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Anybody need a business plan?

Marketplace Staff May 21, 2007

Anybody need a business plan?

Marketplace Staff May 21, 2007


KAI RYSSDAL: It has been quite a run for mergers and acquisitions lately. But no matter how big or small the deal, conventional wisdom is you’ve got to have a business plan. Au contraire, says commentator and aspiring entrepreneur Rob Long.

ROB LONG: There are two kinds of people in this world. The first kind: entrepreneurs. Dreamers who will bootstrap a company from nothing in the hopes of a distant payday.

And the second . . . well, everybody else — people who want to get paid. Regularly and on time. Now, the trouble begins when the second group starts working for the first group.

See, along with any pitch to the bankrollers, you need a business plan. Which is actually a document with a lot of financial stuff, and business stuff and competitive strategy stuff that I, frankly — as someone who has written and produced television for 17 years — don’t get.

My brother does, though. He’s got an MBA, he breathes this stuff in his sleep. So I, entrepreneur, ask him, consultant, if he’ll write up a business plan. Sure, he says.

And then I say, “Oh, and, you know, I understand this is a big deal, I’d really like to pay for your time.” You know, thinking, of course, that what he’d is say “No, no, no, no, no,” or something.

But he doesn’t. He says: “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll work out some kind of hourly rate and invoice you.”

Now one thing about entrepreneurs, though, is that we don’t wait. So while my brother was writing the business plan, my partner and I are meeting with potential investors.

None of them wanted to see a business plan. In fact, we’re sitting in the conference room of one of the biggest, most powerful venture capital firms in Silicon Valley and the moment the words “business plan” come out of my partner’s mouth, their senior guy shuts him down.

“I hate business plans,” he says. “The minute you write one, it’s outdated. What I like are flexible, nimble entrepreneurs with a vision.”

Now a week later, my brother sends me the business plan. And an invoice. The business plan looks sharp and professional and totally convincing, and the invoice . . . is on my desk, under a pile of magazines.

Because there are two kinds of people in this world: the people who like to get paid, and the entrepreneurs who will take 180 days to pay them.

RYSSDAL: Rob Long is a commentator on KCRW here in Los Angeles.

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