Sunday, June 9, 2013

To Plan Or Not To Plan?

In any live sound environment, planning is essential to success, and the same is true for starting running the business of live sound. A complete business plan for any company, live audio and production included, is vital to the overall health of the venture. While there are many schools of thought, at the basis of most expert opinions is that a business plan must not only be written and followed, but reviewed and adjusted during it’s implementation in order to get the best results from the efforts.

Researching experts in the field of business plan implementation turned up Andrea Cockerton, an independent pitch and fundraising consultant and founder of Mudhut Consulting, based in the United Kingdom, who has worked with everyone from start-ups to global brands like Microsoft in all areas of technology and more recently the arts. Cockerton advises in her interview with The Next Woman magazine, that there are three essential elements to any successful business plan:

1. Targeting a growing market with a need for your product or service.
2. That the team is talented and able to execute the business plan.
3. That your product, service or idea is groundbreaking.

Also in the interview with The Next Woman, Cockerton points out another vital piece of advice to new entrepreneurs, “You have to be prepared for everything - no part of the business is too small.  But when you first pitch it, don't fall into the trap of talking only about how great the technology or idea is - what investors really want to hear about is how it is going to make money.” For those seeking outside funding of any kind, these words of wisdom offer much insight. When attempting to pitch your business plan, or anything in life, remembering that most people want to know what it is going to do for them, how will it benefit them to be a part of the project? By asking those questions prior to pitch, it will allow for better plan writing based on what the business has to offer in the way of making revenue.
Two other noted experts in the field have also recently debated the pros and cons of developing a business plan. In the article, “Write A Business Plan Or Not? 2 Experts Debate”, is between David F. McShea, a partner in the Law Firm of Perkins Cole and Will Hsu, co-founder of Los Angeles based Muckerlab. According to McShea, writing a business plan is essential because it allows for the idea to be fully planned out, and ensures it’s probability for existence. Many ideas sound great but the reality of implementing them can be another story, this is where the business plan will show what it would take to move forward. McShea points out that, “Writing a business plan may actually convince you to dispense with or change your original business concept and create a better, stronger business concept instead. It is much cheaper to do this on paper than with a payroll.” Quick to acknowledge that not everything will go according to the plan, McShea says it is still a good thing to have because, “knowing that you will need to reevaluate your business plan when circumstances change is no reason to forgo creating one.”
Not everyone agrees with this though and in the same Inc magazine article, Hsu states, “An entrepreneur's time and energy should be put into solving that problem by talking to as many customers as possible and continuing to iterate the end product and the pricing. Time spent on writing a 40-page business plan would be better spent talking, selling, and understanding customers and their needs.” While much attention to detail must be paid, especially during startup, to the target market and satisfying the needs of that market, a part of that start up should be put into the business plan itself in order to keep on top of the project and avoid neglecting a vital area. McShea supports this with his statement, “Another advantage is that preparation of a business plan will enable you to portray your vision for the business more credibly and persuasively to potential investors, business partners, customers and employees. Many prospective investors will ignore you if you don't have a written plan to share.”

Hsu argues that there is more of a demand to hit the market faster with a hot idea than to plan the business out properly, he also suggests using whiteboards that can be easily wiped and re-written instead of a formally written plan. Hsu says that the biggest advantage to not having a formal business plan is that it is “faster to market” and “The business plan-centric approach to company building forces an entrepreneur to focus on strategies and plans as the first step of the process. By not having a business plan entrepreneurs will be forced to focus on their customers first and foremost.” While this idea may work for smaller projects and product based ideas, for the purpose of offering a service in a niche market, following Cockerton and McShea’s advice would seem the best course of action for the overall health of any new business venture.


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