“I Give You My Word(s)” – How a Business Plan Can Hurt You

You may have seen in various places on our site that we’ve fallen out of love with the fancy thirty page business plan. If you’re in startup mode, you don’t really have time to write it, and investors simply don’t have time to read it.

So it’s largely a waste of everyone’s time.

That’s why we provide the free Two Page Plan template, and don’t point you to the various sites that help you make an old fashioned business plan.

But it’s worse than that.

One of our customers made this point to us in a phone call. She’s starting a specialty food company, and needs to raise money. Before buying EZ, she did a long business plan, and poured her heart into it.

But she found that a funny thing happened. She met with a potential investor, someone for whom she had great respect and admiration. He said he would like to work with her, but that he didn’t like her strategy. She was disappointed and upset. She had so carefully crafted her approach in the business plan.

As she listened to him, she began to realize that his approach would be less expensive to start, have more potential upside, and actually fit her mission better. It was still the same basic business, just modified a bit.

But the thought of redoing the whole business plan, with all that those hours and late nights it would again require, raced through her mind.

Then she caught herself – a potential investor told her that he was interested in investing in her company, but if she adopted what even she thought was a better strategy. This was even better than someone saying they would invest – now she had a better strategy too!

The long form business plan had ossified her. The act of writing out the plan had in essence committed her to doing exactly what was in it, and losing the ability of evolving as needed. I’m not saying that you never commit to a course of action, but if anything – a business plan, a corporate strategy session, whatever – ever stops you from improving your plan to something you know is better, and cheaper to boot – then don’t be surprised if someone else does it – the world is always looking for something better.

Faced with the choice of changing her strategy or her fancy business plan, she changed her plan, and did a simple four page summary.

Did she get the investment? We’ll see, this just happened.

It’s a funny thing. Sometimes words are harder to change than numbers.