How to start the year right: Throw away your business plan

Pia Rios
Pia Rios

Another year has come and gone, and for entrepreneurs, this time is often spent evaluating the past year and planning ahead. But before you block off a day or two to focus on revising your business plan, here’s a better idea — put it straight in the bin.

Yes, you read that right. As the world of business rapidly changes, more professionals agree that the five-year financial and market predictions for SMEs isn’t really worth the paper they’re printed on. So this 2017, instead of writing something that will gather dust on your desk, save yourself the trouble and just throw it away.

You can be prepared without wasting time writing a long and tedious document. In fact, it’s what small businesses have been doing all along. So what should you do instead? Here are better ways to kick off your year strong.

Create buzz and build interest

Gathering resources for your business is a tough task, whether you choose to bootstrap or seek funds elsewhere. Some argue that having a business plan makes this process easier, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, studies show that majority of Australian SMEs don’t have a formal business plan.

So how do you get more people interested in your idea? Start creating and focus on improving your product or service. Knock on doors, talk to your market, and expose your brand through multiple social channels. Creating buzz doesn’t just open doors to new opportunities, but also gives you access to valuable feedback. The kind of response you receive will help you determine whether you can move forward or go back to the drawing board.

Fail fast and learn how to pivot

The greatest success stories often start out with failures, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You can be confident about a new product or expansion to a new city, and be proven completely wrong once you hit the market. Pivoting is all about taking your failure and spinning it around so you can benefit from the experience. How you move from there is what separates good entrepreneurs from bad ones.

Let’s say you have a clothing store with a wide variety of goods, but your sportswear line is the only thing flying off the shelves. You can consider your original concept a failure since only one aspect of your business thrived, but you can pivot and turn this experience around by re-branding your business to specialise in fitness wear. The key is to face failure and take something away from the experience.

Turn flexibility into an advantage

Noticed you’ve been getting abandoned calls after-hours? Switch from voicemail to a live answering service. Receiving more orders online? Update your website to make the user experience better. A formal document that needs to be updated every time you improvise and veer off course can be a burden instead of a boon.

Business plans are restrictive, making it seem like you’re failing if you move away from your initial predictions. But running a business is an endless cycle of trial and error. Good entrepreneurs come up with an idea, test it out and make adjustments as they go. Instead of planning for years ahead, create a strategy for one year at most. Keep it short and break it down into actionable tasks for each quarter.

Look ahead and stay optimistic

For solopreneurs and SMEs, the pressure of covering every single thing can do more harm than good. Keep yourself from getting overwhelmed by focusing on what matters now. Remember that you don’t need to have everything figured out from day one.

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