Before I get bombarded with hundreds of emails based on the title, just hear me out.
More and more experts agree that the most effective strategy in starting a new business is to do research, perform trial and error tests, run potential customer surveys, do A/B ads testing and fine tune your expectations. It’s suggested that this new way of thinking may, in the long run, save you tons in start-up cost and the one most important thing you can never regain - time.
I hate business plans but I love business planning
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the logic behind a business plan, I just strongly disagree with its use and the boundaries associated with it. I know over the years you’ve been taught that the first step to starting a business is to create a business plan, but business models have changed tremendously throughout the years. With the boom of social media and instant gratification being the norm, the way businesses operate today and the tools used and needed for success has become more streamlined, require fewer restrictions and structure and is leaning more towards a creative and innovative way of thinking. That requires you as a potential future successful entrepreneur to act quickly in order to capitalize on small, fast closing windows of opportunities.
When you get that entrepreneurial nudge the last thing on your mind is to sit down and write a business plan; it’s the equivalent of writing a how-to guide on sailing when you’ve never been on a boat. A business plan is an action plan; the document itself is merely a continually adjustable guideline. Of course, you can always purchase an out-of-the-box business plan creation software or even hire a consultant to do the heavy lifting, and that may work for some. However, if you think about it, the ultimate goal isn’t to write a book on how to sail. You will need to jump in a boat and actually sail, otherwise, all you’ll have is a whole lot of how to's for a business that may never exist. The goal is to get to the destination, how you get there isn’t written in stone.
The reality is no matter how hard you try to predict the future when it comes to starting a business you will never truly know how profitable it will become. The business will need to be tweaked and fine-tuned multiple times over. It’s the planning process, that ‘to do list’, the research, the digging to find answers for the “business plan” that contains the most tangible information and brings value in the process. And just like sailing you’re going to have to adjust your sails to match the direction of the wind. The bottom line is and the question that should be asked is “how am I going to make this new business work in order to create ongoing profits?”
One of the key factors to entrepreneurial success is the cycle of continuous learning. With each post, I will recommend a book to help you along your journey.
July 2018 Book Recommendation – Beyond The Business Plan, by Simon Bridge and Cecilia Hegarty. Here’s the description:
“This book is a new way of approaching start-ups which encourages a more flexible plan that allows for uncertainty and change. Business plans do not allow for the unexpected. Often written at the outset of a new business proposal, there is little room for change or learning from experience once the venture is underway. Beyond the Business Plan provides 10 new principles for starting a new business venture which guarantee the flexibility to face any uncertainties. These principles can be used as an alternative to a traditional business plan or even alongside one allowing it to adapt when needed. This book does not dictate how to run a business but provides the insight needed to overcome unforeseen obstacles, to adapt, grow, and change as necessary. This fresh approach teaches how to be responsive to uncertainty and demonstrates that flexible development can navigate the changing world economy better than any business plan.”
If you aren’t able to read the whole book, here is my interpretation of what I think are the four most important principles mentioned in the book.
1. A new business is a means, not the end. There is a reason why you want to start a new business; whether it’s financial freedom for yourself, providing a better life for others, fulfilling your passion, or leaving a legacy for your family. This venture should be perceived as the foundation and the means to help you achieve those specific goals.
2. Pick an area where you have some experience and expertise. Don’t self-sabotage by starting something for which you have no clue how it operates or where you have to take the time to build or acquire knowledge, skills and connections from scratch. No business plan - no matter how well written - will rescue you from failure if you are randomly picking business ideas or copying others just because it worked for them. When you are well versed in an area this will build your confidence level and start you on the right track for success.
3. Get started and build momentum. Things move at lightning speed in the entrepreneurial world and procrastination will quickly destroy the idea of any new business. The act of just getting started will create and generate momentum and evoke the sense of accomplishment, which will, in turn, motivate you to carry on.
4. Realize and accept uncertainty as the new normal. You will never be able to remove all uncertainties from your business, so just accept them, and roll with it. Too often business plans are seen as the end all and be all, a magic wand that will eliminate uncertainty, pacifying a new entrepreneur into complacency. You will need to realize that things will happen and you will have to adjust as you learn and grow.
The entrepreneurial lifestyle is all about finally doing something that you enjoy, so have fun with it!
Look out for our next article as we continue the conversation on entrepreneurship.
Georgia Greenwood-Duncan is the Founder & CEO of Do It For Me Business Solutions. A full-service Consulting and Execution Boutique Agency, specializing in time management and execution services for start-ups, new and small businesses. With their business motto of “Time Is Money”, the various services offered by Do It For Me Business Solutions allow their clients to focus on serving their customers, building a successful business with the goal of leaving a legacy.
With the knowledge and experience of over ten years in the Marketing Industry, Georgia has launched, maintained and sold several successful small businesses throughout North America and the Caribbean. She is the winner of the 2013 Inaugural Body Confidence Awards Canada, has been listed in “The Stanford Who's Who Black Book”, is the Recipient of the 2014 Mia Amber Davis Award of Excellence and Voted one of Canada's Top 100 Black Women To Watch in 2016.
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