Planning, Startups, Stories

Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

The not so big business plan

[I wrote this story in the Huffington Post today. I’m including this post in its entirety here as a service to my readers. Tim ]

The traditional business plan has been under attack lately. There’s
been a lot of chatter about Twitter, a Web 2.0 star, which supposedly
found investors without a business plan. One pundit suggests business
plans are bad for entrepreneurs because investors will just use them to
nitpick. Several others suggest a business plan is bad because, in
their minds, if you have a plan you have to follow it.

The detractors are confusing the plan with planning, and not
planning is just plain dumb. Dwight D. Eisenhower said it best: “The
plan is useless. Planning is essential.” I’m biased. I’m a business
planner. I don’t die with a plan, though, I steer with planning. I
think the assault on planning is dangerous.

2007-08-13-notsobiglife.jpgI may have found the answer. I’ve been reading Sarah Susanka’s the not so big life, a brilliant book, sequel to her not so big house book. It makes me think of the “not so big” business plan.

Just as her not so big means simpler, streamlined, and more
practical, so too with my “not so big” business plan. It’s appropriate
to what you really need for your business. Yes, even you Web 2.0 geeks
in the back of the room, celebrating your alleged freedom from the
business plan as if the math final had been canceled. So it’s time for
the not so big business plan.

What is it?

It’s a selection of simple mix-and-match pieces. Do just what you
need to run your business, no more. At its core it defines your
business, how it’s different, what it does for people, its meaning.
That core is wrapped with specifics like dates, budgets, and

How is it done?

Do it in pieces. Start wherever you think it is easiest and add to
it as needed. You don’t do it in any particular order; you don’t have
to start at the beginning and go through to the end. Jump in wherever
you feel like. You don’t necessarily cover all the bases, at least not
all at once. In this case it’s a process, not a document. Choose what
works for you:

Get going

Planning isn’t supposed to hold you up or hold you back. The plan or
lack of a plan is no excuse for sitting back and waiting for something
to happen. Don’t assume that your Big Business Plan will ever be fully
finished anyhow. Start planning today, whether you’re planning a new
business or growing an existing business. Planning is what matters, not
just the plan.

Keep your head up. Keep your eyes forward, scanning the horizon,
watching for what’s coming up ahead. If you’re an athlete you’ve heard
this from coaches as you dribble or catch or run. If you hate sports
metaphors, then think about walking a busy city sidewalk. Don’t look
down, you’ll bump into somebody. Look up.

— Tim

5 responses to “The not so big business plan”

  1. I have found two interesting sources ( & ) and would like to give the benefit of my experience to you.

  2. N. Umennachi says:

    Thank you so much Tim, especially for that last part,

    "Get Going."

    – Graduate student in Japan, trying decide whether to write a business plan or start a business first…

  3. Vera says:

    Great post.

    My own impression is that this trend against business plans is, to a great extent, driven by the explosion of development opportunity on the internet. The first thing young entrepreneurs learn about getting funded is that you need an 'elevator pitch'. They aren't told that they need to conceive an entire 'building' within which to put the elevator. The words elevator and building are somewhat misleading in this analogy, since the first came from defining a potential investor's attention span. The analogy works better applied to the internet using highways or networks and intending to build, say, Grand Central Station.


  4. Tim Berry says:

    Thanks Kendall, I assume you're referring to Business Plan Pro and I hope I get some credit for not shilling products on this blog.

    Thanks though, I appreciate the comment.

    — Tim

  5. Kendall says:

    Looks like it might be time for "Business Plan Lite". Cept, where do you go with your price since it's already a Lite price? Maybe get Mark Andreessen to endorse it, charge more, and tout its time-saving ability?

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