The Right-Brain Business Plan
A Creative, Visual Map for Success
By Jennifer Lee
New World Library Copyright © 2011 Jennifer Lee
All rights reserved.
Starting from the Top
The Skinny on the Right-Brain Business Plan Process and Structure
Every right-brain entrepreneur needs a Right-Brain Business Plan. And a Right-Brain Business Plan needs a creative, innovative approach and will walk you through the basic building blocks of your very own visual map for success.
How to Use This Book
Think of this book as a friendly companion that will guide you through the creative planning process. You'll get lots of passionate inspiration along with practical information.
While this book focuses on right-brain techniques, it's still organized in a left-brain way. (See? The two types of thinking really do go hand in hand.) Although I've suggested a structure to follow in which each chapter builds on the one before, know that your planning process will probably be nonlinear at times. Feel free to work through the chapters sequentially, or focus in on certain topics, or skip around as you evolve and refine your plan. Make it work for you.
Developing your business plan doesn't need to take months and months of agonizing, researching, and writing — at least, not with this right-brain approach. If you prefer to dive in and get things done within a condensed time frame, and you spend a day or two on each topic (chapters 2 through 8), you can have a plan within a couple of weeks. Or, if you prefer to space things out and have more time to reflect, you can cover one topic per week and complete your plan in a couple of months.
Throughout the book, you'll find the following headings and icons:
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Right-Brain Reflections. Reflection questions will help you ponder, find patterns, or see the big picture. These inquiries are meant to bring your awareness to, and deepen your understanding of, a belief, intention, or situation. There are no wrong answers here, only your own personal discoveries. It's up to you how deeply you want to explore. You may want to further reflect on questions by journaling, doodling, collaging, or talking with a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor.
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Illustrated Play Sheets. Who needs serious work sheets when you can have fun, artful play sheets? Most chapters have at least one illustrated play sheet to help you explore a part of your plan in more depth. These are visual maps to guide your research, planning, and thinking using your right-brain strengths. You can also download PDF versions at Rightbrainbusinessplan.com.
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Exercises. Each of the following chapters includes exercises to help you clarify your business. These exercises will help you build your right-brain muscle and may include creative art projects, daily practices, exploration, or experiential activities. They are useful for helping to inform the pieces of your plan; however, you are not required to do all of them. See what fits your business, but also stretch yourself by trying a few exercises that may seem more challenging or even aspirational. The more you explore, the more you'll learn about your business.
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Right-Brain Boosters and Left-Brain Chill Pills. Sprinkled throughout are quick, healthy doses of Right-Brain Boosters to enhance your creative intuition, and Left-Brain Chill Pills to quiet your judging mind.
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Tips. Occasionally, I'll offer a tip, make a suggestion, or point to something to watch out for.
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Success Stories. I've included inspirational accounts of creative entrepreneurs in various stages of their businesses who've benefited from tapping into their right brains. You'll discover what worked for them as you read about their successes and experiences. I hope that, by learning from other creative entrepreneurs, you'll realize you're not alone, and that you too are a success story because you're following your dreams.
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Left-Brain Checklists. Since the left brain excels at linear structure and practical details, each chapter ends with a Left-Brain Checklist to make sure all your bases are covered before you move on to the next section. Some items will be noted as optional and, depending on your business, not all of every checklist may apply to you.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
I bet that, as an entrepreneur, you're constantly doing, doing, doing to get the job done. As a right-brain entrepreneur, though, recognize that your quality of being is as important as action, if not more so. Just as the how is as important as the what, the being is as important as the doing. While you explore this process, remember the following ways of being:
Trust your intuition.
There is no right or wrong way to approach your Right-Brain Business Plan.
Hold the process lightly. If you ever find yourself getting stressed out, tied up in knots, or having brain freeze, pause, take a deep breath, and ground yourself.
If something isn't working, try something else. Anything else.
Creative work is ever evolving. Allow things to unfold.
It's okay to get messy.
What Is a Right-Brain Business Plan?
