Run a Million Dollar Company with a… Notebook
It works because the process must function before any technology can be useful.
The notebook I’m referring to is detailed here. This post just talks about how to wield it powerfully.
Put a label on each section: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, and HOW.
In the WHO Section, you’ll include the following types of information:
- WHO are all the people who will be involved in your business – including customers, suppliers, contacts, assistance, professionals, etc.
In the WHAT Section, you’ll include the following types of information:
- What is your product or service, what will it do, what will it look like, etc.
In the WHERE Section, you’ll include the following types of information:
- Where will you operate this business? Today? In 6 months? In 5 years?
- Where will you find the all the people who might be involved?
In the WHY Section, you’ll include the following types of information:
- Why does the customer want to buy your product/service and not someone else’s?
In the HOW Section, you’ll include the following types of information:
- How do you plan to bring this product or service to existence?
This will become a working volume to use to run your business. Add phrases, notes, lists, thoughts, scribbles. No need for whole sentences and certainly not paragraphs. Got ideas on the back of an envelope? Tape it in. Been collecting business cards of people who can help? Tape them in (loosely, you might want to re-organize later).
Most of the information that discusses business planning emphasizes the Business Plan document. That document itself is only relevant if you need financing. It is how financial institutions have decided they incoming communication to be formatted. This document doesn’t actually help you run your business. This is why so many people are stopped short staring at a blank template. I want you to put the emphasis on the planning of your business, this is why I’ve chosen such a different medium.
Here’s how you might use your notebook:
- Keep your thoughts organized.
- Find holes and inconsistencies in what you want to do
- Get clear on what you know and what you need to learn
- Quickly share your thoughts about your business opportunity with someone else
- Memory jogger
- To be a baseline so you can compare/contrast later
- Document of plans, milestones, and expectations
- Be the foundation of information for continuous enhancement and improvement
Got a client? Take care of them first. Then get back to the notebook.
What’s important, REALLY important, is that everything is in one place so you can find it. Got distracted by children, parents, projects, life? Not a problem. Find the notebook, flip through the pages, remember where you were and keep going.
Don’t fill in one section at a time. This isn’t a test. There is no special order. Expect that you will be writing information in multiple sections of the notebook at one time. Sometimes you’ll be seeking WHO information and instead will find WHAT or HOW information. Sometimes you’ll be reading the newspaper and a brilliant flash will suddenly set you off on the trail of WHY. Rip out the article, make a note in the margin, and stuff it into the book for later. As you answer some of the questions you will uncover other questions that need to be addressed. There is no date due and no real end point.
You may find one of these categories very easy to fill in and one very difficult to fill in. That’s exactly right. It is IMPOSSIBLE to know it all in advance. One of the reasons for getting organized, in any fashion, is to learn what you know and what you don’t know. The value of the notebook: you are clarifying yourself. Have you ever explained a problem to someone only to find an answer in the middle of your explanation? Yep, this kind of works like that.
For example, one person might easily complete the HOW portion but may be struggling with WHAT. An inventor with a good idea knows exactly WHAT but may not know WHO the customer would be. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you can’t answer a question or if your investigating sends you down a different topic. Just go with it, the only WRONG way to do it is not to do it at all.
How long should this take? Building a business is a process it’s not done in a day or a week. In some ways, the work is never over. I don’t want to scare you. But business is dynamic that means that business is always changing. It’s a little like, (okay, a lot like) raising a child. Yesterday’s issues are not tomorrow’s issues. Once you finish learning about nursery schools it becomes time to learn about kindergarten. Your child doesn’t stop growing up while you’re figuring out what to do with them at that stage. You just have to hold the heck on and hope you can keep up. Welcome to entrepreneurship!