Write! Right?

Don't google "how to write a business plan." For real. Well, don't do it unless you have an hour or two to head down the rabbit hole and the next 3 hours to stress about what you don't know. Templates, how-tos, examples, forums, people telling you they'll write your business plan for $49.99, people telling you they'll write your business plan for $4,999.99. It's overwhelming. Sometimes, so much so that it makes you not want to write a plan at all.

So don't do it... yet.

Just start writing.

Write about your idea. Write about your dream location. Write about the customers that you want to have, how much money you think you need and the people you want to work with. Write about the parts that you think suck- the employee manuals, the operating hours, or the cost of your inputs. Write about the parts that will be awesome- your profit, your goals, your expansion plans. Write about it all. Just get everything down on paper that's been floating in your head for too long. I call it a brain dump. Get all that stuff that you've been thinking about written down so you can organize it later. 

Will it be everything? Hell no. Will it be a start? Barely. What it will do is make the task of finding a template, reading how-to's and working through examples much easier. 

This way, you have a general idea of what you know and what you don't know. You'll get a better understanding of what needs to be researched, who you may need help from and how much time it may take you to get a plan finished. 

This knowledge will also make it easier to navigate the time-suck that is the internet and help you from becoming discouraged when you stumble on the tenth crappy template or 5th how-to that's all of 3 paragraphs long. 

One you do find a model that feels right (check back here soon for a good one) simply insert your brain-dump into the appropriate headings, and you've started your business plan! 

Congrats! 

Really. 

This is the hardest part... probably. 

But I don't wanna!

 

Would you try to fly a plane without any instruction on how to do so before you hopped into the front seat? Would you give someone a tattoo without ever picking up a tattoo gun? Would you perform as a lead in a Broadway musical without learning the music and lines first?

I really hope your answers are no because I love to travel, enjoy getting tattoos and really like musicals, so I don't want any of those things ruined by your poor planning. 

Your abject terror to doing any of this stuff without instructions from professionals and a proper plan is an excellent thing. Not having the correct knowledge in any of those situations would lead to at the least disappointment and at the most very unhappy and probably very dead airplane passengers.  

Not to scare you, but not having a business plan should make you the same level of uneasy. A lot of people don't think they need a plan when starting a business.  I'm here to tell you that those people are wrong. 

A business plan is a very good idea for anyone that wants to start a business of any size. Generally, a business plan is an internal and external roadmap that tells you, your employees, your stakeholders and your investors what you want to do and how you're going to do it. 

Don't whine. It is really necessary. Really. 

"But I don't need funding from a bank, and I'm a sole proprietor, so there is no reason to write one." 

Wrong! A business plan can be an essential internal document to help you flesh out your product or service, your target market, and milestones throughout the life of your business. You'll use research, your expertise, and general business knowledge to get a better handle on the business climate and overall do-ability of your idea. Hell, it may even tell you that your business is a terrible idea. Wouldn't that be better to figure out BEFORE you've invested serious time and money into an idea?

"But aren't business plans, like, a million pages long?"

Wrong! When you're getting a grade in your MBA class, sure they're probably pretty long but you're not getting graded on this one.  All that matters is that you produce a well thought out, well-researched narrative about your business and its plans for success. Can it be done in 5 pages? No. But 20 or so is a great length to shoot for and is easy to get to once you get going. 

So yeah. Put "write a business plan" on your to-do list because it's a great way to make your success a little more plausible and your vision a little more clear. 

Now, on to learning how to fly that plane. 

Me vs. Deborah

Deborah

My floating thoughts on a daily basis: 

I can't wait to start this business! 
I know I can do it. I know I can be successful.
I've wanted this for so long...
Think about this cool thing we can do! And that cool thing! 
If (fill-in-the-blank competition) did it, so can I.
You realize how much work it will be... right?
What if you fail... 

:: Record scratch:: As confident as I am about my ability to build a business, it's really easy for negative thoughts to enter my brain to discourage me from doing what I want to do. It's getting especially hard as I research more and more and learn about the roadblocks that I'll likely experience.  I believe that getting over the mental blocks of starting a business is the first step to getting started. Once you feel like you can do it, all of the reasons to procrastinate dissolve and you become laser focused on getting shit done. So how the heck do you actually do that? Take some great advice from one of the best Drag Queens in the business: Name your negative voice... then verbally abuse it. 

The Drag Queen I'm taking about is Katya. This RuPaul's Drag Race All-Star contestant and all around amazing Queen said that when she hears the negative voice in her head (whom she's affectionately named Brenda), she simply tells it to shut the f*ck up. Check it out- it's pretty perfect. 

The little voice in my head is named Deborah

Deborah is that middle-aged woman in mom-jeans with chunky highlights wearing too much Sibika jewelry. She's the one that orders at restaurants for her 17-year-old son and is OBSESSED with the drama surrounding her kid's extracurricular activities. She always wants to speak to your manager and gets personally offended when you tell her that happy hour ended 20 minutes ago and she can not, in fact, get her chardonnay half priced just because she wanted to get here for happy hour but couldn't make it in time. Deborah tells me that my business idea is dumb, she tells me that it's risky and not a good industry for a woman. She tells I'm not smart enough to navigate building inspections, lease agreements, and occupancy permits. She tells me that my idea is too big, too expensive, and too stressful. 

