Writing a business plan is most people’s idea of hell …. I actually really love it!
It can be a very creative process, mapping out the journey ahead in a visual way, imagining what you want to do, and then to check on a regular basis if you are still on track.
Here is my collection of business planning books that have really helped me over the years to help design and crafts businesses in a creative way to develop and even stretch their big ideas, to set great goals through a variety of techniques, but most importantly to get them into action and turn their ideas into reality.
These books go from ‘the big picture’ thinking to planning ‘in detail’.
All 5 books are available through our affiliate relationship with Amazon.
Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Ives Pigneur
You should read this book to identify the big building blocks that make up your business and create a visual business plan that shows how they connect with each other.
It really helped me and some of my clients to become more playful around very strategic decision making, especially when you are developing a new business, product or service.
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers is a great book to start brainstorming different business models or looking at different income streams.
Great for quick future scenarios thinking in a group – for your own design or crafts business, but potentially also when working with clients who want to develop a new product or service.
It helped me to understand what business models actually are, and how the web and internet are really changing the way we do business and how we make money. The ideas in this book where the starting point to develop and test the business model and new income streams for The Design Trust.
In a way this book wants any business to be more like a design business: “Business people don’t just need to understand designers better; they need to become designers,” – Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman School of Management.
It breaks down different aspects of your business, and then shows you how interconnected these segments need to be to make the overall business work successfully.
It really makes rather abstract and strategic thinking a lot more fun!
Business Model Generation is a great book for creative entrepreneurs as it very visual and beautifully designed by London based designer Alan Smith of The Movement.
The ideas around Business Model Generation were co-created through crowd sourcing, with contributions of more than 200 people. You can find some great presentations online explaining the ideas behind the Business Model Generation in a very visual and quick way.
There are lots of creative and innovative case studies in the book, incl. Nintendo wii, Swatch watches, Skype, Amazon.
Firstly it takes you through the 9 building blocks of the Business Model Canvas:
- who are your customers?
- what are your key activities?
- what value do you add?
- what communication and sales channels do you use?
- what relationship do you want with your customers?
- what revenue streams are you creating?
- what resources have you got?
- what key partnerships have you got?
- what do you spend your money on?
It then describes various techniques and tools from the world of design that can help to describe, discuss and design a better businesses of any type: customer insights, ideation, visual thinking, prototyping, story telling and scenario building. Just a pictorial reminder of these different creative techniques make it valuable for most design businesses to read it.
There is a great in depth chapter about the SWOT analysis (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). SWOT can be a great tool to evaluate your internal and external forces, but most don’t go deep enough. This book asks some really great questions to help you get deeper into your SWOT. Very useful indeed to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Finally it goes through the process of evaluating with existing and new techniques your different business models. It explains how the Business Model Canvas can be turned into a more formal business plan.
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers doesn’t give any answers, but asks the really big questions for you, and gives a step-by-step process to identify your business models.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
This book is one of the most useful and popular self-development books in the world. In fact this is not a business planning book at all, but it uses some great tools for creating your life vision or purpose, that are extremely useful in creative business planning too. Especially as so many design and crafts businesses are sole traders or freelancers (were you are your business) this self-development book can be used to plan your business.
I did found the title of the book a bit off putting to be honest, and it didn’t sound that relevant to me when I read this book for the first time nearly 10 years ago. However, it really touched me on a deep level on questioning what my purpose and values were in my life and work, what I was really passionate about, and what I really wanted to do with my career and work. I have re-read and re-used parts of the book again over the years, just as a reminder, both for myself but also for business clients.
I recommend The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People strongly if you are looking for the ‘big picture’, need help with time management or goal setting, want to identify what makes you really tick, or if you are stuck or feel lost in a job or career that you don’t enjoy. This book is about big and long term thinking.
The 7 Habits are:
- Be proactive: this is about taking the initiative to make choices based on your values and principles, as well as taking responsibility for your behaviour rather than your mood or circumstances.
- Begin with the end in mind: create a clear purpose or mission statement to guide you on a day to day basis.
- Put first things first: Focus on things that matter most, regardless of them being urgent or not.
- Think win-win: This habit is about seeking mutual benefit for all parties, encouraging conflict resolution, and thinking in terms of abundance in opportunities, wealth and resources.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood: When others feel listened to, valued and affirmed, then true communication and relationship building can take place.
- Synergise: is about creating something bigger than 1 + 1.
- Sharpen the saw: This habit is about taking the time to renew all aspects of ourselves: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual to avoid burnout.
I have used this book many times with my business clients, especially when working on:
- Developing a long term vision or mission statement through the 80th birthday exercise. See another blog post: What is your vision?
- Time management: Anything in your inbox or on your to do list is either urgent or non urgent, important or non important. So you get 4 possibilities: urgent & non important, urgent & important, non urgent & important, non urgent & non important. Covey’s ideas is to set time aside to work on the non urgent & important quadrant (often things to do with systems or the foundations of your business or life), because if you work on this more ‘strategic to do list’ regularly many things on it will become less urgent.
- Sharpen the saw: look at all aspects of your life and spend time on activities that give you energy, with people that support you. Many high achieving creatives or entrepreneurs can feel lonely and stressed. Spending some time to rejuvenate are essential to continue to be creative and fulfilled.
