What lies behind the Business Plan

Spring quarter has started at business school, which means it is business plan season.
Business plan competitions with strange acronyms are flocking from every corner, from RBPC to NUVC. For someone like me, who is starting a business from business school, these competitions are great motivators and milestones for writing and rewriting my business plan.

The competitions rarely ask for a full business plan, as least in the early stages. Instead, an executive summary or abstract is asked for. Someone recently said to me that, in selling my business, I need a 1 minute pitch, 10 minute pitch and 45 minute pitch. These summary documents are analogous to the 10 minute pitches.

So I've been writing these "10 minute" summary versions of my business plan. As I write these documents, I realize that for every line in a one page document, there is probably tens of hours of work of work behind it. Yet this will not be apparent at all in reading the document. Take, for example, a line that says "a team from an undergraduate class will build a prototype". This line does not describe the other alternatives I had investigated and thrown away, such as looking to contract software engineers or developing relationships with researchers who might help build it. It will not even describe the pain experienced in some of these not working out.

At first, it is tearful to not unravel the full story behind the window dressing that is the business plan. But it is important to realize that the business plan is largely window dressing. I'm learning more and more that a business plan is not a document with intricate details that you design and create to carefully help you navigate yourself to your dream. It is not even an aid to help people understand how you will set up your business. A business plan is a marketing document. Its sole purpose is to convince people - to excite people into giving you whatever it is you need.

Though I have only entered two competitions thus far, I already feel that each competition helps iterate and refine my ideas - solidifying them, creating more punchy descriptions and ultimately improving what I'm working on. I'm looking forward to what my business plan will look like at the end of Spring quarter, at the end of the business plan competition season.