And when she starts getting too loud, I tell Deborah to shut the f*ck up. 

I'm sure Deborah will crop back up throughout this process to tell me that I can't do this or that. She may even win some days, which is fine. What she won't do is deter me from creating something beautiful and living my dream. 

Now that she's out of the way... let's write a business plan. 

 

 

You know what we should do...

Starting my own consulting business has always been a dream for me. If I was being honest about myself, I would have to say teaching, mentoring and managing (Read: telling people what to do) is something I really enjoy. Luckily, people sometimes want to hear what I have to say so it's been a good run here at Pick Your Poison thus far. I've been blessed with enough room in my house to have an office, a side job to make ends meet and nothing other than some business cards and a domain name to purchase to get this thing rolling. In other words, this business venture has been pretty low risk. Other than, of course, that whole quitting-your-day-job-and-putting-your-faith-in-yourself-and-you-alone thing. That's been scary for sure and I'm not taking that part for granted but in terms of a financial commitment, this risk has been manageable, to say the least.  

Despite being happy with my progress in business, there's always been another business venture that's infiltrated my daydreams time and time again. One that requires significantly more risk, more money, more time, and probably more gray hairs. I don't want to get into the exact business now but just know that on top of being a really expensive industry to break into, it's also seasonal so ya know, you have a limited window to make a profit each year. 

My goal for 2017 is to start this business while maintaining and growing Pick Your Poison. Some parts will be the same as what I did for PYP (setting up a website, getting a DBA name, branding) and others will be very, very different (doing financial projections, getting money from a bank and finding some serious business insurance). Either way, each step is one step closer to my goal of continued world domination and the hope to never work for anyone but myself again. 

I want to document this experience to encourage and inform others about how to do the same, no matter what industry they choose to operate in. I plan to cover the entire process- from idea generation to (hopefully) opening. I'm sure there are going to be tons of things that I won't be able to predict, things that are easy and fun and things that will be incredibly difficult. I want to share them all with you so when the time comes to start a business of your own, it's just a little easier. 

Here's hoping for success, a hair dye strong enough to keep up with my grays, and the ability to inform and educate anyone that wants to take the leap themselves. 

 

I'm not done yet I'm just getting started.

Happy (kinda) anniversary to me! I've been working on my goals of creating a successful consulting business for the past year and I'm finally feeling pretty good about it. It was this time last year that I was in a job that was a terrible fit for me and I was searching desperately for a way out. The crappiness I was feeling about work gave me just enough of a kick in the butt to jump into consulting with only, like, 95% abject terror. The 5% of "maybe I can do this" was just enough to try it. 

I finally felt that this could actually be "a thing" a few weeks ago. A number of great opportunities came together and I'm finally making some great connections.  I have a few good gigs and it's looking that I'll be able to pay the bills for at least the next few months. I'm happy. And I'm ready for another great year. 

My goals for the coming year consist of:
Continue to kick ass and take names
Blog more (look, I'm doing it!) 
Work with more fantastic people to help them make their businesses as good as they can be. 
Get comfortable with telling people that I "own my own business" when they ask what I do. 
Spend less time reading Buzzfeed listicles 

Here's to another year of never looking back

It's Adora's world and we're All just living in it.

How many 5 year olds can say that they are the inspiration for over 1,000 works of art?

This past month I've been lucky enough to work with one such girl- well, her father actually, Adora can't run a website...yet. 

The Adora Art Project was started by Adora's Dad, Hanan, when Adora was born. He wanted a creative way to document his daughter's growth and development. The project started slowly and eventually became a huge project featuring over 1,000 works of art from all over the world. Adora has gotten in on the act too- she loves to cook her favorite recipes on a YouTube cooking channel and write silly songs that she's published in to a book called "Songs for 5 Year Olds". 

Hanan contacted me looking for some marketing assistance on his website. He needed to take the many aspects of the site and package them in a more digestible format. Between Hanan's blog, all of the artists' content and Adora's interests, the website was hard to understand and did not have a well defined purpose. I was able to give him some insight on how to make the site simpler and more user friendly.

The big questions that needed to be answered were "What is this site really about?" and more specifically "Who is it for?" and "Why do they care?". It seems like a lot of lofty thinking for an art blog but every company has a purpose that needs to be defined. 

These questions come up quite a lot in branding, especially as a concept changes and evolves over time. In the case with The Adora Art Project, more and more artists created works for the site and as Adora began growing up, she wanted to participate too. The concept as a whole changed so now its user interface needed some tweaking as well. 

After this first round of work was finished, Hanan revealed his long term plan for The Adora Art Project concept. He's launching a non-proft side of the business, in conjunction with some of the original artists, to create and sell original works of art to help raise money for less fortunate children. I will continue to work with The Adora Art Project as it begins this exciting new phase of its life and will play a roll in launching the project next month. 

Visit Adoralevin.com for more information about the unique and talented Adora Levin, her art, and the accompanying non-profit to come in the following months. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about her soon.