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Early Stage Entrepreneurs Don't Need a Business Plan, They Need a Battle Plan!

It never ceases to amaze me, the amount of time early stage entrepreneurs spend creating a business plan that's, often, a combination graduate thesis, Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, with graphics that would dazzle the folks at Pixar. It has detailed forecasts, typically, based on Excel models, not on real-life understanding of costs and timing, and strategies and tactics based on "best guess." And, it's, usually, out-of-date about eight seconds after it's completed. Creating a formal business plan at inception is a waste of time and precious resources, and is, in effect, like creating a "make believe business" because that one will never truly exist!

But why do entrepreneurs do it?

Because somewhere, somebody told them they need a business plan when they start out, especially to raise capital!  But there is no chance to raise capital without both proof of concept and customers, for sure. This is the focus that they really need, in the early going. Proof of concept and first customers are on the critical path to whether a venture survives or not.That's where all early efforts should be focused and managed. It's when time is at a premium and resources are, typically, most thin (often with the entrepreneur still working his/her day job), and is when planning is most necessary, but formality is not required.

What early stage entrepreneurs really need is a "battle plan." One that can be easily modified, but guides and tracks the progress of the business through early and very basic objectives, strategies, tactics and critical milestones. And, is a "living, breathing document" that can and should change frequently, as market, customer or resource issues arise or change.

For those of you who are football fans, think of it as the set of "scripted plays" that a team plans to use to start a game on offense, based on their research (scouting reports). The given for each is that they work against certain types of defenses.If a different defense is present, an "audible" (a change to the scripted play) is called. For the entrepreneur this plan is how he/she intends to roll out the business, based on their "scouting reports - market and product research and what they know and believe at that moment. As time goes on and conditions change, either driven by the company's needs, a prospect or customer's needs, new information or the market environment, tweaks or even full pivots have to be made from the original plan. But, in any event, it should always be describing "where we are going from here," each and every day, each and every week.As opposed to a formal business plan that is static, presenting a snapshot in time, a battle plan is dynamic and used to manage the business, day-to-day.

An early stage company needs a "battle plan" to help get it through its earliest days and to a point where it is generating revenue and getting real-live feedback from customers. It can be a one page, nearly "back of the envelope" document or it could be a couple of pages.No matter, write it down, don't etch it in stone and change it as necessary. And, most important, a "battle plan" can serve as the basis for managing the company's growth well beyond the early stages.

The Entrepreneur's Yoda knows these things.  He's been there.  May success be with you!  


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2012-11-28 21:18:06 by Anna B

In the Early Stages, a battle plan entails the need for an army. Big business can afford the army for a battle plan. "A business plan should be a "living" document. Manually unmanageable. Automated software by industry is normally cost prohibitive. offers a Toolbox that includes a "living" business plan that is web-based and very manageable. An army requires infrastructure. A small business needs an "advisory" team of experienced professionals. That is the best infrastructure tool a new or early stage entrepreneur should make the best use of. Great comments.


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