Sunday, November 01, 2009

Slow startups. Find the information you'll need

As time allows, I'm going to continue posting about the six steps I think people need to take for launching their own slow startup enterprise.

This post is about the second of the six steps, gathering information in a way that adds value to your idea and sustainability to the platforms you will work from.

In other words, this is about business planning and slow startup enterprises.

A slow startup focuses on creating a new enterprise with limited time and funds. These enterprises are meant to bring increasing sustainability into people's lives and the communities they live in.

The common thread among all types of enterprise, rural or urban, is the need for a map of where you're headed. In the case of a slow startup that map doesn't represent a straight line to an unchangeable goal. A slow startup map, like all great tools, offers many alternate ways of getting somewhere valuable.

The subject of business planning and creating business plans can be presented as a daunting, jargon-laden realm where only experts dwell. There are certainly some kinds of business plans that require that kind of sophistication, but they represent a small slice of the business creation pie.

A slow startup would look at three main areas of focus when building their road map:

Learn what business planning is about and how it can be used for your own personal benefit.

Learn how to find resources for your business planning.

Learn how to create a business planning map, start, then learn from what happens next.

Business planning for slow startups is not an exercise in creating a document for outside investors or approaching banks and funding agencies for loans, though it can certainly be the basis for such efforts in the future. For now, it is a process of gathering information to help make you and your enterprise competent and sustainable.

From my Business Diligence and teaching work I developed a slow startup business plan I can put online. The entrepreneurs complete it as time allows and I can jump in as needed. I've begun using it in my rural economic development work.

Slow startup planning specifically can benefit small food enterprises (SFEs) such as those we hope to nurture at the new Innovation Kitchen and other slow startups that people grow from their kitchen tables.

This isn't the place to go into all the particulars, but a slow startup business plan is meant to work in service to the entrepreneur, not outside funders. It is meant to be a roadmap that includes your specific goals, acknowledging the specific assets and hurdles you face. Great business plans are not cookie-cutter templates. They are working, living documents that entrepreneurs can use to grow personally and to grow their enterprises.

Importantly, there is a strong, wonderful movement emerging of micro-lending investment platforms focusing on person-to-person business relationships in the Kiva style. Kiva has created a transparent, highly ethical model that empowers me and hundreds of thousands of micro investors to invest and loan small amounts to innovators worldwide.

New funding/micro-loan platforms are emerging that will focus on specific types of enterprise, such as eco-tech and sustainable foods. For new and emerging entrepreneurs to benefit from this opportunity, they won't necessarily need a fixed-in-stone business plan but they will need to be able to produce and demonstrate a competent planning map.

Dwight Eisenhower said, "Plans are nothing; planning is everything." If that approach was good enough for the largest military invasion in world history, then I would suggest it's a safe approach for your slow startup.

You need to plan, act, revise, repeat. That's the essence of a great slow startup business plan.

Don't let that process dissuade you from starting. Start and build. Search out the information you'll need to know to grow. Make it personal. Make it your own. Business planning is an iterative process. One foot in front of the other on a march planned to include alternate routes. If you don't start you'll never have a map. Without a map you'll just continue to wander, or worse, never start your journey.

This isn't hard. You can do it. If you start now you can build something valuable into your life and into the fabric of the communities you live in.

Slow startups are designed to fit into your life as it's lived now. Take advantage of the help, support and tools available and begin.

Entrepreneurship represents the core of the emerging economy of the 21st century. Join that revolution and see where it takes you.

Acknowledge the time needed. Plan your map. Map your plan. Start. You can do it.


Northern Water Snake

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