One of the things that can be challenging for an entrepreneur, especially one who's job is to help others achieve their goals, is to practice what they preach. Recognizing that, about 18 months ago, the three of us began a series of meetings that pulled apart every aspect of our business, then a spritely two years old. Basically, we consulted for ourselves!
Like most startups we had a business plan. We spent months labouring over it, crafting it to perfection. Upon completing it, and opening the business, we did the logical thing and promptly tossed it out the window. Despite our best efforts to identify markets and opportunities, there were unknowns that became...known. As a result, it became clear pretty early that the path we'd laid out in our business plan wasn’t going to lead us where we wanted to go. It was fine for a while, as we ran with the opportunities that presented themselves instead of sticking to a business plan that ultimately was too rigid for our specific business needs.
It took some time for us to recognize that while a detailed business plan for Copperworks wasn't going to help us to achieve our goals, we did need some direction to help us figure out what we wanted and how to get there. For us the answer was a strategic plan emphasizing flexibility. Over the course of about 6 weeks we mapped out a tight, five page strategic plan and a one page communications plan. What we began to see and understand was that as a small company, capable of doing many different kinds of work, being quick and nimble was our biggest advantage. The tools we developed have helped us to exploit our agility and to be more decisive when evaluating projects to undertake.
That’s not to say that a business plan isn’t an appropriate planning document, it just depends on the type of business you are developing. For us, it just never quite fit.
Not only did this process make us better at running our business, but I think it made us better at the services and products we offer. It’s important to stop sometimes and consider why and how we do what we do, whether in business or in life. You might just be surprised at the answers you get in response to those two basic questions.
I think of all of this today because we've just completed our year-end, and we have conclusive evidence that our planning document and the direction it laid out for us was the correct one. And, well, to be honest? I’m just really excited to see a plan come together!