A Right-Brain Business Plan is a visual, creative, and fun road map for your business success. Typically a business plan has yawn-inducing sub-heads such as "Executive Summary," "Company Overview," "Competitive Analysis," "Target Market," "Financial Plan," and "Marketing and Sales Plan." (By the way, to prevent your eyes from glazing over as you read ohso-boring terms like these, I've taken the liberty of coming up with catchier phrases, which you'll see in a bit.) As you follow the process outlined in this book, you'll still address all these standard sections; however, you'll bring your vision and plan to life through images, art, and creative expression. You'll have a tangible representation of your business vision that can then be translated into a more formal plan, if needed.
The basic building blocks of your Right-Brain Business Plan include the following:
Hearty Highlights (a.k.a. Executive Summary). Think of this section as the CliffsNotes version of your plan. If someone needs to understand the main points of your business, she could skim this overview and get the big picture. Although I've listed this section first, your Hearty Highlights are typically written last, as they sum up the whole plan. We'll discuss Hearty Highlights/Executive Summary in chapter 8.
Business Vision and Values (a.k.a. Company Overview). This section describes what business you're in and where you're headed. Your vision and values serve as the foundation of your Right-Brain Business Plan and connect you with what matters most to you and your business. This is also where you'll give an overview of your business, including your mission, your products and/or services, and the history of your company. Chapter 2 will walk you through this process.
Business Landscape (a.k.a. Competitive Analysis). This section describes where you fit in the marketplace, how you stand out from the competition, and where your opportunities are. In chapter 3, you'll explore the bigpicture view of your industry and where you fit in. By having a clear picture of your business landscape, you'll start to clarify your customers' needs, articulate what makes you unique, and identify opportunities to grow your business. You'll also have a better idea of where to focus your time, resources, and dollars in order to make informed decisions.
Getting the Word Out (a.k.a. Marketing Plan). This section articulates who your perfect customers are and how you'll reach them. Chapter 4 will help you craft a plan and will address marketing mediums, messages, and proper timing, so you can let your perfect customers know how you can help them. This section also describes your sales process, including what process and/or support will be in place to help you seal the deal with your perfect customers.
Managing the Moola (a.k.a. Financial Plan). This section outlines how much money you need to make, how much you'll spend, and how you'll bring in the bacon. Chapter 5 guides you through a process of getting a clear picture of your financials. When you're seeking formal funding, such as a bank loan or grant, investors will go through this section with a fine-tooth comb. They'll want to know your financial projections and will examine your profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. But for the purposes of your first Right-Brain Business Plan, you'll have a simple tool to help you work with the basic numbers.
Corralling Your Creative Cohorts (a.k.a. Management and Personnel Plan). Since management, personnel, and organizational structure sound way too corporate, let's think of the folks represented by these terms as your creative cohorts, the people who support you and your business. This section describes you and your qualifications, plus anyone else you need to involve in your business. Depending on the size of your creative endeavor, this may be you, the solo entrepreneur, or you may have a team of people helping you. You'll need to be clear on who does what and on will help you map out your support team.
Making Your Plan Real: Where the Rubber Meets the Road (a.k.a. Action Plan). This section highlights the steps you need to take to make your vision real and move your business forward. Chapter 7 will help you plot out the goals, strategies, and action steps necessary for implementing your business vision.
Smooth Sailing System (a.k.a. the Operational Plan). This section describes how the work gets done via your business processes, policies, and procedures. Depending on your business, this may be a simple flowchart with colorful boxes and arrows, or it may require a more complex set of steps and guidelines to deal with things like big machinery or regulations. Chapter 8 will help you with this part of the plan.
You'll notice that there are plans within the plan. The entire Right-Brain Business Plan is the umbrella, and, beneath it, specific sections (such as "Getting the Word Out" and "Managing the Moola") help you map out the details for the various aspects of your business. As you move through this process, you'll also notice that the different sections may overlap or cross-reference each other. For example, "Managing the Moola" is informed by what type of marketing costs you'll have, who you might need to hire, or supplies or training you might need. That is why the planning process will be constantly evolving.
Don't get caught up in deciding whether something needs to go in one section rather than another. The important thing is to get your thoughts on paper so you have something to respond to.
I just highlighted the basic building blocks that go into a Right-Brain Business Plan, but every business is different, which means there isn't a cookie-cutter approach. This book will provide key questions to consider when planning a business, but take into account your unique situation and make adjustments as needed.
