It took many long hours of debating the various possibilities and directions for growth, but finally I fashioned a plan that was acceptable to me and my closest colleagues. Basically it called for us to improve our core business first and hold off the really big expansion until we were ready–and that would be a few years down the road. But even our more modest expansion plans still needed to be funded. There are only a few ways to fund your growth: cash flow, borrowing, selling equity, joint venturing, and a public offering of stock. We immediately discounted the last possibility because we simply were not large enough. So there were four options left, and three of them involved bringing in other people–banks, investors, and possible partners.
As of this writing we do not know what will transpire with the funding of our growth. This is because I just finished the business plan and only a few people outside the company have seen it. But at least I have a plan for people to look at, which is more than many companies have.
Should you write such a plan for your company? I think you should, even if it’s only an exercise and you don’t really need the funding. The effort paid off for me because it forced me to re-evaluate where we are and where we’re going. And remember, business plans are not written in stone. They can be changed and updated as needed to become a living document that defines your business and its value.
Update, Late 2009
The business plan I wrote didn’t work very well to accomplish the main goal of expansion. Also, the business world changed radically for a media company like ours. We produced five additional Fiery Foods & Barbecue Shows outside the Albuquerque market: three in St. Petersburg, one in Tampa, and one in Houston. All were successful and profitable, but the amount of profit did not justify all the time, effort, and energy it takes to produce a show. My analogy was that it was like taking money from your left pocket and putting it in your right pocket.
Also, as I aged, I was less devoted to expansion and more interested in pursuing my own goals of writing more books and traveling. It wasn’t in the original business plan to cease publication of Fiery Foods & BBQ magazine, but the reality was that small, specialty, consumer print magazines are dinosaurs. Just like doing another trade show, publishing and editing a magazine in addition to publishing and editing our huge, ongoing Fiery Foods & Barbecue SuperSite was simply redundant and too time-consuming. Seeing that the magazine never made a significant profit over its ten-year life, it was a no-brainer to shut it down in late 2008.
So we didn’t really expand, we just changed. I still work as hard, but the effort is expended on doing things that I really like to do. And that was what I had omitted in the original business plan.
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