There are many things you need to start a business and even more to sustain one, but you don’t need a plan. Seems counterintuitive, right? Maybe the more accurate thing to say is that you aren’t required to have a plan. However, to have a meaningful conversation with a financial institution, you absolutely need a plan, and to have a predictable business, you need a carefully thought-out plan with a timeline for what is to happen and when.
A leader’s job is to establish, operationalize, and sustain the values and vision by which the organization will thrive; that is the foundation of the plan. The difference between a business and a great business almost always comes down to leadership. It is no small task to establish vision and values. Some leaders spend a lifetime clarifying and refining their vision.
Values are lasting and important beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a group or culture about what is desirable or undesirable. Personal values influence behavior and attitudes; organizational values serve as broad guidelines in all business interactions.
Vision is an ambitious view of the future that everyone in the organization can believe in and promises a future that is better than what now exists. The vision represents “where we are going” — the organization’s pathway to the future.
Before a business plan has validity, work is required to validate that your technology works, a real market exists and your assumptions for cost and price are reasonable. Testing in the real world is the assumption behind approaches such as Lean management, where a company will evaluate and refine a system to improve efficiency and/or eliminate waste in the process.
Get started, and build momentum; it will create a sense of accomplishment that can carry your business through obstacles. Too much hesitation will kill any new venture; markets move quickly and difficulties can mount. Eliminate major uncertainties before the plan, and update it as you learn, knowing you will never remove all uncertainties. Accept them, and plan activities in an incremental fashion.
Look for new opportunities. Many useful opportunities are only revealed once you have started and see what’s out there. Keep your eyes open, and respond to new customers, markets, and partnerships.
Acquire relevant skills. Three basic skill sets are required for almost every venture: financial management, production capabilities and marketing and sales. If you don’t have the relevant skills and knowledge, take time to build them or find a partner who does before you attempt a business plan. In essence, building a complete and credible plan is the final test that determines if your vision has legs. The entrepreneurial lifestyle is about doing something you enjoy without undue stress, uncertainty, and risk. Are you having fun yet?
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