While Every Startup Doesn’t Need a Business Plan, Every Startup Does Need This


While Every Startup Doesn’t Need a Business Plan, Every Startup Does Need This

You have an idea for a startup. But do you need a comprehensive strategy and plan?

CREDIT: Getty Images

We’ve all had that moment. Maybe while driving to work. Or taking a shower. Or taking a walk. Or on vacation. We see something and think, "Hey, I have an idea: What if I started a business to…?"

That moment has definitely happened to me. Before I started LogoMix, I was involved in several startups; the last that I co-founded was successfully sold to HubSpot. I knew how hard it is to start a business: It’s chaotic, exciting, terrifying — and incredibly hard work. Simply building a brand is extremely hard.

The idea for LogoMix came from the simple realization that building a brand is difficult. Creating a logo is one of the first steps in building a small business’s brand, but for most entrepreneurs, and especially first-time entrepreneurs, the process seems daunting.

I thought, "What if I made it easy and inexpensive for small business owners to create a brand identity?" Startup founders have so many things to worry about. Branding shouldn’t be one of them.

That was the idea, and there were two basic paths I could take.

One was to sit back and create a plan and strategy before I started the business: Researching the market, identifying target customers, estimating costs and sales, creating staffing and organization plans — all the things addressed by most business plans.

The other was to see if I could build a product that would actually benefit customers. And that’s what I did. I started LogoMix at my dining room table as a side project, working on it before and after work and on weekends. (Basically, it was a side hustle before side hustles became a "thing.")

We built a prototype, a MVP (minimum viable product) we could use to get input, advice, and suggestions for improving the product and the user experience better. We tested marketing strategies, trying different messages, different landing pages, and different calls to action.

In time we found ways to deliver a genuine competitive advantage: ease of use, quality, and speed, all at a lower cost.

Did we have a plan? Yes: to determine if we could deliver a product that provided real value to a large customer base. Only then did we work on developing a larger business plan.

Build, Test, Execute

Planning is important. Strategy is important. But it’s more important to spend time building, testing, and executing. As the eminent philosopher Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

Starting a business will definitely result in at least a few punches to the mouth. What you thought would happen, won’t. What you never dreamed would happen, will. Once your business is "live," few things will turn out like you assumed. That’s why the ability to adapt is so critical to startup success.

But so is delivering a product or service that provides a huge improvement in how a customer need is delivered or customer problem is currently solved. An incremental improvement isn’t likely to make a customer want to switch. An incremental improvement isn’t likely to generate the margins you need to get your business off the ground.

No matter how big the market, no matter how complacent the incumbents, no matter how great your marketing plan and operation plan and competitive analysis, if you can’t execute your idea, you won’t have a business.

Have a great idea for a small business? You don’t have to spend time creating a comprehensive business plan. Start by determining whether you can actually deliver what you dream of delivering — and then whether customers will actually pay for what you created.

Do that, and you’ll be excited to create a broader, more comprehensive plan — because you’ll know your "great idea" just might turn out to be great after all.

Published on: May 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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