You have an idea. You believe it is a good idea and you want to convert it into a reality. You believe and want your idea to become a project, an initiative or a business.
Before you get out your credit card or talk to anyone. Prior to buying a piece of project management software or a business plan building package, spend some time with a legal pad getting all your thoughts down on paper. Before you tell your friend at the bar. Before you call your banker or look for angel investors. You need to do a brain-dump. Get all the thoughts and emotions which woke you up in the middle of the night ala Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire.
Once you get all your thoughts dumped out. Begin to boil them down into these four components.
1. Clarify As Much As Possible
Start with a clear outcome statement. Continuously force yourself to keep the end in mind. Clarity is power. The more clearly you can define what you want to accomplish, the more powerful your plan becomes. In the past, I have had many people want to discuss an idea for a business, project or initiative with me. I usually ask them to e-mail it over. In the old days of the 90’s, I would ask them to fax it to me. If they told me they didn’t have it down on paper or “well, it’s complicated”, I knew they did not have much clarity on what they were thinking of doing. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. The more simple and clear you can make it, the more powerful your idea becomes.
2. Have Benchmarks
You need mile markers in your plan. These let you know significant points along your journey. They let you know how successful or non-succcessful your idea is. It is fine to miss benchmarks as long as you are not missing them by wide margins, huge time frames or with lots of consistency. Be very realistic when you formulate and set your benchmarks, get lots of feedback before setting them in stone. There is nothing as empowering as hitting your milestones, or as dis-empowering as missing them.
3. Be Expandable
You don’t need a 25 year plan. Most futurists will tell you we don’t know what will happen in just 5 years the way ideas are multiplying. Don’t go for the whole enchalada on the first draft of your plan. Build it in such a way it can be expanded if it is more successful than you thought. If it is 100x better than you could have hoped for, you will be ahead of the game because you thought about how and when to expand, but you won’t have to cut back in case you miss your benchmarks.
This has to be YOUR plan. Perhaps the most important component of putting a plan together. You will not do the first three parts of this unless you feel you own it. This must be your plan, heart, soul and mind. You have to invest yourself into it before you invest one minute or one dollar. If you decide to own it at the beginning, you will own it in the middle and the end. Through good times and bad times. You will own the failures as well as the successes. Don’t be closed off, get plenty of qualified feedback from people who can help you. Don’t get feedback from friends and family. Although they mean well, they typically like you just the way you are and where you are. Make sure you get feedback from people who have either done what you want to do or have a track record of advising or launching successful projects or businesses.
Now you are in a position to do finer points of your plan if you need to explain it for additional feedback, need to seek financing or approach someone as a potential partner. If you do this process, you will probably have your plan on one piece of paper, you will be more prepared and appear smarter and more credible than anyone else they have talked to who started with an idea. Beware of people who want to complicate your plan!