Planning Is Clear Thinking
A common question among aspiring founders is whether to develop a full-blown business plan and, if so, what to include in it. According to most business schools and books on entrepreneurship, writing a business plan is one of the first essential tasks of launching a business. It’s a rite of passage, one that has spawned its own support industry: business plan competitions, websites offering sample business plans (enter the search term “business plan” for a quick tour), and services that will write your business plan for you.
At the same time, we all know successful business owners who never bothered with a written plan, who just leapt in, and some studies that show little or no correlation between the writing of a business plan and startup success.1 A number of experts insist that business planning is actually counterproductive to the startup process, because it siphons valuable time and attention away from more urgent tasks (such as selling), is full of assumptions and flat-out guesses about an unknowable future, and locks the business into a singular path when flexibility and agility are paramount.2
But the question of whether or not to plan represents a false choice. If you are thinking about your venture’s future (and who isn’t?), you are planning. Every founder anticipates future events, determines goals and objectives, weighs options, and decides how to proceed and what to do next—all basic planning activities. The real issue is one of effectiveness. So, ask yourself: What kind of planning/thinking approach will best support the current needs of my business?