Your One-Hour Business Plan

Have an hour to spare? You can do a business plan. No, this isn’t something you can show an investor or a bank, but it will help you focus your plan for your product or service. Whether you’re an artist, a filmmaker, the principal of a fledgling graphic design firm, a tech geek software developer — basically any creative startup or anyone considering self-employment — we’ve all got to start somewhere in order to get somewhere.

There are about eleventy billion business plan templates online and at your local library. However, depending on your goals, you may not need a nicely typed big poobah one. In any case, you need to do some thinking before you start typing. This one-hour business plan will help you do that thinking. The time and space limit forces you to really get to the guts of your idea.

If you can’t fill out 13 sticky notes (yes, only 13) in an hour, that’s okay, but it’s also a warning sign that you need to do some more reading, research and thinking before announcing your venture to the world (or quitting your job).


Da Plan

Supplies Needed:

  • One brain.
  • 10 3 x 5 sticky notes. (Note: according to researchers, we humans do our best thinking when looking at the “golden rectangle.” Thus, 3×5 rectangles.)
  • A pencil. (Or a purple crayola. Or any writing implement in the color of your choice. The idea is to actually write some things down.)

Time Limit: 45 minutes (coffee and/or beer optional).

Sticky #1: Why are you doing this? To save the world? Get some personal freedom? Actually make a living doing something that’s fun? (All good reasons, but, as noted above, you need to focus. You may not be able to do everything, at least not all at once. Example: You may need to keep your cubicle slave day job for a few months while you build your biz after hours.)

Sticky #2: What are the top three market factors affecting your opportunity?
(Local culture; economic climate; new technologies; etc. Example: Albuquerque, where I love to live, is a great place for artists to live; not so much for them to sell.)

Sticky #3: Who are your top three competitors? (Even Jackson Pollack had “competitors” — for attention, gallery representation, etc.)

Sticky #4: How are you going to shine brighter than those competitors?

Sticky #5: Why would anybody buy this? (Yes, your mom and best buds may love it, but … you probably need to sell more than one to buy food.)

Sticky #6: Why would they buy it from you?

Sticky #7: How are you going to sell it? (Online, brick & mortar, licensing to manufacturers, etc.)

Sticky #8: How are you going to get the word out? (Note: A Facebook page is not a social media strategy. You can be a whiz at Pinterest, but if nobody is

Sticky #9: What will success look like in a year? (This should include some dollar numbers.)

Sticky #10: What are your three goals for the next six months? (ONLY THREE. Example: 1. Set up website. 2. Sell at least one item/service. 3. Make one contact a day to build your friends & family network. (Always, always make those connections before you need them. Showing up outta da blue and pleading “BUY FROM ME!” won’t work, and, in fact, will turn off people who might otherwise help.)

Okay, put your stickies down and go take a 5-minute break. Come back and look at each note. Do they make sense individually AND collectively? Note: don’t think about budgets and allocations yet — that comes after you’ve determined your goals and actions. If you set the budget first, you’ll force yourself into boxes and constrain your creativity.


The Action Plan

Supplies Needed:

  • The same brain.
  • Three 3 x 5 sticky notes.
  • A pencil or writing implement.

Time Limit: 10 minutes

Sticky #1: List three actions you’ll complete in 30 days towards your goals. (ONLY THREE.)

Sticky #2: List three actions you’ll complete in 60 days towards your goals.

Sticky #3: List three actions you’ll complete in 90 days towards your goals.

Now, if you’ve got business partners or employees, put ONE name on each of the Action sticky notes.


Time’s Up!

Does it make sense? Does it excite you? Can you do it? Will you do it?

Go DO Something, right now. And keep those 3x5s handy. You can (and should) change them as you continue your business journey.


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About Mary Schmidt

A New Mexico native, Mary is a proud Corporate America refugee. She uses the skills and lessons learned in her big poobah corporate career to help entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality. She can be the occasional buzz kill, practicing tough love here and there to keep her clients from ugly crash and burns (It’s great to burn the box, but you first need the damned thing in order to burn it.)

Her clients have ranged from string quartets and artists to global corporations such as Hewlett-Packard. She loves problem-solving, and does some of her best thinking and producing in a crisis.

Mary’s original career goal (way, way back before PCs and design software) was to be a commercial artist. Sadly, she realized that she would never be more than thoroughly mediocre. She subsequently accumulated more liberal arts credits than pretty much anyone else on the planet in her quest to figure out how to save the world and not starve while doing so. Her creative outlets these days include photography, multi-media art, and — ahem — writing.

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