At some point somebody, probably an American academic at a “prestigious” business school, invented The Business Plan. Ostensibly a mechanism to help focus the mind of a business owner, it soon migrated to the world of start up. And in particular the start up support organisations.
A business plan, when applied to somebody trying to start a business, is not meant as an aid at all, rather it is an instrument of torture and usually subjugation.
How many people going to seek assistance in turning their dreams and aspirations into something that can earn them a living and make them happy are greeted by the first, killer question, “and do you have a business plan?”
Note the phrasing “and do you?”. This is very specific as it immediately puts the support agency worker in the ascendancy by implying that only they can assist in creating this key which will unlock hidden treasures. Well, the truth is all these people that tell you you need a business plan before you can start a business are lying. No business ever started with a plan, it started with a conversation – and that conversation is peppered with phrases like ” I wonder if?” or “do you think I could?”.
Starting a business is a very personal thing and it is impossible to turn what Donald Rumsfeld so memorably called “known unknowns ” into known knowns by sitting down on your own in isolation and answering a load of questions that are actually either unanswerable or will be incorrect in a few weeks’ or months’ time.
So – how do you start a business? Well, you start with a conversation. You talk to lots and lots of people and you explain what you want to do. Not what you think you should do but what you really want to do. What fires you up, what keeps you going, what puts the fuel in your tank to see you through the many lows.
As you talk, you listen and you watch. You watch people’s reactions and you adapt and amend. It’s a bit like improvisation or doing stand up. When you get heckled it makes you better. When you get a laugh and more laughs you know you are on to something.
So if you are one of the many people out there sayingto yourself or any body in the vicinity, “why am I wasting my time filling in stuff I can’t answer?” Then stop.
Go out and start having conversations. Use those conversations to test and refine your idea, what you can charge and how it will work. Do something like selling your product and wait and see what happens.
That’s how businesses start, not with a plan but a conversation