Don’t tell my finance group, but I no longer feel quite so deficient for not taking accounting courses when Lori and I became entrepreneurs. I have Jennifer Lee to thank.
A graduate of UCLA and USC, Jennifer runs a successful professional-coaching company in the San Francisco Bay area. She’s developed a right-brain method of business planning that’s clicked with many entrepreneurs. First she captured all her ideas in a book, The Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success. Now she’s distilled the essence of her approach in our Circa notebooks.
One of Jennifer’s clients saw a 37 percent increase in growth in year one of thinking Right Brain Business Plan, and a 50 percent spike in year two. Another client went from being employee to entrepreneur with no drop in pay the first year. That client routinely revisits her Right Brain Business Plan to keep refueling her plans.
It sounds counterintuitive, right brain and business plan. The right brain is supposed to be expansive and creative, not the place where you’ll find analytical thinking lurking. But Jennifer gets you thinking in pictures, with a result that’s both painless and productive.
I confess: Levenger has followed a linear, left-brain, bullet point and spreadsheet method of planning. But now that Jennifer is among our Circa Thought Leaders, we may have to rethink that.
It’s my pleasure to introduce Jennifer to you by way of this conversation with Levenger Press editor Mim Harrison, as the two discuss right brains, paper…and the value of taking a deep breath.
Levenger: How does a visual business plan help in developing a viable one?
Jennifer: A visual plan helps to communicate an idea beyond words. The images, colors and symbols quickly and intuitively get to the essence of the vision and goals. And because visuals appeal more to our emotions, the plan can be more impactful and inspiring.
Levenger: Not all right-brainers are artists. Will your approach still work for them?
Jennifer: If you can tear images from magazines and use a glue stick, or write with colorful markers on sticky notes, you can benefit from this way of planning. I believe that everyone is creative, and it’s about using whatever medium or form of expression that speaks to you. The most important thing is that your plan is meaningful to you and that it inspires action.
Levenger: You recommend using a bulletin board to help in identifying markets and trends—and you mean a physical bulletin board. There’s a strong element of physicality to your method: index cards, magazine pages, sticky notes. Why does physical paper still matter?
Jennifer: Physical paper helps makes our ideas tangible. It gets us out of our heads and lets us work with our hands to bring our thoughts to life. We can easily move index cards or sticky notes around to find patterns, group similar concepts, and prioritize. They allow us to interact with our musing in the material world.
Levenger: Instead of a financial spreadsheet, you advocate a Moola Map. Instead of a networking list, you talk about Creative Cohorts. Rather than an executive summary, you recommend Hearty Highlights. How does such playful language help in designing a plan?
Jennifer: For some of us creative types, our brains tune out when we hear something too traditional or boring. Some classic business terms even sound war-like (competitive advantage, tactics, deadlines, execution) and can conjure up negative associations. If we want to make planning more engaging and, dare we say, fun, then it helps to use phrases that are more relatable and disarming—with a bit of whimsy thrown in to spark the creative spirit.
Levenger: Your not-so-secret secret is that you were once part of corporate America. Does it help to have this left-brain training before embarking on a business plan based on right-brain thinking?
Jennifer: It’s true, I did spend some time (about a decade) in corporate America and I do believe that experience has influenced how I plan. Even though I have this background—and it has certainly come in handy at times—I don’t think it’s a requirement for doing a business plan based on right-brain thinking. And for some people, it could hinder their creative process to be too concerned with following a step-by-step process. The key is to stay connected with what’s most important to you and your business.
Levenger: You’re a yogini. What exactly does that mean?
Jennifer: A yogini is a woman who practices yoga. I’m certified in Ashtanga yoga, and I love the way the practice grounds me and connects my mind, body, and spirit. I haven’t been doing the physical asanas (poses/exercises) as much as I’d like now due to an injury, but that just encourages me to practice the principles of yoga “off the mat” instead. For instance, bringing as much awareness into the present moment as I can (a tough one for a busy entrepreneur, but much needed, too!), finding balance, slowing down, letting go of judgments and expectations—and remembering to breathe.
Levenger: Do you see a connection between the contemplative nature of yoga and the contemplative power of paper?
Jennifer: Actually, yes, I can see a parallel between the two. In our fast-paced digital world, the next bright, shiny object can easily distract us. But both the practice of yoga and the act of writing by hand on paper can be grounding forces in our daily lives and can help us connect more consciously to our creative flow.
With yoga, when you align your physical movement with your breath, you help to calm your mind and take in the present moment more deeply.
When you write on paper, you can focus more intently on what’s right in front of you rather than be tempted to multi-task on-screen. You become more aware of your senses: the feel of the pen gliding across the page, the smell of ink, or the satisfaction of flipping the page to continue a thought.
In a way, practicing yoga and writing on paper can both be forms of a moving meditation.
Now to you, dear reader: have you ever considered yourself a right-brain thinker trapped in a left-brain world? I’d love to hear. Just click on the Comments link below. (If you’re reading this as an email, click here and you’ll connect to Comments).