Business Plan 101: What Are You Thinking?

Through an unusual series of events early in this century (!) I became a director of a small yoga studio in Lower Manhattan. I had always wanted to run a small business, and I love yoga…so it was not a completely random result.

That said, I kind of fell into the situation.

About 3 years later, we decided to close the business. There was a lot of sadness in this outcome.

Yet a month after we closed, I felt an internal “ping”. Upon investigation, I realized that this was actually a feeling of relief. I was relieved, and even grateful, to not feel responsible for something 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year.

I hadn’t been in the business alone! We had great staff and students, and I had a wonderful partner in crime who shared the 18 X 7 responsibility, Marilyn.

But if anyone failed to show up — from the 6:30 am teacher, or the desk staffer scheduled to close the store after the last class and associated cleanup was done at 10pm — someone had to show up instead: Marilyn, or me.

So I added an item to a list of things I didn’t want to do for work. I loved dealing with students, managing people, even cleaning tasks and keeping the place orderly. But I didn’t want to have that kind of “all day, every day” responsibility again, ever again.

How did I let this happen? Because I “fell” into the situation. I was able to look at the books of the business, knew the owners and employees, understood the neighborhood and prevailing local business ecosystem.

But I didn’t actually know what it meant to work in the business, until I actually worked in the business.

As you think about your business plan, consider your life plan. Not what you’re willing to do. But what you want, and don’t want, to do.

I’ve talked with many would-be business owners about their business dreams.

Case in Point 1: Friends thought their weekend community needed a cheese store, and that they should open it. But they didn’t want to work weekends.

Case In Point 2: A family member wanted to (more or less) buy a motorcycle repair shop. But he didn’t want to take an entry level job at a motorcycle shop as a dry run — the job was too low level.

Cases In Point 3 – X: Many, many, yoga teachers want to open studios. Among things they’ve told me:

  • I want to travel/be spend every weekend in the country (inconsistent with the 18 X 7 reality);
  • I don’t have much money in the bank, and want to save to buy a home (inconsistent with the personal investment required to run the business);
  • I don’t want to deal with finances; or (my favorite), I think money is bad (inconsistent with running a business).

Um, “What are you thinking????” Running a business is all about alignment.

Yes, I can clean a toilet, I will clean a toilet. I honor and appreciate people who clean toilets. But it’s unlikely that I’ll sign up again to run a small business where this is part of my job description. (Or in the job description of anyone who might not show up for work today.)

This is another in a slowly emerging series of posts about business planning. If you want to start or own a small business (or really any business), you need to be able to answer 4 simple questions:

  1. What is the (business) opportunity?
  2. Why am I the person to bring this opportunity to life?
  3. What resources will I need?
  4. How will I get them?

But you really need a starting point, a ground. What do you want to do?

You’ll achieve your best results when you can answer every one of these questions in alignment with your personal lists of “wants” and “don’t wants”.

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