I’m conflicted: On the one hand, I’m very much in favor of technology disrupting traditional education. On the other hand, what about the value of traditional educational institutions as rite of passage, validation, and cultural catalyst? Can we possible have it both ways?
So many people agree education has to change. Imagine a tablet-based program for early education through high school. Investigate MOOCs. Google disrupt higher education. It seems so obvious. I believe this is part of the future, for sure. I’ve been doing online courses myself, including business plan tutorials for the SBA, several courses for the bplans school of business (with Udemy), and for a new venture not yet launched, Silicon Valley Startup Academy.
But over the weekend somebody asked me what I look for in degrees and such when I am evaluating a person for a job in my business. And the question made me think about it.
- A college degree serves as a rite of passage. It means the degree holder stuck to a program, did the work, dealt with the system, and finished something. I don’t have the same assurance from the self educated.
- That degree is validation. The institution has a stake in it. While it is true, as my dear mother-in-law used to say, that “there are millions of idiots with papers;” I look to the degree as a minimum proof of something.
- The degree can serve as cultural catalyst. In a lot of the better residential campus-based institutions, the degree means this person went from high school to a college campus where he or she was able to integrate into college campus life and life with other young people, as students, for a few years.
All three of these elements are more important to me, as an employer, than the course content. Sure, I do look for some specialized knowledge with a degree for some specialized jobs like finance/accounting or computer code; but for most jobs the course content is far less important than learning how to learn, study, produce output, and get things done.
So here’s the question: can we disrupt education, using technology, without losing the rite of passage, validation, and cultural benefits?
I’m proud that my online video tutorials on business planning are now posted on the community.sba.gov site where they are available to all, and fee, and I do hope useful. Here’s the list. You can take them one at a time — about 5-10 minutes each — in the original order, or pick and choose.
- Introduction and orientation (2:12)
- Planning is modular (1:26) Think of the plan as a collection of connected blocks. Start anywhere. Get going.
- Form follows function (4:45) How big, what format, what’s included, what platform … it all depends on the specific business use of this plan. Most of them stay loosely connected on a network. Only a minority need to be edited, polished, and printed onto paper.
- Planning is management (1:20) Planning should become management and better business, long-term progress towards goals, prioritizing, and focus; but you have to do it. It’s up to you to make your planning work. It’s not really about the plan, per se; it’s about the discipline to use the plan to run the business.
- Planning your strategy (8:04) Strategy is the heart of the plan, which is also the heart of the business. It is made up of a group of three core concepts that can’t be separated: market, identity, and focus. Don’t pull them apart. It’s the interrelationship between them that drives your business.
- Business plan flesh and bones (10:25) I like to think of defining flesh and bones as setting the steps. You have a strategy, you’ve got the heart of your business settled, but you want to set it down into concrete steps you can follow and track.
- Sales forecast (3 videos, 4:51, 3:10, and 9:27) Your sales forecast is the backbone of your business plan. People measure a business and its growth by sales, and your sales forecast sets the standard for expenses, profits and growth. The sales forecast is almost always going to be the first set of numbers you’ll track for plan vs. actual use. This is what you’ll do even if you do no other numbers.
- Dress and grow your plan (12:15) As your company grows, your planning grows. As you grow, if you add people to your team, then you want to bring them into the process, and make sure you’re on the same page. You bring in skills. The business gets more complex as it grows. Cash flow gets more sophisticated. You start to manage the money and administration differently.
- The formal business plan document (3 videos, 5:39, 8:48, 2:26) You don’t necessarily need to have a standard, traditional, formal business plan. Until you really need to show a plan to some outsider who needs, wants, or expects the full formal plan, you can just use your plan-as-you-go plan to reap the benefits and avoid the hassle of the document. However, there are business reasons that force you to produce the traditional plan document. We call these business plan events. The more common business plan events are related to seeking loans or investments. Ironically, the bank loan manager, angel investor, or venture capitalist may not read your plan, but most of them want to know you have one, which means they want it to appear in their inbox or on their desk.
For better or worse, aside from these there are a lot of older tutorials with me talking, and me narrating slides, on YouTube and elsewhere. These were done more recently. They are based on my plan-as-you-go idea for the next generation of business plan, which is the first step in business planning. Planning is about results, lean, agile, flexible, and intended to manage change. It’s the planning, not the plan, that matters. And the plan — what’s going to happen, when, who’s responsible, how much, dates, deadlines, etc. — that matters, not the document.
I hope you find these tutorials useful.