Do you need a business plan when you start out?

Over the past few years, quite a few people have come to me for advice on how they should go about starting a business.

I think it could be that plenty of people have hit a wall when it comes to what their corporate careers allow them to do and they see starting a business as a way to build their own thing and really go for it when it comes to their ideas. Still others who have come to me have been fresh out of uni or even straight out of high school.

I always get a buzz from talking to people who have the entrepreneurial bug. It’s exciting and a bit scary. It takes me back to when my business partner Sam and I started out with BikeExchange.

There’s certainly a sense out there that the entrepreneurial path offers something that structured, traditional career paths don’t.

However, what traditional careers generally do offer is ready-made structure, a time-honoured path to success. An entrepreneurial career rarely offers that.

If you go into a profession, like I did with accounting, there’s direction; a ladder you can climb as you attain education and experience in your chosen area of expertise. You have to work hard to hit those targets and not everyone makes it to the top, but the structure is in place.

Through hard work and dedication I was able to become the financial controller for General Motors’ largest manufacturing plant in Australia by the age of 27. The map was there and I was able to hit my goals to achieve a specific outcome.

It’s different for entrepreneurs. When you start out in your business, you have to bring the structure, you have to lay the foundations. You’re cutting through the jungle, beating a path, surveying the land.

It goes without saying that each business owner has their own set of aspirations and goals, and each industry has its own set of rules and conditions, with all the variables that go with that.

I think there’s certain fundamentals you probably should have in place when you start a business though, but around that there’s fair scope for doing things your own way. You run your business — not Steve Jobs, not Richard Branson, and not Jason Wyatt! You have to work out how to make your business a success.

We started out as a classified business and we had $30,000 to start this business back then. We went out and we came up with a name, like everyone does. We were pretty green in our approach.

But the first thing we did do was write a plan and get some direction behind us. We came up with a sales structure. We came up with a marketing concept and a marketing plan.

I think this is important because I’ve seen too many people without a plan flounder once the initial phase of excitement and adrenalin wears off and they’re left with the nitty gritty minutiae of running a business.

There are plenty of very successful entrepreneurs who are happy to do without a business plan. You might be one of them.

We found that writing a business plan helped to clarify in our minds what we wanted to do and how we could get there. But our first business plan was definitely not set in stone. We changed elements of it as we grew and learnt more about what we were trying to do. It was revised and redrafted.

Our business plan was the first step in making our dreams tangible and real. Even at its sketchiest, it was our statement of intent. It was structure and direction where previously there was none.

And when you’re embarking on an endeavour like building a business, putting those sorts of fundamentals in place can take you a long way. It worked for us.

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Cam Sinclair
Cam Sinclair
4 years ago

Hi Jason, I’d suggest before spending a dollar or writing out a 20 page business plan, most early stage startups begin with a Lean Canvas: