Brandon Builds #2
How to create a business plan without an MBA or business experience
🙋♂️ WHY I Am Creating A Business Plan
Business plans are not necessary to start a business. I would argue that most don't need one. The time spent creating one would be better spent talking with customers, discovering their needs, and testing solutions to those needs.
BUT! If you want to fundraising from investors or have something you can give to potential cofounders to understand your business, a business plan definitely helps.
A few months ago I formally pitched my idea to Stephen Kosslyn, an expert on the science of learning and someone who has helped build two universities from scratch, Minerva and Foundry.
He thought the idea was incredibly well thought out and viable, but it would require funding as for profit venture to reach the scale I want. His advice was to develop a formal business plan and seek funding.
I was inclined to take his advice. Why? Because he has built a university, twice. I think he might know what he is doing.
Find those who have walked the path before you.
🚀 WHAT I Built This Week
This week I continued to make progress on the rough draft of my formal business plan. I specifically worked on defining the problem and my solution. I was lucky enough to find Coursera's public documents from when the filed their IPO in December 2020, which helped me to better present my information.
I also had meeting with a potential investor or co-founder. It is only the second meeting I have had where I formally pitched my idea. I did not explain it as clearly as I could have so the meeting went ok.
However when I finished, rather than beating myself up that I could have done much better, I told myself this was just practice. I am going to have pitch and explain my startup a 1000 times, so this was just practice. I was then able to objectively debrief and figured out exactly how I could have a better meeting next time.
Additionally, I was able to see the diamond in his advice from the meeting, and discard the rest that did not apply or I felt were wrongly stated.
The biggest insight I took away from this was around creating stackable credentials leading directly to employment in mission driven fields, rather dealing with the hassle of offering an accredited degree.
Other things I am working on:
Podcast production for the episode featuring Jaison Morgan, founder of Carrot
Interviewing Sidney Haitoff, Founder of mishe
🔨 HOW I Built This
First off, I have never made a formal business plan. But you know who has? Dozens and dozens of other people.
So I went to google and search for several business plan templates.
Here are the ones I found most helpful:
11 Sample Business Plans to Help You Write Your Own - Hubspot
Now these give a general idea of what you need and how to format it. But they don't really tell you how to answer the questions for each section. So I will do my best to give my tips for how I found or created information for each section.
The Business Model
You may notice my section headings are slightly different than the above templates I listed above. That is because I followed the outline from pg 269 of Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigner.
This book was tremendously helpful in helping me to think about an structure my business model, value proposition, marketing & sales strategy, and key resources.
However, the real meat of this section is the problem & the solution. And no one has the answer to this except you. Otherwise the business would already exist.
I have spent almost 2 years research the problem of education which included reading dozens of books, listening to podcasts, interviewing college students, interviewing education experts, studying other university models, and spending hundreds of hours scribbling notes into a cohesive vision.
If you truly want to understand the root of an issue, you have to put in the work. There is no shortcut here.
As for the solution, well that is what your creating. My advice for being able to clearly state that is write it out, tell people about it, diagram it. Basically explain over and over again. And then again. And maybe one, two.... a thousand times. Again do the work.
Now this is an easy one compared to the last section.
First, look at all the key activities you business must do to deliver your solution. What activities require people to do that activity?
Next, look a similar businesses and their teams. What I did was look at similar universities to the one I am building and seeing what roles they had and what they are called.
Then easy peasy, just list out what you need.
Here is where doing that 2 years of work pays off well. This section is all about understanding the market, what its trends are, and who are the competitors in the space.
I listen to dozens of podcasts, subscribe to newsletters, and follow the major competitors in the market of education. So this was pretty easy to map out.
I also recommend finding the major research organizations in your market, for example Holon IQ publishes everything about the education market.
Then subscribe to the newsletters of venture capital investors in the space. These guys are always pumping out content about the market because they study it so closely in order to make money. An example for the higher education market is Emerge Education
To be honest, I have almost nothing for this section. Why? Because I know zilch about how much capital it is going to take to launch this thing or what my cash flows will be.
I have never launched a startup so I have no experience in this. So what am I going to do? Well here is a few options:
I know some of the expenses it will take. I have listed those in the plan. I can start calling or emailing providers and finding out costs. I can also look up salaries. This will give me a rough estimate of costs.
I can speak with other university founders about their financials. This will be quite difficult as most will be guarded about sharing details like this.
Finding a business operator type cofounder who has built a startup before. This is more realistic, however it would require finding an additional cofounder along side a chief academic officer type cofounder.
