TRIAL BY MENTAL STRAIN
It’s raw, it’s undeveloped and it’s not on paper. The time has come to begin the business plan. This stage is invaluable. The process of expressing your business idea on paper or digitally will likely reveal foundational flaws, help develop your pitch, allow you to recognize areas for expansion, etc.
When I began this process, I did what every online “start your own business” advisor recommended readers not to do; I looked up an online business plan template. I found 3-5 sample templates for companies that were somewhat similar to my idea, then I proceeded to replace their content with my own. Later I would learn some other tricks. Some of the best business ideas I’ve ever developed came as a result of filling out applications for business loans, small business grants, business fellowships, etc. The questions included on these types of applications provoke innovation. My favorites are questions surrounding the subject of competitive advantage. These applications forced me to develop and communicate why my company and its products/services would be better than the competition, relevant, in demand and have longevity.
Go fill out some applications. Once completed, instead of submitting them, simply copy the newly formed information into your working business plan. This stage contributed to a complete revamping of my company. My firm was originally launched exclusively as a development/fundraising firm for nonprofits. That’s a far cry from anything to do with alternative investments. What happened was that, as I filled out applications and answered complex questions, I realized that development/fundraising alone was not a sustainable service. I would be immersed in a field that was highly competitive, highly abstract and going out of style. At the same time, development was my bread and butter. Its what I was good at, its what I was freakin selling. Yea, it sucks to find out your product/service is soon to be irrelevant while in the midst of launching your company. Thankfully, innovation followed and a wonderful business which combined nonprofit sustainable development practices with a niche in the for-profit market for alternative investment vehicles geared toward at-risk communities; thus a lean, mean, and highly in-demand machine was born.
Lesson in Retrospect: Embrace the challenges. You know how in college, people rarely graduate with a degree in the subject they initially declared. In the same way, let your business evolve. You will later learn that this is good practice for what you’ll need to do throughout your entrepreneurial career. A business that isn’t constantly evolving will not be around long.