One of the biggest mistakes that prevent a successful startup from happening in the first place is the one thing that everyone clamors and screams is all-important: a detailed business plan.
Because what's the point of a business plan if you can't seem to get your startup off the ground? If you find your company struggling, you might end up throwing that business plan out the window anyhow. Maybe it's time to hit the streets, beat some bushes and knock down some doors.
Here are a few good reasons to get away from the business plan and consider that maybe, just maybe, your planning may be your biggest problem:
Reason #1: You're still planning
No doubt, a plan is a critical part of the process for getting a startup off the ground. But if you find you're still planning and reworking and re-tweaking your business plan after months of discussions, it's time to set it aside, pick a task and go get it done.
Your plan has likely become your security blanket, and you're afraid to let go and get started. In reality, your plan will have to change at some point or another. So get started using your plan as a guideline, but be open to changing your strategy as needed.
Keep in mind, the more detailed your plan, the harder it may be for you to remain flexible.
Reason #2: Speed to market is critical
Your detailed business plan, if you're not careful, can become your biggest enemy when speed to market is critical for your success. You know how it goes: you start thinking through various possibilities, you pull out the notebook, you start scribbling. Now you have to tell your partners. The discussions begin. Changes are made to the plan. New idea strikes!
This process is fine if you can quickly update your plan, but after a while, the details become pointless in the face of a market that may move right past your idea. The reality is that ideas have a life cycle, and timing is everything. Is your planning process preventing you from getting to market fast? Maybe it's time to act and adjust your plan on the fly.
Reason #3: You're the only one who cares
I've heard all the arguments before: my investors need a plan, my spouse needs to see a plan, my business partners want to know the plan. But the details, the minutia, those are likely only critical to you. Do you really need to get all those into your business plan? Maybe it's enough that you've considered the possibility and formed a plan in your head.
Again, a high-level plan you can show to investors and other people who are important to your startup is absolutely fine and necessary. But the detailed plan for how each and every element of your business is going to function is not important to anybody but you, in most cases. Better to keep your plan high-level and use your creative energy to write policy for a functioning company than to be stuck at the drawing board writing detailed plans up for a startup that can't seem to get started.
How to Move On
So you've seen the light and are willing to consider action. Now what?
The paralysis of choice might set in. This is perfectly normal, and there are a few easy ways to move forward. Here are a few examples of some of the most important tasks to get done first to get your startup off the ground:
1. Form the corporation
I know what you're thinking: "But what if I don't want to actually do this?" Then why have you been building a detailed business plan?
In most states, it costs less than $100 to go to the Secretary of State website and form an organization. This is a huge step, and you'll feel so much better with your own business to your name.
2. Launch social media
Take some time to get your social media accounts set up. Don't worry if you don't have a website yet. You can always add that later.
Setting up your accounts can help you feel like your startup is on its way. Once you are ready, then you can take more time to maximize your social media efforts.
3. Build a blog
No matter what business you're running, you will likely have a website. Start writing your content for your site today on a free blog at Blogger or Tumblr. You can begin writing your business propositions, your about page and other important pieces of copy you will want on your site.
Don't get hung up on the details. Just start writing and get your ideas on paper. You can use the content you create to build flyers, brochures and other sales literature.
4. Make business cards
Don't underestimate the power of a business card, both for you and for the people you meet. Having your name and title on a card with your company name is incredibly exciting and inspiring. It just takes a few minutes and a few dollars to get business cards developed and printed. And you'll have something in your hand that shows you're actually doing this.
Just make sure you purchased your website domain name and set up social media accounts first (even if your website and social media accounts aren't complete yet) so you can put this information on your business cards.
Detailed business plans have their place, but they can also be a huge hindrance to your progress. If you're still planning and not acting, maybe it's time to trust your gut and get out there. You can do this!
Tara Hornor writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company that offers booklet printing, business cards, flyers, posters, postcard printing, brochures and other printed marketing media. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work -- this isn't your parents' career-advice blog. Be Brazen.