Business Planning: Shrink the Change and Get It Finished

One myth about writing Business Plans is that they’re hard. Not true. They’re very hard to do right. But before you hit the Back button, here is one way you can get it written it, with a lot less pain than you’d expect.

One myth about writing Business Plans is that they’re hard. Not true. They’re very hard to do right. But before you hit the Back button, here is one way you can get it written it, with a lot less pain than you’d expect.
Dust Rock Elephant
Creative Commons License photo credit: Namibnat

Chip Heath: Shrink the Change

In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath outline a framework that helps you  tackle large monster size goals and break them into bite size chunks that are easier to manage.
It’s like the parable of eating the elephant.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

Examples of Shrinking the Change

Let’s say you want to learn Spanish. You buy a Spanish study guide, start at Chapter 1 and begin to plough through.

If you’re like me, I guess you’ll get to Chapter 3 or maybe 4… and then lose steam.

Later you’ll kick-start the project again, get to Chapter 5 and then slide.

Somewhere along the way, you’ll decide that a) it was too hard or b) you didn’t to learn it after all or c) more important things came up.

Why is this?
It’s to do with how we approach large tasks. We see (way off in the distance) the finishing post and then charge towards it. But distractions arise and we get deviated. Once we fall off, it’s hard to get re-started with the same level of enthusiasm.

Switch to a More Effective Approach

Instead, we need to shrink (reduce) the change into management chunks.
So, you want to learn Spanish? This might work better instead:

  • Get Visual – Buy Flash Cards that you can carry with you everywhere. You can use these in the car, metro, kitchen, even in the toilet. Aim to learn 5, not 10, a day. Visual aids are designed to learn/digest  information through different parts of the brain than those involved with words.
  • Change the Order – Read the Spanish book you got in any order you want. Dip in where you want and read a few pages. You don’t have to go from 1-100. Read what interests you first.
  • Use Your Ears – Bookmark some Spanish websites and listen to these online.
  • Ears and Eyes – Watch some Spanish movies and become familiar with speech patterns and the rhythmns of the language. Things you wouldn’t glean from reading a grammar study guide.
  • Travel – Visit Spain, Mexico or South America. This can be a gift to yourself. Make a deal that once you’ve learned 500 words, you’ll visit Barcelona and walk along Las Ramblas.

This multi-faceted approach will help you learn the language from different angles. Instead of relying on books, a rather dry medium, you can give yourself more opportunities by learning words and phrases from different angles.
This ‘slow but steady’ also works as it rewards you emotionally, not just intellectually.
And this is where most folks fall down.
To achieve larger goals, it’s not enough to be rational and logical about the process.
You must tap into your reservoir of deep emotions and use these to energize your projects. We all know how easy something is once we feel charged up… and how painful even the simplest task is if we’re not in the mood.
So, how does this apply with business plans?

How to Write a Business Plan Without The Pain

Let’s take a similar approach to your Business Plan. You don’t have to start at the Executive Summary.

  • Do the Pen Portraits first if you want.
  • Or get the endorsements.
  • Work on the images, prototypes, and other design elements.
  • Find a nice template that makes it easy to write it.
  • Download some examples of other Business Plans and print out what you like.
  • Fill in the key sections here and there.
  • Take breaks from the document. Leave it aside for a few days and then come back to it.
  • Meet others who’ve also written Business Plan, say at the Chamber of Commerce meetings, and ask them for advice.
  • Head over to LinkedIn and join groups that discuss Startups. Ask questions and feed the responses back into your plan.

3 Business Plan Mistakes to Avoid

Most startups I work with lose track with their Business Plan for three reasons:

  1. Vanity – They believe that they can sell the concept to investors by making a good pitch. And they can, to an extent. But, when it comes to funding, most investors want a breakdown of the numbers, projections, forecasts, and details of the key personnel involved. They want it in writing.
  2. Laziness – They’d prefer to work on the product development, as that’s what they love, rather than type up the plan. At some point, they have to start. Putting it off won’t help. The sooner you start, the sooner, it’s over.
  3. Fear – Others justify not writing a Business Plan as they’ve read of some amazing startup who had no Business Plan. I’m sure this has happened but most investors are cautious types and don’t part with their money easily. In reality there is a fear that if they start on the Business Plan, what they ‘feel’ is a great product, may not stack up.

Remember, your Business Plan is the DNA of your business. I suggest to those starting out to see this, not as a duty you have to perform to investors, but flip it around.
See the Business Plan as the Bible of how your company will be run.
Rather than writing it once and filing it away, see it as something that grows and evolves as you do. When you see it in these terms, it no longer becomes a chore to be delayed, rather an opportunity to nail down exactly what you stand for.
See the difference?

5 thoughts on “Business Planning: Shrink the Change and Get It Finished”

  1. Hi Ivan, I recommend a modification to step 2 if your naming convention is based on page number. Start from the end of the document and work backwards cutting and pasting. If you start at the front, as soon as you’ve cut the first graphic, everything moves, and you’ll give yourself a headache trying to figure out where they go based on the page number file name after that. Then when you paste them back in, start at the front.rnrnThis would probably make itself evident after one or two tries, but I figured I’d mention it. 🙂

    1. Hi Vinish,

      Another way is when trying to lose weight. I don't go on diets any more (ie make myself suffer!) but focus on trying to develop muscle and/or stamina. That can be a bit more fun as the challenge gets you pepped up and ready to go.

      Tricking ourselves into doing things about means – for me – changing the parameters and looking at ways to win the situation.


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