So, business link is dead.

I used them a couple of times. I attended a workshop on business planning. And, after that I had some 1-1 business advice with an adviser. Although, I had to tell a fib about having done a business plan in order to get the 1-1 advice. You see, the whole concept of business planning has never quite sat right with me. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t understand how people could somehow forecast who would buy their goods or services and in what quantities, and I simply had no idea how to fathom market information (how do you get your competitors to tell you what they charge?). So I created a business plan for selling ice cream, just to prove to myself that I could do it. It looked good too, a Pashley bike, close proximity to the river, an ice cream seller happy to supply. The sums added up and I was tempted, until someone told me about the local ice cream mafia, which is another story. But the main problem was that it wasn’t my business.

I knew I had a bag of skills that could be useful to people and I knew I didn’t want to work in an organisation. I was qualified as a guidance worker and trainer. I had a good network. But I didn’t have a plan.

So I spoke to others who had set up consultancies and small businesses, freelancers, owners of micro businesses. One, Tom Barwood from Likeminds learning said his business plan was simple; Ready, Aim, Fire. This was enough for me.

I set out my stall and put on it all the things I was good at and passionate about. This ended up being corporate social responsibility, team building, facilitation and training, and engagement with communities. It may have seemed like a scattergun approach but it gave me a broad spectrum of experience. Gradually over the 2 years I experienced a distillation of my core values. I have worked on successful CSR projects, and innovation in education projects, and I have stumbled across opportunities that I could never have planned for. I am now a creative agent for creative partnerships, and have been commissioned to research into alternative forms of education. These are things I didn’t know existed when I set out, but they are attuned with my passions and talents. The more of these opportunities I find the more I know that I am on the right path.

So would a business plan have helped me? I don’t think so. I think it would have crushed my emergent ideas. It would certainly have steered me away from the opportunities I found. I am approaching my 3rd year in business now and it feels that now is the time to plan, to sketch out a map, because I know the terrain, and I have tested my stamina and equipment. For some new businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers, portfolio workers I think a compass is more valuable than the sat nav.