The Secret to Getting It Right the First Time
So you’ve decided to launch a new business. You’re super excited and rarin’ to go — damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
One of the most basic human urges is to rush in and get things going without stopping to think, evaluate and consider all the “details.”
But if you want to succeed, you’ve got to rein in that urge. Admittedly, this can be tricky for entrepreneurs. We’re all smart, creative people with high levels of drive and passion — and that passion often leads us to put the cart before the horse, acting before we fully understand what we’re getting into.
Momentum is good. Impulsivity isn’t.
The same traits that lead to inspired momentum can also lead to impulsivity, where we swoop into action before we’re truly prepared for the realities of launching and running a business.
There are so many details you need to consider when putting together your business plan. You have your products, your services, your target market and the competition — along with marketing, cash flow, pricing and more.
All of these things need to be considered carefully before opening your doors, or you’ll run into expensive (and avoidable) problems that could cripple or bankrupt your new venture. I hate when I see this happen to founders.
The excitement of starting a business, or the fear of missing opportunities, makes them reactive instead of proactive. And that’s a recipe for disaster.
When you rush in without a plan, you lose a lot.
Roadmap. Blueprint. Strategic plan. Business plan. Whatever you choose to call it, your plan is an exercise in thoughtful, strategic preparation.
An effective plan does more than communicate your business idea. It’s also your plan of execution, your operating blueprint. It lays out what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.
The process of putting together your business plan is what helps you work through the nuts and bolts of your business… before risking money and customer satisfaction. That preparation gives you the knowledge and tools to seize opportunities and make smart decisions as you face the challenges that naturally occur as you build your business.
In fact, your ability to succeed in launching and growing a thriving business is directly proportional to the time, attention and research you put into that preparation and strategic planning.
Why not launch from a position of strength?
If you take the time to do it right, your business plan puts you in a position of strength. Why? Because knowledge is power. But if you don’t invest the time, you’re going to:
- Be caught off guard, fighting fires that simply didn’t need to happen.
- Waste valuable time scrambling to fix problems that could have been prevented before launching your business.
- Lose money trying to fix preventable issues or cleaning up avoidable messes.
- And perhaps worst of all, you’re going to lose opportunities you could have profited from if you’d been more prepared going in.
This is why, as one example, you need to talk to people like your target customers, competitors and suppliers. The conversations you have will:
- Give you the insights that help you deeply understand what resonates with your target customers.
- Help you see the competitive landscape as it really is, so that your business decisions are based on the latest, most accurate information available.
- Give you the information you need to truly grasp the nuts and bolts of daily operations.
Yes, this requires an investment of time to gather all of this information and think through the details. But it takes far less time to do this up front than it does to deal with the headaches and disasters that are all but guaranteed to arise if you don’t. Being proactive is far more effective than reacting to whatever surprises occur (usually at the worst possible times).
About deadlines and opportunities.
As a startup advisor, clients come to me at various stages of the business building process. Sometimes it’s at the very beginning, when they’re still thinking through their idea and have the time and space to devote to building a solid plan before they launch their business.
Other times, people come to me when they’re really itching to get started. They’re impatient and they just want to Get Moving. Then the pressure they’re feeling escalates because someone suddenly wants to meet with them well before they’re ready.
The usual scenario is one where a potential investor wants to talk next week, but you don’t have a business plan yet, much less a pitch deck. You’re afraid of missing a huge — perhaps once-in-a-lifetime — opportunity.
This is what I call an artificial deadline. It occurs when someone else tells you they want something by a specific time — a time when there’s no way you can possibly be prepared.
The solution is not to quickly throw together a pitch deck. (Without a fleshed out business plan, I guarantee your pitch deck and the ability to defend it will be weak.) Instead, you should calmly tell the potential investor that you’re still working on your business plan, and you’ll get back to them as soon as you’re ready to meet. (Pro tip: Any investor worth their salt is willing to wait and won’t force a deadline like that on you.)
When we have the fear of missed opportunities, it’s natural to worry that this is your one and only chance. But that’s not the reality. As Richard Branson once said, business opportunities are like buses. There’s always another one coming. Whether it’s meeting with an investor or being first to market or launching by a certain date, it’s always better to do it right the first time.
It’s always faster to do it right the first time.
There’s a quote I love that comes from the film Biggest Little Farm:
“There’s never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over.”
When something breaks, when something goes wrong, when we’re facing a crisis, we always find the time to fix it because we have to. Our backs are against the wall because we have no alternative, so the problem takes over our time and attention… for as long as it takes.
So often we tell ourselves that we don’t have the time to step back, think things through and assess. We talk about investing this time like it’s optional.
But it’s not. It’s a choice.
You can choose to invest time in building a strong business plan before your startup launches, or you can choose to invest time fixing all the problems that crop up because you didn’t.
“Fixing” costs far more time than planning does.
The smart money is on thinking things through and getting it right the first time.
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