Startup. Four. The Greatest Story I Ever Told.
Creating a business plan is the process writing down every thing you hope to accomplish someday, why you are going to do it, and how you are going to do it. And all of this with the hopes of acquaintances and strangers reading it. And hopefully everything you hope to accomplish someday is interesting enough for them to write you a check so that you can make it happen.
It's kind of funny, when I was in college I spent untold hours writing untold numbers of double-spaced pages about things that happened in the past while providing a convincing argument of why they happened the way they did, with the goal of getting a piece of paper to hang on the wall (oh, I finally found it. It was underneath the printer. Oh! Lizz's is here too!). Now I'm spending untold hours writing untold number of single space pages about things that are going to happen in the future while providing a convincing argument of how we are going to get to that future (The font you are reading this in is "Futura," as is the font of the business plan. Mind Games).
Dick Cantwell, founder of Elysian Brewing Company (he left after they were purchased by ABI) and current Quality Ambassador of The Brewers Association describes a business plan as "Speculative Non-Fiction" and "It is a creative work, to be sure, and it needs to be gripping and entertaining, evocative and inviting, but it also needs to display seriousness and understanding, to engage the analytical and not just the narrative reader." In this way, writing a business plan is like conveying the greatest story I ever told. Speculative non-fiction might as well be fiction. It hasn't happened yet, no one knows if it ever will happen. It's just a well put together idea. However, if this idea is not put on paper in detail, it is likely that it will never happen. And it is certainly not just a tool to raise capital for startup. The deeper Lizz and I get in to writing this document, the more we realize that it is as much for us as it is for potential investors.
When we formed Blue Tape Brewing LLC, it's not that we thought the next steps were going to be easy or that we could glaze over them, but at that time I feel like we both thought all of the answers were already inside of us. I remember Lizz saying that we could just sit down and finish our business plan in a day. Yeah, not so much. Here we are 6 months after our company was formed and we are still writing this thing. But by no means is that a bad thing. A lot of people argue that college isn't so much about the content you are learning, but the process of learning itself. You teach yourself to find the answers no matter what. That and the partying and drinking and shitty diet. I think that's more what writing this thing is about. It's about teaching ourselves the process of running a business. We are learning this new process of how to start working for ourselves. No one is telling us what to do, we are just figuring out how to do it.
Analyzing every detail over and over again is interesting when the details are only concepts of physical constructs. We are writing this whole thing without even knowing exactly what type of space we are going to be in. There is an idea of what we want our tables and chairs to look like, but until we have space, until we have those tables and chairs, who knows if they are actually what we imagined. So we have this perfect idea of how everything is going to be. But we can't be sure if that's perfect until it actually happens. The beer is good now when we brew it on the small scale, but how will it be when we are making it in batches that are 10 times the size they are now. How will we address these potential problems? By writing one hell of an awesome business plan. We explore every contingency from every direction right now, while it's still just an idea. Essentially, we know everything about what we are going to do before we even do it. That is what this process is about. Maybe the chairs aren't perfect. We have a backup plan. Maybe the beer doesn't taste the way it did when it was brewed in our apartment. We know someone who can help us fix that.
Two weeks ago, I hit some serious writer's block on this piece of Speculative Non-Fiction that is a business plan. Couldn't think of anything else to write although I had sections that were entirely blank. Didn't feel like researching anything else. It felt like finishing it was going to be impossible. So I started running the numbers instead, and I found myself strangely encouraged by what was in front of me. And then I brewed some beer and was reminded why we are writing this thing to begin with. To do what we love for the rest of our lives. This is a difficult task, but it's also a useful one. Without it, there will never be any of our own beer.
I asked Lizz a while ago "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" She hated that. That quotation makes it seem like you need luck to make things like this happen. But it's not luck, it's unbridled passion. We know we are going to succeed. And when we do, it is because we spent the time, we did the research, we did the leg work, and we did it all ourselves.