Small business owners rank creating a business plan right up there with writing the dreaded high school term paper, college thesis, and bar exam rolled into one, says Tim Berry.
“Small business owners put off writing a plan because of the stupid mythology of the big formal BUSINESS PLAN that supposedly represents you in front of some feared imaginary judge and jury, a morph of bankers, investors, and the Spanish inquisition.”
It’s true though. Many small business owners (ahem, this writer included) don’t bother creating a business plan simply because it seems too daunting. Berry sees business plans a different way. To him, they’re fundamental for small business, as they pull it all together: long- and short-term goals; vision and execution; words and numbers; and past, present, and future. He says:
“What I love most about business plans is the business planning: like walking, it’s constant correction and review and revision. Planning, done right, is steering a business, managing growth, aiming the business towards the right future.”
Passionate About Creation
Despite his increasing visibility through media (he’s worked with best-selling authors as a business plan expert, volunteers at SCORE, and is the official business planning coach for Entrepreneur.com), he stays loyal to his small business following. For him, small business is about creation:
“I love startups and small businesses because their scale allows a person to wrap arms around the whole thing, soup to nuts, plan to execution, numbers to concepts. And because we entrepreneurs create something out of nothing — a new business is a new option for customers, plus jobs, and the act of creation.”
Creation is something he’s proud his own company, Palo Alto Software, has achieved by positively affecting his local economy. After forming the company in 1983, Berry took it from zero to 40 employees, multimillion dollar sales, no debt, and 70% market share without outside investment. The company is responsible for more than 150 homes purchased in the town where it resides.
Sharing His Passion With the Keyboard
Berry began his career as a journalist and has never managed to get very far from writing. He contributes around the web on Amex Open Forum, Small Business Trends, Huffington Post and Up and Running, among others, and has written a book, The Plan-as-You-Go Business Plan. Feel free to check out our book review of it.
The book is practical in nature, and helps small businesses and startups create a business plan using form over function, that helps drive the company in the right direction, says Berry.
A Living Breathing Business Plan
Berry stresses the importance of regularly reviewing and revising a business plan. It’s not something to shove in a drawer once you create it. He says unless you have a “business plan event,” (pitching investors or shareholders who need to see that “big document”), don’t sweat it.
“…Leave it on your computer, keep it simple and practical, and review it often. It doesn’t have to have some specific set of contents. It just has to help you run your business better.”
The company he founded, now run by his daughter, has made this even easier to accomplish by introducing LivePlan, a new cloud-based version of their famous business planning software. With LivePlan a team can collaborate easily to create a plan, because everyone logs in online instead of having to email files back and forth. Team members can access it from anywhere, through a Web browser. And the business plan can be easily updated so you can track your progress toward meeting your goals and objectives — making it a true living breathing tool to help run your business.
One of the Small Business Influencer Awards Judges
Berry volunteered his time as a judge for the recent Small Business Influencer Awards, which he views through 1960s-colored glasses:
“I love the way we all get together — not just the organizers or judges, not just the nominees, but tens of thousands of people connected together — to celebrate the phenomenon of people connecting with people. It’s the dream of the late ’60s come true.”
Editor’s Note: This article is one of a series of interviews of key players in the Small Business Influencer Awards.