23 January 2020 | 17 Comments
Way back in 2011, I sat down at my desk with a vision that had been forming over the last few months: I wanted to design a game and try to launch it on Kickstarter.
This is the point when many entrepreneurs compose their business plan. But I’m glad I didn’t, because I had no idea that a company would emerge from the Viticulture Kickstarter. I didn’t know that I would have a co-founder, and I wasn’t aware of our company values, principles, or purpose.
Basically, anything I would have written down would have been 99% irrelevant one year later.
I haven’t thought about business plans for years. The closest we have to one is our mission statement, which I think I originally composed in 2012 and have annually edited it ever since. I’ve also discussed future plans and projections with potential investors, but they’re grounded in a wealth of data about what Stonemaier Games already is.
But recently, several people have asked me for advice about business plans, so I wanted to share my story and thoughts here. I’ll start with my primary advice, followed by several other options to consider:
Don’t spend time making a detailed business plan before actually running your business, as you won’t know what your business is until then.
In other words, rather than spending a lot of time making grandiose plans about a hypothetical idea, make/do/start something. I talk about how Zappos did this here. There just is such a high chance they’ll change after you make/do/start your business.
You also might consider asking yourself: “Why haven’t I already started making/doing/starting this?” Perhaps this is more of a fleeting passion than a sustainable one?
I didn’t create any business plan for Stonemaier Games, but I understand why you might want to compose something. Perhaps it’ll help you focus or impact your decision; maybe you’re crafting a pitch to investors.
So here’s my recommendation: Copy and paste the following questions into a Word document (to make it very easy to edit later), set a timer for 5 minutes (spend your time making, not planning), and type at most 1-2 sentences per answer.
- What’s my idea? (i.e., what am I selling?)
- Why am I excited about this idea?
- Who will care about this (and why)?
- What’s my dream goal for this idea?
- How will I get my first sale?
- What’s my next step?
When you’re done, print it out and leave it by your desk so you can easily make notes on it in the coming weeks and months. When you accomplish the next step, open up the Word document to revise any answers that have changed and evolved (including creating a new next step).
Your “next step” can mean a number of different things. Sometimes it’s research; sometimes it’s execution. It will vary over time, and at some point it will involve creating a budget. But not right at the beginning.
This is purely my perspective; I’d love to hear yours. Did you write a business plan? What method worked (or didn’t work) for you?
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