For a couple of days now I have been doing presentations in various universities and adult learning seminars about entrepreneurship and business development. In addition to those seminars I have of course been attending all the end of year Christmas business functions and events. So I have had the pleasure of roaming around and chatting with all kinds of other entrepreneurs and business folk.
In one of the classes I was in, a student raised his hand and asked me about strategic planning and business plans. He asked how important they were and before I could get a word in his professor (who has never ran a business in his life but does have a PhD in something) jumped up and said “most important thing a business can do. It is the back bone.” I’m not saying he is wrong. I think strategic plans and business plans have a certain place in business but my response was much simpler. My response was that business plans can only take place AFTER you have been in business for a period of time. Yes that is right, before you build a plan you must first test and do. I don’t think anyone can build a successful plan until they truly understand the markets, themselves, their business, their customers, the ebbs and flows of business, and no matter how much you read or how much you write you will not understand any of this until you DO.
While at a Christmas function I told this story to a fellow serial entrepreneur (without telling him the answer I gave) and he jumped right in and said this, “yes of course they are important, if you need a bank loan, but who the hell does that any more.” This colleague of mine then proceeded to ask, “did you tell the students to get out there and just DO? Test the waters, be adventurous, don’t be shackled down by writing plans.” He then went even further by telling me a story about a partner of his that once wanted to start a business, that was 3 years ago. What is this fellow doing now? Just putting the final touches on a really great business plan.
My lesson is this: yes indeed plan, but don’t become so overwhelmed by the plan but rather become overwhelmed by doing things and analysing things. Put your efforts into trying to understand rather than planning to understand something that is always changing. Yes there are trends and some stick but sometimes there is a lot to be said for debunking the trends and beating your own path.
Of course this needn’t be said but this advice goes for both business and life. Get out there and DO. Then when you have done, LEARN and do again.