Use Your Creative License When Choosing a Format for Your Visual Plan
The Right-Brain Business Plan breaks the traditional business-planning mold by inviting you to bring your vision to life through pictures, colors, and other forms of self-expression. So, here's the cool deal ... your Right-Brain Business Plan can look any way you want! Hallelujah!
I've suggested various formats here to inspire you as you construct your plan. Also, to spark your muse, you'll read about some innovative entrepreneurs who infused their Right-Brain Business Plans with lots of creative license.
You don't necessarily need to know right now what the end product of your plan is. The exercises in each chapter will help the format and details evolve. The most important thing is to get your ideas from your head out into the world, in whatever creative form that takes. If, however, you do like knowing ahead of time what the finished piece will be like so you can gather the right materials and supplies, here are some ideas people have used to create their Right-Brain Business Plans:
An accordion book with pockets and cards
A large poster board for a collage on the front and notes on the back
A collaged box with cards and details inside
Index cards and envelopes
Index cards tied together with a ribbon
A visual journal or sketchbook
An altered book
A mural, drawing, portrait, or painting
A handmade piece of jewelry
A hanging wall piece or mobile made out of paper plates and string
A diorama or shadow box
A storyboard or comic strip
A video montage
A bulletin board
An installation piece
The sky's the limit! Maybe consider a combination of mediums: one to illustrate your big-picture vision (like a vision board or a bracelet), and another to capture all the information that supports the vision (perhaps index cards bound together with ribbon). Part of what makes the Right-Brain Business Plan delightful is creating all the accoutrements that communicate the details with style and flair. You can also take a peek at chapter 8 for some additional ideas for fun formats or check out the featured business plan spotlights on Rightbrainbusinessplan.com.
What other innovative ideas do these suggestions spark for you? What are you inspired to create?
Other Materials for Your Visual Plan
Besides the supplies you'll need to make your Right-Brain Business Plan, you will also want to have some of these other materials handy to do the creative exercises throughout this book:
Colorful markers, pens, or colored pencils
Sticky notes (in an assortment of colors, including yellow, pink, and green, and different sizes)
A color printer
Other art supplies based on your preferred medium
A bulletin board with pushpins or magnets (optional)
Large sheets of paper or flipchart pads (optional)
Digital camera (optional)
If you like organizing your papers in binders, try Levenger's Circa notebooks instead of the clunky three-ring office-store variety; these special notebooks allow you to easily move pages around and add tabs and pockets in a more elegant format (see the Resources section for more information; optional)
Before jumping in, spend ten minutes journaling about what's worked in your business to date. What approaches have been successful? If you are new to your business, jot down some reflections on what's worked for you in previous jobs or what your natural gifts are. This will be helpful to come back to when you start to carry out your plan.
The Many Ways You Can Use Your Right-Brain Business Plan
Your Right-Brain Business Plan serves several different purposes. You can use it to do the following:
Know where you're headed. Most important, your business plan helps you get to where you want to go on your entrepreneurial journey. It's a road map that articulates your vision and the detailed steps needed to bring your vision to life. It helps you track how well you're doing against your goals. And, to make decisions that align with your overall vision, you can check in with your plan as you would with a trusted confidant. By taking the time to create your plan, you show that you're committed to your success and that you mean business.
Test out your ideas. The exercises in this creative planning process can serve as a safe laboratory in which to test out how solid your plan is before you invest loads of time and cold, hard cash. Just as a painter uses a sketchbook to scribble notes, practice techniques, and dabble in ideas before committing the final image to canvas, you can use your Right-Brain Business Plan to experiment, ask yourself the important questions, and get feedback about how your business will work.
Home in on a specific aspect of your business. If you already have an established business or a business plan, you can use the Right-Brain Business Plan process to help you map out the specifics of a particular new service or product. Perhaps you want to create a plan for a new class you'll be offering, or you want to add to your line of merchandise, or you're expanding your home business to include a rented office or a retail space. You can use your plan to gain clarity on a distinct segment of your business.
Stay inspired. Unlike traditional business plans, your Right-Brain Business Plan is not a dull, dense, three-inch binder that merely collects dust on your bookshelf. Instead, your plan is a fun, visual representation to display proudly and play with often. By connecting with your unique work of art regularly, you'll be inspired to bring your vision to life. (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee. Copyright © 2011 Jennifer Lee. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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