I Retired and Then….

Structuring a Business Plan (BP) measured a “9” for me on the anxiety scale,  or a “Scared Stiff” rating.  When I found online business plan resources, my emotional thermometer dipped to “3” or a “You can do this, no problem” score.  So I say thank you to all the people who opened up their online hearts and shared their logic with me. I will tell you what I did. You can tell me what I should have done.

A plan is required for several first steps into business development.  One needs a plan for several applications. Big customers demand BPs and even pay Dun and Bradstreet to measure your plan. The plan clarifies thinking and planning. The thinking process and perhaps the most common reason a BP is considered the portal to financing.  I have read that a BP should be the first thing you do. I disagree, a whole lot of thinking and planning precede creation of a BP. The planning needed before business creation requires understanding oneself and one’s resources.

Belew and Elad wrote Starting an Online Business for Dummies. They state that a plan gives you a clear vision of a well-defined goal. Great ideas are common but the plan to transition this into a viable product is not so common. A business plan provides a long-term action plan for clearly defined goals. Over the exciting years of initial creation, problem solving and many changes  will not bury the original thoughts of the business plan. A BP tells how you will operate the business for three to five years.  It describes the foundation and gives tools for measuring growth and development.  The act of writing reveals your brilliance. Writing erases blurred thoughts.

I will share our process with you. The thinking and planning began long before the business plan was outlined. Personal clarity came first. I needed to know who I was and why I wanted a business. There were many changes in our lives. This one we called “retirement”. Other “needy periods” in life were called school, marriage, kids, divorce, school, second marriage, ill husband, and career.  This change would cover the last phase of our work lives. We brought the best and the worst working skills with us. Retirement.     

My career was fulfilling even though difficult and a political mess. I spent my life teaching adults how to manage the next stage of their careers.I loved learning about tools that connect people. Business allowed me to continuing learning after obtaining a PhD. Service to the community, research and writing are excellent learning tools.My main career goals did not change, I wanted to help people who were afraid of the online mercantile world. I thought this was a good idea. There was temporary support from family and friends . I knew the support was brief because when I discussed my idea their eyes dropped from mine. They spoke softly.  Awkward. “Sounds interesting, “ was the common reply. This was a good clue I needed to understand my vision better.

The mixed support did not scare me. They motivated me to check my facts before making decisions. I felt fear for other reasons.I didn’t know why I felt so scared but as I bumbled through my psyche there were a few clues.  I didn’t examine other people’s views of my decisions until I was sure my vision could withstand their rejection. Not an easy task.

  1. We are retired. There are no dimes to spare. We considered a business for four years. We needed a lifestyle and the money to support it. As per my usual approach to life, there was little style in our lives but what we had was all ours. A business could either save us from poverty during our old old age, or drain the pennies from our survival plan. Notice, I didn’t say bank account. The account was too small to touch.  I don’t mind dying early but the thought of living on Top Ramen and dishonest health care providers was frightening. We needed funds to remain self-sufficient. I refuse to be a burden on our younger generations. They think differently so I would just irritate them more than I already have.
  2. We tried the retirement lifestyle for four years. I didn’t like it. I loved the travel but seeing the world costs. It is a real drain on bank accounts. I loved home more and air terminals. I like being in charge of my own schedule, doing hobbies, and visiting people (I really love to listen to people’s stories). Most of all I missed feeling busy and useful, meeting deadlines, and accomplishment.    and learning from other busy “winners”. Retirement took me from a career peak to the foot of the slippery survival mountain.

Conversation was painful. I hated hearing, “You don’t look that old”. “ Don’t worry about this project, I will find someone else to do it.” People talked about hobby satisfaction. They projected their dreams on to me and the match did not fit. They also stopped talking about their career dreams because they thought I would not be interested.  There were those that compared retirement to old, broken, and incapable. I am old but still scrappy. Five years into retirement, I created a demanding job.

  1. I hate failure. My strength and my curse. Most of my work life was conducted with a habit of fact gathering, ordering ideas, outlining every possible solution, and coming to a decision based on the most known negative consequences with the fewest problematic risks. I was a lateral thinker.  This is often called “creative” in today’s business world. I would argue that point. This is just a logical tool. One of my favorites for staying out of trouble.

The habit avoided problems as I circled success. Sometimes the circling was called “disorganized”. NOT SO! I shout. I usually juggle more issues than colleagues. I am organized. Communication is my issue.

Retirement was defined as too few issues to juggle. Life became a simple linear thinking challenge.  Plan enough to do before making dinner.  Boring. Children and animals  left home, so there was no one to delegate around the house.

I tried gardening because I like nurturing new things.  My joints complained about my treatment of their condition. “Listen, we retired too, don’t beat us to death.” I really needed to do something else.

