Friday, November 6, 2009

Back to My Future

C’mon, jump in the DeLorean with me. It was 1995 and I was attending the State University of Albany pursuing a bachelor degree in Management.

Of all my courses, Marketing Management had a huge impact on me- it made me question whether or not I was indeed cut out for business. End of Semester Final: dream up a fictitious business and write a thorough business plan using all the learning’s from the semester’s class. The professor encouraged us to think small. A good business plan could spotlight the smallest, mundane product or service as long as the plan was well thought out and focused.

The result: I failed miserably. After weeks of wracking my brain, I came up with the plan to open a coffee shop. I think back and laugh about what the plan must have looked like on the professor’s desk. Did I think about training for all those baristas? Inventory for coffee sleeves? Insurance for employees who were burned frothing milk? This class was obviously lost on an 18 year old who was unsure of how these skills applied to real business.

Back to My Future. It’s now 2009. My husband received a fantastic job offer which required us to relocate. At the time, I was at a good corporation, in a so-so position and talks of restructuring surfaced. With a little luck I managed to end employment on a Friday, (with a generous severance package), and move my entire family on Monday to our new city.

In my new life I was unemployed and adjusting to becoming a stay at home mom. I had great ties to a few displaced corporate employees who were starting their own businesses. After some pro-bono consulting for a few months things just started to fall into place.

I didn’t expect to become a marketing consultant. I came about it quite organically. Could I have found the best of both worlds? We had enrolled our daughter in preschool for a few days a week. I already had one interested client who was reviewing her cash flow to see if she could bring me on board. I also had a very supportive husband who knew I would be happiest if I could find some way to channel my need for intellectual stimulation better than playing the coupon game at the local supermarket.

This time I had 10+ years of experience under my belt. I knew what a plan looked like. Heck, I had helped a friend write one which garnered a substantial loan from her bank. I had DONE business- not just here in the U.S., but I had also had the opportunity to travel abroad and work with clients and vendors in the UK, Netherlands, France and Germany. I was a business woman.

Within one month from deciding on my new venture I started an LLC, opened a bank account, wrote a proposal for my first client and started my very own business plan. Maybe it was a little backwards. Aren’t you supposed to write a business plan first? With one client eager to do business, I had to act quickly and skip the normal order of things.

I’m in the process now of writing that draft business plan. I know it will take time and that even when I complete it- that it will evolve. Looking back now, however, I wish I could Marty McFly back to SUNY Albany and take that Marketing Management class all over again. I would pour myself a venti skim latte and drink in every word of advice on how to make this plan a masterpiece of focused intent.

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