If only my chances of making a successful business venture were similar to my chances of making a cake successfully. Whilst not directly comparable, their are enough logical similarities between the two to make it a starting point from which to build in the required amount of complexity. For me, writing a business plan is about remembering one thing: It's a plan. Something, therefore, that I intend to carry out. It's not advisory, it's not a few ideas jotted down. It's a plan, a recipe, to be followed. For someone like me, it's also easy to forget that, which is why I feel the need to stress it to myself. However, for other people, there may be other factors that they really need to reflect upon regularly, when putting a business together.
So let's go with the 'making a cake' analogy. (Although writing an algorithm for a computer program or a macro, even, will do just as well.) The first two things to consider are:
1. What am I doing?
2. Why am I doing it?
The order in which these two come can be interchangeable, e.g. because it's my Mum's birthday I want to make her a cake or, I'm making a cake because it's my Mum's birthday.
Those are my basic objectives sorted. Next thing is;
3. What will success feel like?
Continuing with the cake scenario, whatever kind of cake I make, if I make it and make it in time for her birthday, it will likely have been a successful project. Great. After that my thoughts would probably turn to the type of cake I am going to make. Big? Small? Gluten-free? The answer to this question will be based on:
4. What are cake-baking skills like?
5. Who is going to eat it?
Maybe it's someone who is allergic to nuts. Maybe I can't do frosting. Anyway, once I have answered those questions I will know what I'm going to do and why. I will know more what the end product will look like when it's finished. Plus, I will know who it's for, and I will hopefully have a basic idea of where my particular expertise may lie.
At this point I might ask myself:
6. What additional knowledge can I equip myself with that will help to guarantee this cake is a success?
Starting with people I know, perhaps. Have they experience in cake-making? In making this particular cake, or other cakes? What could go wrong? Are there any books or tutorials that they could recommend which would help me? What about a recipe? Will I grab one from online? How can I make a cake without a recipe?
When I've got my recipe I can turn to the ingredients. When I've got my recipe I might want to consider each step in turn. Do I understand the order and why it's there? What would be a disadvantage if I were to miss one step out, or get the stops in the wrong order?
Now, ingredients, cost and time. The big three together. Do I have the money to make this cake? Well that depends on the ingredients. What ingredients am I going to buy? That depends on my budget, etc. When does it have to be ready and how long do I have to make it? The recipe gives an indication, the rest is about time and how well I've planned. If I've followed all of the above, when I actually come to make the cake itself I should be well-prepared and I'll hopefully know what I'm doing. It might not all go to plan, but the plan is there for me to follow, and for me to come back to if I do get swayed off course.
Of course, writing a business plan is much more complex, but it doesn't have to be the most complex thing, ever. The cake making analogy is a good starting point.