The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam
You should read this book if you are a creative sole trader or freelancer who wants to be guided through the business planning process to a really high quality, visual way of creating your unique business plan. This book is published to such high standards that it feels at times more like a museum catalogue than a business book.
The Creative Entrepreneur: A Diy Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real is also a great book if you are struggling with the idea that you actually can make money from something that you are passionate about and really good at.
Or if you know what you want to do, but are self-sabotaging your route to success.
Lisa is a visual artist, as well as a business & marketing strategist, and this book is full of very creative examples of all the different planning tools she uses in her training workshops. Nearly every page has examples with full colour images. Some really stunning visual and imaginary plans and images in here!
The Creative Entrepreneur is a great starting point if the ‘traditional formal written plan’ doesn’t work for you. The exercises and plans created in this book can’t really be shared with the average bank to get you a loan, but they will really help you to identify what you want to do and how to make it happen.
Lisa works a lot with visual journaling whereby you gather ideas and concepts through doodling or images or just a couple of words. I like this idea of business planning as a journey, being able to see your progress over time, getting more and more clear about what you really are about and want to do. This kind of circular movement (with getting more and more clarity and focus) reflects much more how business planning really is in practice then this idea that you would flash a good business plan out in a week. It might take you a while before you really know what your business plan is.
The Creative Entrepreneur main concept is focused around the idea of a mandala and 4 pathways that need to be balanced:
- Heart & Meaning looks at your passions and dreams, creating a purposeful business;
- Gifts & Flow looks at your unique talents that contribute to ‘flow’;
- Value & Profitability looks at creating a customer-centric business, and how to create and deliver value that people will pay for;
- Tools & Skills looks at developing your business and leadership capabilities to achieve the results you want in the first three pathways.
If you know what you want to do, but still struggle with worries or ‘thinking too much’, then there is a really useful chapter in this book about ‘Mastering the four modes of functioning: sensing, thinking, feeling, acting’. These 4 modalities have a direct impact (constructively or destructively) on our mood, thoughts, energy and outcomes, which will affect your results, and ultimately if you are successful or not.
It gives some really great creative examples about how to tackle your fears, procrastination, pessimism, negative self-talk, over-analysing, over-optimism, lack of confidence or self-esteem (to name just a few!).
The Creative Entrepreneur: A Diy Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real also shows the strategic tools of the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and setting SMART objectives – but does this in a uniquely visual and creative way. Really great to be able to see other creatives visual examples.
The last chapter in The Creative Entrepreneur is about ‘The Essentials of Promotion’, which shows again some stunning examples of branding, business cards and promotional material.
I hope this book doesn’t bamboozle you with lovely inspiring images of other people’s careers and businesses or scare you that your visuals wouldn’t be up to scratch to the standards in this book. It really should give you the courage to turn your vague ideas into images and then into a highly visual plan, which can be highly productive and insightful.
The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee
You should read this book if you want a step-by-step guide to creating a formal business plan, but starting from a more visionary and imaginary way (e.g. use your right brain!).
The Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success really goes deep into each aspect of running a business, and each aspect of a formal business plan. It includes the different ‘formal’ business plan elements (executive summary, vision and values, competitor analysis, finance, marketing, management and personnel, operations and action plan) and works with a variety of creative exercises to turn your ideas into a business plan.
What is really great about The Right-Brain Business Plan is that after doing the creative exercises and tools, it is only a very small step to actually create a business plan that any bank manager would be happy to consider.
The book shows a wide variety of creative exercises (incl. visual, interviews, story telling, collage) and examples, with great success stories that seem very achievable for most freelancers or sole traders. At the end of each chapter there is a very useful recap of activities and a check list of what you just learnt.
There is a great chapter in this book about creating a support network so that you don’t have to do it alone. As the rest in the book, this chapter really covers a wide range of solutions: creating your ‘helping-hands-wish-list’, creating your job role and job description, who to hire and what to outsource, getting a mentor or coach, forming strategic alliances and partnerships, assembling a board of advisers, finding an accountability buddy.
The last chapter in the book gives great practical tips and tools to turn your goals into reality, how to keep the momentum going, and how to keep your business plan alive on a daily basis.
Some of the wording in the book (‘Managing the moola’ instead of money) and the style of the hand-made illustrations might put some people off.
Craft.inc Business Planner by Meg Mateo Ilasco
You should read – and especially use – this book if you are a geeky crafts person that gets excited about to do lists, filling in templates and is passionate about check lists …
That’s me! As an ex-graphic designer and business adviser I do have to say that I really love this beautifully created planner.
Lots of space to put in your own notes, sketch out your ideas, draft your budgets. It really does make you feel organised and in control (if you are that kind of a person!) with everything together in a well designed folder.
Craft Inc. Business Planner really is a great DOING book that takes you through all the nitty gritty detail of selling your crafts. There are separate folders for: business basics, product line, marketing, wholesale sales, trade shows, retail shows, extra worksheets and contacts & resources.
There are lots of quotes of designer makers and experts such as Grace Bonney, Editor of Design*Sponge. There are great infographics (such as a press kit checklist) and well-designed planning tools.
This book is very much aimed a the American crafts market, so certain parts are less relevant such as the financial and legal side of running a business. However, if you are looking at approaching the American market, you might find it useful to have the US terminology at hand.
What are you favourite business planning books? Have you read or used any of the books above? Comment below!