One of the constant themes running through the past 70 or more of these blogs has been planning. The need to make plans, monitor them regularly, make sure you stay on track and if and when you get blown off course, guarantee that there’s a network of peer support available to get you back on track.
The trouble is, it might all have been completely wrong.
Because there’s a growing school of business thought which says you don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going.
The reasoning is simple. If you’re starting a business – and in particular an online business – then you can do it for next to nothing. Register a domain name, grab a year’s hosting, design a simple website, sign up with Paypal – and you’re open for business. All done from the comfort of your own home and paid for with your credit card.
Business plan? Not required. Cash flow forecast? Waste of time. Interview with your bank manager? You must be joking. And if you’ve made a mistake? So what. Adapt as you go along – after all, it didn’t cost anything to get the business going in the first place.
Did Alan Sugar have a detailed business plan when he started selling car aerials out of the back of van he’d bought for £100? Did Richard Branson worry about his cash flow forecast when he began selling records in a church crypt?
The answer in both cases is no. Neither Sugar nor Branson would have agonised over the decision for more than ten seconds. Failure? So what if it fails? I’ll start again…
The trouble is that most of us are not Alan Sugar or Richard Branson. Most of us have had more than the occasional moment of self-doubt. And much as we’re told it ignore it – to see it as a learning experience – most of us are affected by failure.
And that’s where plans come into their own. That’s when it’s worth researching your market, checking what the competition are doing and making sure the numbers add up. For most of us, good, well-researched plans give us the confidence to press ‘play.’ And they dramatically reduce the risk of it all going horribly wrong.
So I’ll stick by my advice on planning – but keep the plans in proportion to the risk involved. And then? Go for it. To quote Goethe:
Knowing is not enough: we must apply
Willing is not enough: we must do
One of the big differences I see between really successful people and everyone else is that they take action. It comes back to Messrs Sugar and Branson: they had an idea and they acted on it.
Knowledge is power? Maybe. But I tell you what knowledge most certainly isn’t – money in the bank. In business, taking action is the only thing that will swell your bank balance. So for the vast majority of us, the equation is simple: plans + action = success.
And now on to next week, which is the last ‘proper’ blog of the year – and with the help of several interesting predictions from you, I’ll be taking a look ahead to 2012. And here’s one early prediction for you: one of the trends I see for next year – and for plenty of years to come – is the rise and rise of the business angel. So one of the first blogs of next year will discuss the pros and cons of outside investment in your business, and another one will look at the best ways to secure outside funding if you decide that’s a route you want to go down. If anyone has any specific questions on these subjects, then send me an e-mail and I’ll make sure the points are answered in the blog.