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Why My First Business Succeeded (Part II - Writing The Business Plan)



With my favorite markers in hand, I stood at my easel, ready to write my business plan. It had to be just right, so my parents would accept my proposal and buy all of the groceries for my restaurant.

The problem was that I was a 6-year-old hell-bent on being an entrepreneur. I wasn't even sure what a business plan was or what the flaws could be. [For a nostalgic trek back to the glory days of childhood imagination and a recap on how I made it to the business plan stage, see my last (wildly exciting and adorable) entry, "Why My First Business Succeeded (Part I - Starting Out)"]

"When [investors] see [a business plan] with spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, they immediately wonder what else is wrong with the business," says Andrew Clarke, the CEO of Ground Floor Partners, a business consulting firm that helps early-stage, small and middle-market businesses. "But since there's no shortage of people looking for capital, they don't wonder for long--they just move on to the next plan."

My business plan didn't have any "errors." In fact, my business plan didn't even have words. My business plan was actually just a stick-figure doodle of myself holding fistfuls of cash and smiling. I gave it to my mother to think over.

"Nothing peeves investors more than inconsistent margins, missing page numbers, charts without labels or with incorrect units, tables without headings, technical terminology without definitions or a missing table of contents," Clarke adds.

My business plan might have been missing a few key components upon reflection, seeing as, at the time, I thought margins were a substitute for butter that I could eat off of a table of contents.

Clearly, my business plan was a failure. I did everything wrong. Learn from my mistakes.

But because my investors were also my parents (and it would've been a long weekend if they hadn't approved), they gave me the thumbs up and wanted a name for the restaurant.

So I sat in my "thinking tree" and wrote it off as a business expense. Or I would have anyway, if anybody told me I was supposed to at the time. Let's say I wrote it off as..."Saturday."

But even after a bag of Goldfish crackers and a day of tree-climbing, I didn't have what I wanted. I still needed a name for this restaurant extravaganza.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: No, that is not me in the picture. There is no way that I was this clean and professional at 6. I was the kid in the class who somehow got ice cream on his forehead during snack time. Also, I didn't wear my first suit until junior high. I think I was wearing bright orange shorts and a shark hat when I sat in my "thinking tree." However, this kid (with his sly confidence and charming haircut) stands as a good metaphor for how seriously I took my restaurant idea. In first grade, I really was an entrepreneur. Maybe not in my wardrobe, but certainly in my attitude and work ethic. I did have a briefcase though. I filled it with candy and action figures.

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