I first met John McAdam, WG’90, in late 2012 when he approached me about becoming a contributor to the Wharton Blog Network. It was in part through him that I got to know more about the work of the Wharton Small Business Development Center—he’s an instructor there—and about his passion for entrepreneurship and helping others. I leap at the chance to meet with him on campus when possible, but John has been quite busy of late promoting his latest exploit, his new book The One Hour Business Plan: The Simple and Practical Way to Start Anything New, released September 2013. What better way to catch up with John than quizzing him about the book? Below is an excerpt of our recent conversation:
WHARTON MAGAZINE: Your book is about a “one-hour” business plan, but it takes longer than that to read it. How can you convince entrepreneurs, short on time already, to devote hours to your book?
JOHN MCADAM: Starting and continuing the writing is by far the most difficult part of the business planning process from my experience. Therefore, why not make a game of getting started? The time component of The One-Hour Business Plan makes a game of the business planning process. The one hour refers to the writing time, not the thinking time. The book breaks down the five essential cornerstones of any successful business plan that takes, on average, about 10 minutes each to complete in written form.
Regarding entrepreneurs already short on time, the book is intentionally brief at about 175 pages and written to be read, put down, and picked up again after doing a little bit of writing and a lot of talking to people. Easily picking up where you left off is almost ideal for the typical ADD entrepreneur.
WM: How much was the book informed by your work at the Wharton SBDC?
JM: As an instructor in Strategic Business Planning at the Wharton SBDC, The One-Hour Business Plan book was strongly influenced by observing patterns and results from my classes over the years. Similar patterns of successful business planning were also observed through my own entrepreneurial experiences and consulting work. That convergence inspired me to write the book. If I had to put a number on it, then I would say almost half of the book was formed indirectly through my work at the Wharton SBDC.
WM: Your teaching method is based around mental exercises and written exercises. Why?
JM: For myriad reasons most people struggle the most with the process of writing their business plan. I write mental exercises to fertilize, relax, motivate and focus the mind on one business plan component at a time. Field test results indicate that a business person is more likely to do a little planning (writing) after gaining clarity in their mind about what to write. The mental exercises provide a logical stimulus transfer from mental to written form.
WM: What can a Wharton student/alum get from your book that they aren’t getting/didn’t get on campus?
JM: Wharton folks can get planning tips and exercises from someone who admits that he has done it all wrong in industry before eventually understanding what to do (me). As an entrepreneurial practitioner, almost all of these processes come from industry experience rather than academic journals. A classmate of mine compared The One-Hour Business Plan to a quick and useful feasibility study. At the risk of reducing the book to its lowest terms, it is ultimately a business plan foundation written before the complete business plan after customer substantiation.
WM: One of your chapters is titled “What’s Next? Next Steps” So, what are the next steps for you?
JM: First, to continue to speaking to both small and large groups since book marketing is such a marathon. To keep finding new ways to get the word out so people plan before they spend big money and time. Also, to launch www.planfoundations.com as a business club community to promote business planning, learning and peer support. This idea came from my readers who email me their results and continue to inspire me.
Editor’s note: Hopefully, we can keep the Wharton Blog Network in John’s future plans too. See what he has written for us so far at the John McAdam page at whartonmagazine.com. Also look for more information about The One-Hour Business Plan here.