My husband complained he was gaining weight because I spent so much time inventing desserts. “Please let me diet” he begged. I tried giving him tasks since he wanted to exercise, but that didn’t work either. He had his own ideas. Imagine that. If you can’t turn your spouse into an employee, what else can you do? The decision was clear. I needed to go into business.  I didn’t know what kind of business, I hoped the world waited for the skills I perfected over the years.  I read entrepreneur books and journals. Nothing seemed interesting. It seemed that most ideas were based on the past and not on new thinking. I wanted to invent something new. My husband and I discussed what he wanted as well.

The challenge became how to blend our educations with our preferences, our future with our past, or our interests with our capabilities.  Our educations included psychology, business, art, organization, education, research, health care and healthcare systems.  We preferred working together and working hard. No problem so far.  Our futures would most likely include disabilities and slowing of mental processes. Our capabilities include, making friends, learning new things, and hard work.  We decided we needed to form the business quickly and prepare a second generation of business leaders to take over when we are no longer able to serve.

We decided to create a new type of not for profit organization. The business included my beliefs in immersive and simulation education, social support, mentoring, global experts and the application of newly learned principles to a realistic experience.  The purpose is the help artisans make money selling their hand crafted items. More thinking, locating international partners, and we were ready to create a plan. This meant a lot of research and executive committee meetings.

The business plan calls for the application of seven to eight sections of about 5 paragraphs each.  The writing does not take as long as the thinking and research process. I like learning and the business plan gives lots of opportunities.

The Business Plan is a foundation for  a document that is presented to the board yearly describing the past year’s progress and the plan for the New Year. The sections are named as follows:

Executive Summary: This is a one page document written last and placed at the beginning of the completed business plan.

Business or Product Description: Five paragraphs is not very much space for a detailed description of a business and its products or services.  The vision statement, the mission statement, values, and philosophy can all be seen here.

Market Analysis: This section describes the target market.  One needs an understanding of the global market and the potential customers.  A summary of market research that supports your analysis helps you with next year’s analysis. Lots of change occurs during the first year so it is helpful to know what the original thought was before starting business.

Competitive Analysis: Who else is there who offers the same services?  20 years ago, this was limited to town and county, but now the competition is global. We need to understand how business and countries operate. Describe each competitor thoroughly along with their strengths and weaknesses. What businesses are similar if not the identical to your idea? Where do you expect to find competition?  This is a nice section to expand with a thorough analysis of personal strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and challenges and how your characteristics will supersede those of competitors.  A SWOT analysis and feasibility study helps. Some organizations prefer a SOAR test. The tools focuses on an organization’s current strengths and vision of the future for developing its strategic goals.  Each year the tools are compared to the most recent data. The section grows as better understanding of each competitor expands.

Management Team: Describe each executive team member. Emphasize the strength individuals who lead the daily operations.  Include summaries of their experience, education, military and religious experiences. Continuing education, certifications, awards and accomplishments should be included. Each person’s full resume should be attached in the appendix.

Operations: Strategies for the day to day marketing and operations are detailed. How will overall business strategies be integrated in the day to day management of operations?  How do you want to diagnose and solve problems, will the organization work as a team, groups, hierarchy,  or overcome hurdles that may have nothing to do with the business but hamper the culture? Every organization has cultural taboos, unwritten laws and illogical procedures. What will be done to improve organizational practices?

Financials: Again the organization’s philosophy will dictate practices in this area. For profit and not for profit organizations construct their predictions very differently. Profit and loss statements mean different things to a variety of CEOs.  A P&L statement shows the income of a business and reveals the gross income of a business which is a result of subtracting all the expenses in a business. The statement includes projected profits and expenses.  Projecting expenses for the first year of the business can be a practical measure of how far your budget will stretch. New businesses find monthly form organization can prevent spending too much and planning for the unexpected.  The statement can reflect seasonal differences. There is a downside to projecting dreams and wishes in this planning form. Then again a pessimistic summary of the past and future can also hamper progress. Read about the influences of this section on team behavior.

Appendix: Copies of all the documents that go in the Corporation book go here. Legal documents such as patents, loans, employee documents, contracts, state and federal certificates are kept in this file.

There are lots of online resources for finding how to write this business plan. Templates can be altered to fit your needs. Also there are businesses and books that specialize in helping people write the first of hopefully many yearly business plans.

The plan becomes reference material for the future. Many grants demand the opportunity to read your latest plan. BPs make decision-making tools. Expansion, change of direction, hiring, considering a loan all need an updated review of the tool. The timeline, philosophy and goals will enable to compare the issues at hand with the original plan and view of the future.

Problems always surface and a quick look at the plan will help you minimize frustration and reframe your vision of the issues.  The plan will also help you with hiring. When and who needs to be added to the executive team, the staff. Proof of a plan for growth and development is important for hiring executives and recruiting advisors as well as a board of directors.  Don’t forget to keep an eye single to your original purpose.

The business plan keeps a business on track and is worth the anxiety created during the planning process.


What worried you the most when creating your business plan?