I’ve received one of those emails again, in which somebody is asking me to help with a business plan that is a sure thing except that nobody who hears about it believes in it. So if there were just a great business plan …

I feel the need to post again something I first posted about a year ago in Business Plan Writing Can’t Perfume a Pig, on Planning Startups Stories. The person who sent me that email needs to see it, and I think it’s worth adding this back into the discussion now.

  1. Take the hint. If no one believes your idea would work, the odds are against you. It probably won’t. Sure, you might have that one-in-a-million exception to the rule. But are you ready to fight those odds? Are you sure this isn’t one of those other 999,999?
  2. A well-written business plan won’t help. Fix the idea, not the plan. Business plans are good or bad based on actual content, what’s going to happen; the quality of writing is way less important. A good business will create a good business plan. Formatting and layout and spelling and editing are nice, but what matters is content.
  3. If you have the time and energy to get outside help, get help with the business idea first, leave the business plan writing for later. Find people you trust who have done web businesses well. Make your idea one that experienced web people believe in. There’s a huge difference between a business idea and a business opportunity.
  4. Once the idea is right, then don’t sweat the writing of the business plan. That’s easy. Keep the writing in simple bullet points, do the lists and numbers, and if and only if you have somebody outside of your own group reading it, then double check spelling and grammar.  If you don’t like planning the business, then that’s another clue.  Planning the business should be fun and exciting. That document is just output, and you can deal with it later.
  5. Thank your lucky stars you have people telling you it’s not going to work before you do it. If that keeps you from jumping into a bad business, you’re way better off. Even businesses that everybody says will work can fail, and failing really hurts.

And here’s a catch 22 for you, just to finish up. People who take your money to dress up a business that won’t work with a well-written business plan are kidding you, or themselves, or both. That’s like putting a false front on a building that’s going to crumble.

(Image credit: Dirk Ott/Shutterstock)

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.