Ask for help from a generous investor. Lots of investors act as mentors so this is also a very viable option.
This section is all about building a roadmap for how you will implement your solution, what are the key metrics for reach milestones, and when will you reach them.
I recommend phasing out your plan into:
Startup phase: What's the bear minimum you need to implement to start getting customers?
Revenue phase: When will you be actually be turning a profit?
Long-term phase: What are the long term parts of your business you will be implementing in order to fully realize your vision?
This is the way I am thinking about it. But I don't entirely know if it's the best way to. I would recommend doing further research into how business models like yours are implemented.
🧠 WHAT I Learned This Week
Aligning your work with the needs of the world make you more effective - I finished up Critical Path by Buckminster Fuller. He had 22 Self Disciplines For Life which guide his actions. One of those was his work must be done for the greater good of all humanity and by doing so he would be operating in the most effective manner. He believed when he was motivated to serve others first, then he would be adequately compensated. It seems Buckminster Fuller and I share a similar value. Fun note: Buckminster Fuller has the most documented life in history because he recorded EVERYTHING about his own life to run a N=1 experiment of being human.
Learning Experience Design - I just finished my 4 week course on LXD, which is a multidisciplinary approach to training that recognizes that most learning happens not by instruction, but through experience. By intentionally combining learning science with the principles of human-centered design — as well as social and behavioral psychology — learning experience design results in contextualized, outcome-oriented experiences where the learner leaves with something to remember.
Podcasts I Listened To This Week:
I REALLY love podcasts. I listen to roughly 20-40 podcast episodes a week. This is the cream of the crop from this week:
Do plants contain toxins? A friendly debate with Alex Leaf | Fundamental Health Podcast - I currently eat a carnivore diet 4 days week and then cycle in small amount of carbs and vegetables 3 days a week on my heavy lift days at the gym. This was an excellent debate showing the benefits and downsides of any diet. The punch line: do what feels best for your body. For me limiting carbs and vegetables to only lift days had been tremendous for my gut.
Anne Lamott on Spiritual Fitness, Creative Process, Redecorating the Abyss, and The Perennial Magic of "Bird by Bird" | Tim Ferris Show - I resonated a ton with Anne's battle fighting her inner demons and having to practice self compassion. It's something I struggle with because I an tend to be relentless on myself.
🤝 WHO I Met That You Should Meet
Sidney Haitoff, Founder of mishe - I will be interviewing Sidney about his startup mishe, which is helping to provide Pay-As-You-Go Healthcare™; no insurance needed. Sidney is the embodiment of a passionate, driven founder working on a major problem and figuring it out as he goes. Such great spirit and grit. Looking forward to the interview.
Izzy Ahrbeck, Host of The Purpose Talks Podcast - Shesits down with business leaders to the new business world where purpose talks over money. As the Head of Content for the Business of Purpose, she publishes innovation insights & researches purpose-driven trends. We discussed some collaborative efforts for promoting each others podcast.
Denese Duran, Founder of Podcasters Unlimited - Denese is such a great wealth of knowledge about podcast networks. If you own a podcast network or are thinking about launching one, you will want to have a talk with her.
🏋️♀️ WHEN I Work Out During The Day
I schedule my workouts from 10-11:30am on foundational weightlifting days and 11-11:30am on support days. I do this for a few reasons.
It breaks ups my work day. I work on my most important work in the beginning of the day which is most often the university. I try to at LEAST two hours dedicated to that everyday. Working out after that helps create a delineation between my work and work I do for my part time job.
Its right before lunch. This allows me to eat more carb dense foods or sugary fruits afterwards without spiking glucose and using it to refuel glycogen stores in my muscles.
Male's testosterone is highest in the morning. Being able to capitalize on that helps move more weight in the gym leading to more muscle growth.
📲 WHERE Can You Find Me On Social Media
On LinkedIn. I don't enjoy consuming social media so I actually deleted all my profiles and focus solely on LinkedIn. Most of the connections I want to make are more professional in nature so it was the logical choice for me. But I only use it on my computer, never on my phone. I live by the mentality of be a creator, not a consumer.
✊ WILL You Take This Call To Action?
In Business Model Generation they have what they call the Business Model Canvas which allows you to quickly sketch out your business model with all the key components.
I highly recommend getting the book, but here is a pretty decent guide to creating one for your business you can do in 20 minutes (or so the title says).
If you have a business idea, then spend some time this week sketching out the business model. Because if you don't how your business will make money, well... then you don't have much of a business.