V ä v a! V e v e! weaving cloth one thread at a time

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Business plan, schmizness plan!!

Has anyone ever written a business plan? I had not, until recently being challenged by a business consultant who told me that writing a business plan was a great idea to get my business focused and productive. Well! I thought that certainly sounded like a great idea! Who could deny that they wanted to get their business focused and productive! So I entered into this with unbounded enthusiasm! I researched different business plans. The first one came from a friend of a friend who was in the midst of helping his daughter write a business plan. He emailed me a link to a business plan, and I dove in. The only problem with this business plan form was that it was written for someone interested in farming. Of course, I thought. This guy was a professor of business in agriculture! I thought I would be able to coast through, avoiding the specific farming questions or at the very least translating them into weaving terms. But as I got into it, the translation became more and more of a struggle until finally, it became clear that 'harvesting' my looms was not going to translate at all! Then I struggled with going online and going to the Small Business Administration site. I worked with their forms and structures for about 2 weeks and then threw my hands up in dismay. How in the world could I come up with such specific predictions for the future?? How could I know how many weaving "units" I was going to be able to produce in any given month? How was I supposed to be able to predict how many weaving "units" would sell in the same amount of time?? I had always done this so casually, without any plan or organization, and it had worked just fine! I couldn't predict the future of what shipping costs would be in year 5, or what my phone bill costs would be in the second quarter of year 4!! Then another friend told me about the "One Page Business Plan". Now here was something I thought I could tackle! I ordered it online, waited another week and a half until it came in the mail, and dove in again. Meanwhile, all these 'false' starts had generated some great thoughts as to my direction! I was actually accomplishing something, even though I didn't think I was! Well, I brought my 'finished' one page business plan to my consultant and he just made a face and said that I should look at his samples and outline that he had given to me way back at the beginning. Wait, I thought, he hadn't given me any. . . oh, oops! I guess he had given me an outline to follow. Shoot! If I had followed this from the very beginning I could have been done by now! Back at the studio, I started filling in the blanks. Hey! This was going to be easy! That was until I hit page 16 and I ran into those pesky questions about the future again. Dang! Was I going to have to lease space as I expanded? What equipment did I have and how was I going to amortize it? What's 'amortize'??? I am such a right brainer!! Okay, I figured I had exhausted all the possible 'easy' ways to write a business plan and they hadn't worked, so I had just better buckle down and do this. Two months later I am still in the death throes of writing this business plan, and through this whole thing I have been whining and complaining, dragging myself away from my passion of weaving and sitting down in front of my computer, trying to predict the future. That is indeed what a business plan is, you know. One has to predict the future based on what was done in the past. Well, in these economic times it is almost impossible. . . no! it IS impossible to predict the future, or for that matter to come even close to something realistic that one can base one's business decisions on. So, I am grabbing numbers out of the air and seeing how they impact on the whole picture. Some numbers work, and some numbers don't. It is all about crunching! (which I really dislike doing!!)

But things are starting to take shape! I am going between the Small Business Administration forms and the forms that my consultant gave me. I am having to make a whole lot of inquiries online and in person about advertising costs, vendor availability and wholesale discounts, insurance requirements and costs, and even whether my Prius qualifies as a company car! I am interviewing other weavers about their experience in their business. I am researching the costs of leasing space, and have even looked up the word 'amortization'! I must say that writing this thing has definitely helped me make some good decisions, and it has helped me develop a good direction for my business. Okay, okay. . . it's working. But I have to say that it is one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken, besides having my mother pierce my ears with an ice cube and a potato! My advise to anyone writing a business plan. . . Just DO It!! Don't try to find an easier way, because there isn't an easier way. You just have to research the brains out of everything so you can make informed predictions. It was very much a 'DUH!' moment for me when I came to realize that crunching all these numbers and doing all this research was actually giving me a better idea of what I needed to do as I proceed with my business! I was becoming more informed, maybe even smarter! DUH!!! I might even have to say that I am now bordering on, dare I say, SAVVY! The bad news is. . . I have to keep updating the behemoth on an ongoing basis! Awww!

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