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Getting started seems like the hardest part.  Fortunately, there’s plenty of help to be found on the Internet, in books, by the example of others, and in courses.  For me, the Business Planning Course at the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco provided the guidance and support I needed to get my fledging business started and organized on paper.  It took 14 weeks of classes and homework to do the research and gather the resources needed to write a business plan.  Still, there was the blank page to fill.

So I took an empty journal to a cafe for a day and just started freewriting on the first section, introducing the business.  It was a relief not to have to think too much about the form of my sentences or where I would end up when I was done.  But once that pen was in motion, the thinking frozen in my mind loosened up a bit and started to flow onto the paper.  When I came back home to type something into the computer, I found myself starting from the conclusions I had reached while writing longhand.  I was able to leave out the searching sentences and the wondering words and jump right into the heart of the matter.  I wanted to write a business plan that was true to me and captured my motivations so I started the Introduction with the section heading “What’s really important” to convey the philosophy behind my business idea.

Once I had started, I wanted to keep on going but didn’t quite have the stamina to write out a fully-realized, thirty-page plan in one or two sittings.  In fact, just scrolling through the roughly drafted outline for the entire plan was starting to freeze my brain again.  I just kept looking at all the pages I had yet to do as compared to the 2-3 pages I had so proudly completed.   To save myself from feeling too overwhelmed, I simply sliced up the computer file into a series of smaller files.  Each day I sat down to write the next part and thought only about that section.  I wrote, and re-wrote and edited and revised the plan one chunk at a time.

Many days I just groaned as I opened a section that I had already drafted and thought I could just make a few changes to and move on quickly.  I re-wrote every one of those sections.  I had to in order to bring that section up to the level of the rest of the writing I was doing.  I could not have gotten there without that first draft but I persisted in the belief that I ought to be able to salvage more of the first draft as I was writing the second draft.  Didn’t happen.

The good news is that two-thirds of the way through, after painstakingly rewriting the marketing plan and the financial narrative, I got better at writing my business plan.  So I took a couple of days off from writing to catch my breath.  Then I sat down one day and pretty much whipped out the rest of the plan at a rate much faster (2 to 3 times faster) than all the writing I had done up to that point.  An approaching deadline might have had something to do with it.  Still, I needed a little extra breathing room so that I could make my edits and assemble the document in peace.  After all, that’s what most of the plan was advocating, a business model that did not rush work to completion but allowed time to do the best work possible.

I’m glad for that break for I was enjoying the writing of my business plan by the time I was finishing the last few pages.  I would proudly read through the completed sections and marvel that I had managed to write so knowledgably about my business.  That’s the real value of writing the business plan for me.  I wasn’t worried about what a potential investor or what the instructor of my class would think about my plan.  I was the critic who would be the toughest to convince.  Did I really know what I was doing enough to pull off this business?  I had taken the leap of faith already and started the business.  Now the more judgmental and rational side of my brain was looking for more solid proof.  How is this going to work?  What needs to be done next?  Will you have the resources to do that when you need to?  I was really writing the plan for myself so that I could see the goals I was setting and take the next steps to reach those goals.

Of course, finishing the business plan is really just the start of business planning.  The plan is more of a living, breathing, ever-evolving map for my business.  For now I am very happy to have this much in writing and to get the right start in my business.