Can't I just wing it? Why business plans matter for your success.
So you want to start an arts organization. Whether you have dreams of on a stage or around a campfire, bringing together Nova Scotia’s best step dancers, or teaching students how to make sense of a trombone – once you decide to turn this dream into a reality, you need a plan. Or do you?
I sat down with SAM staff and consultants to find out whether you actually need to make a business plan before getting started, and why it may be the step that separates your organization from the rest of the startups
You can totally start an organization without a business plan, but don’t expect things to progress quickly.
Let’s face it – getting a group of extremely busy arts practitioners together and committed to starting an arts organization is hard enough. Picking a NAME is hard enough. Once you get through that tricky bit, it can be tempting to just run out of the gate and start creating, start teaching. And that can definitely work for many organizations, especially if the stakes are low at the beginning. To just see if something can work, it can be incredibly helpful to just jump in, get things going, and see where they go. But the more money and time you put into something, the more you and your fellow practitioners will want a beneficial return. And that’s where a business plan comes in.
Investing some time planning up front saves you time in the long run.
It’s a huge slog to write a business plan – crunching numbers, figuring out the realistic sources of revenue.. It’s time-consuming and a little disheartening to face the financial realities of starting an arts organization. But the time upfront is well worth it if you want to reach your goals more quickly. In the early stages, it can be easy to get side tracked. Figuring out where you are, where you want to go, and how you can get there – that’s how you build a map that leads you where you want to go.
You can avoid getting sucked into grant writing rabbit holes that don’t serve your needs.
Making sure your organization is on track in the early stages is hugely important. It can tell you where to put your efforts, and how much something really matters to your goals. It comes down to figuring out what you need and distinguishing that from what it would be great to have. If you prioritize your organization’s needs first, you won’t get stuck investing your limited time and resources into yet another grant program that doesn’t serve your needs. Because it’s not about doing everything and seeing what sticks – it’s about not wasting your time and ensuring that you get the best return for every minute you spend investing in your dream.
That way, you can get back to focusing on your passion, on developing new work, running an accordion band, or step dancing to the Rolling Stones. Or all three at once, if that’s your style.