This is the fourth in a series of 5 on writing business plans.
Journeys do not always go as planned. It is about taking one step at a time. Solomon speaks to this when he wrote, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NLT). Entrepreneurs are often praised as visionaries. But vision alone is not enough to ensure success.
Susan Houghton and Mark Simon researched the lives and work of entrepreneurs. They found that in evaluating new opportunities entrepreneurs tend to overestimate demand, underestimate competition, and misjudge the need for more assets to make an opportunity a success. In addition, entrepreneurs assessing opportunities tend to be overconfident about their knowledge, draw big conclusions from small samples, become overly focused on the future, and underestimate risk because they believe they can control events. Entrepreneurs are prone to jump quickly into the market. But this focus on the future, while often praised as the epitome of entrepreneurial risk taking, leads many to neglect managerial lessons from the past .
Strength in Weakness
A business plan will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of establishing a business, as well as your personal strengths and weaknesses. We need not worry about our strengths; it is our weaknesses we need to pay attention to and be concerned with, because Satan rarely attacks our strengths. So it is our weaknesses that may cause the endeavor to fail. In order to understand what you are doing, you first have to understand yourself. The business plan enables that understanding.
Personally, I graduated with a degree in marketing. Five of the first six businesses I started failed. Four failed financially and one failed spiritually. All six were started without a written business plan. I began to see one of my weak points was my handling of the numbers. My wife graduated with a degree in finance, and she is good with numbers. When I brought her into our businesses, she forced me to write business plans, and she took over the finances. Truly we work together like a hand in a glove, which by God’s grace, has led to our four most recent businesses all being mild successes. But many of us do not have a partner who balances our weaknesses. Most of us are not going to be able to work in every area of the business, not to mention work well in every area. Therefore, we need to recruit to our weaknesses. That is why it is wise to have consultants or coaches whose strengths balance our weaknesses.
Strength in Numbers
Sometimes OPEN workers say, “I don’t know how to do this section of the business plan.” That is okay. Leave that section blank and complete the sections that you can. For the blank areas there are places you can go for help, like OPEN USA , which, for a nominal fee, will link you with B4T consultants who will work with you to fill in the blanks. For example, if you are not creative, then find a consultant who can assist you with advertising. If you struggle with numbers, find a consultant with an accounting background. Each consultant can assist in developing that part of the business plan in which they have greater expertise.
An added bonus of using experienced businesspeople back home as consultants is that if you have problems after you start the business, these same consultants are usually very willing to get involved again. If you share your business plan with businesspeople back home and ask them to be a part of it, they get excited! Often when you need start-up money, these same consultants are willing to loan you the money. As they have gotten to know you and as they were involved in shaping the plan with you, it gives them a sense of co-ownership.
When launching a new idea, entrepreneurs will lean toward being risk takers. But “going for it” may not be enough to ensure success. Be realistic, expect competition, and do not pin your hopes on the product or service alone; develop the other assets needed for success. Since many risks associated with a pioneering opportunity are beyond your control, it is important to involve businesspeople back home who can help keep you on the straight and narrow. There are times where we are forced to improvise, but a wise man plans ahead and surrounds himself with many counselors (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6).
Strength in Flexibility
Business success is less a function of grandiose predictions than it is a result of being able to respond wisely and rapidly as changes occur. Each aspect of the business plan needs to be reviewed by someone with knowledge in that area. A marketing person should critique your marketing strategy and an accountant your break-even analysis. The ministry side of things should be reviewed by a missionary familiar with the area. Planning is the difference between being bold and merely rash. Getting input from experienced businesspeople back home adds checks and balances to your planning.
Who may you encourage back home, to become involved in what God has you doing?
Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success (Proverbs 15:22).
If you don’t have a business plan and are a little overwhelmed by the prospect of completing one from scratch, there is help. Both the OPEN Network (firstname.lastname@example.org) and IBEC (Robert.Bush@ibecventures.com) have coaches who understand the B4T world and who will assist you.
 Mark Simon and Susan M. Houghton, “The Relationship among Biases, Misperceptions, and the Introduction of Pioneering Products: Examining Differences in Venture Decision Contexts,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 27, no. 2 (December 2002): 105–24.
 OPEN USA offers a variety of services that train and equip, coach and mentor B4Ters and the churches who send B4Ters. For more information see openusa.net.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.