem: really push myself out of my comfort-zone, or get a business partner.

The Details of a Business Plan:

Outline
A. Contents
B. Executive Summary
C. Mission and Strategy Statement
D. Market
1. Background
2. The Customer Need
3. Who the Customers Are
4. Product/Service Description
5. Strategy/Approach
6. Competitive Analysis
7. Pricing/Profitability
E. Operations (of the Business)
1. Sources of Input and Costs
2. Processes
3. Equipment
F. Management/Staffing
1. Backgrounds and Qualifications of Key Players
2. Staffing Plan
G. Financial Projections
1. Current Financials (if an Existing Business)
2. Projected Financial Statement
3. Application of Funding Requested
4. Capital Structure
H. Contingency Planning
1. Appendices
-supporting documents
-additional detail as required

Generation E: Part 1

I found this book in my basement and thought it would be a perfect starting point for my business venture. It is engaging and entertaining and seems to offer some good advice so far.

Image

In fact, it is already starting to challenge me. One of my biggest issues to overcome is that I have a fear of being seen as a burden or people supporting me because they are “doing me a favor” or taking some pity on me. I felt that way when I was in elementary/middle school and fund raiser time rolled around. They always gave prizes to the kids that sold the most: the highest prize being something like a gaming console, an electric scooter, or the chance get wrapped in tape and to roll around on the floor which was covered in money (I’m not joking). I was that kid that got a chintzy whistle, or even worse, nothing at all because of my fear of asking people to purchase things they probably don’t want or need. I didn’t want people to feel guilty for not buying anything so I didn’t ask them.

I got that same feeling a lot during the job I had between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college where I had to call people I knew, schedule a meeting with them, try to sell them some stuff they probably did not want, and then ask them to inconvenience their friends in the same manor. It was hell. I hated the voices in my head telling me that I was burdening these people by asking for their time and money. Every time I got a “no” I felt frustrated, but also strangely relieved that they wouldn’t resent me quite as much.

So when I came to the part of the book that says: “Next, we’ll talk about resources… Your resources include friends you can impose upon, your ’82 Chevy Impala that barely runs, all the people you know from your AA meetings…” Friends you can impose on? Ugh. That is the last resource I want to use. To me the ultimate measure of success is having complete strangers find me/my work valuable. Friends and family are supposed to be supportive which is maybe why I don’t like starting there first. I value honesty, and although I’m sure these people feel as though they are being honest, to me they are biased.

As with any new venture, there will be challenges and difficulties, but getting through them is what creates personal growth and will eventually lead to prosperity. It is just a matter of convincing myself to get out of my comfort zone and “be a burden” on people and that will take some time as well as quite a bit of effort. I also must constantly remind myself that I am only perceiving these sentiments in them, and they may not feel that way at all. I would like to say that am up for the challenge, but only time will tell for sure. The key to that is remaining passionate about what I am doing and allowing that to propel me through any obstacles I may come to.

I Made a Loan!

So last Christmas my brother and sister-in-law gave me a Kiva card and that enabled me to lend $25 to a young woman in Guatemala. A few weeks ago I got an email telling me that my loan had been repaid! Since then I have been looking for someone to whom I could re-lend that money. I wanted it to be someone who shared a similar story to mine. Sure enough, today I found someone who resonated with me. I made a loan to a woman age 40 who, alongside her husband, has started her own business making hand-made bags, hammocks, and backpacks. She is from Colombia and she is one of the few borrowers who is smiling in her picture. (I’m aware that smiling in a picture like this may not be a cultural norm for many of the borrowers, but it is one norm of my culture that I couldn’t shake.) I think it was that smile that spoke to me the most. It was infectious and gave me hope that my own business will succeed. I am excited and happy to be a part of her success and rise from poverty to prosperity. Even though I don’t know the woman I made a loan to, it reassures me to be connected to someone who may be struggling with the same issues. It makes me feel less alone in this venture.