The great diplomat Talleyrand once said that only fools never change their minds. Then again, you have to be a bit foolish to start a business! With all due respect to Talleyrand, it is definitely important to take the time to devise a solid game plan before you go into business, and then adhere to that plan – at least for a reasonable period of time.
The Uncertainty of the Start-up
Starting a business entails accepting risk and considerable uncertainty. It’s only is natural to question everything you do. For that specific reason, you need to take the time to prepare a sound business plan to present to people you trust and thereby ensure the business model, financing, and the concept are viable before launching the business.
Once you have that plan in hand, you should keep in mind the effort you put into it and the credibility of the people who endorsed it and believed in the concept from the start. Should you get the urge to radically change course, you need to remember you didn’t go into business on an impulse, and veering from your game plan on a whim would quash all the progress that you had made. If you really feel the need to radically change your business, I suggest you go back to the beginning and compare your two business plans to assess which has the greatest potential.
Don’t take the time you invested and the obstacles you overcame into account; always evaluate your options as if you were back at square one. After all, what’s done is done and you can’t go back in time!
The Excitement of a Business Opportunity
Going into business is stressful, but it’s also challenging. Your initial response might be to try to seize every opportunity that arises. Be careful! At the risk of being a killjoy, going off in all different tangents at the outset may dilute your efforts and increase your investment at a time when your business is still fragile. Start by solidifying your foundation, become the best in what sets you apart and then expand your field of operations. If signing with a new client requires that you hire two specialized employees while you only have three to begin with, make sure you’re solid enough to be able to do it. Don’t think only of the potential this customer might represent five years down the road … especially if you see no other way to benefit from the investment of these new employees!
Adapt to the Market
While it is important to have a solid plan and stick to it for a fair amount of time to be able to evaluate its full potential, this does not mean you shouldn’t adapt to the market. In fact, many companies, including LinkedIn and Apple, have adapted their initial model based on their customers’ demands. Yet, before proceeding, they took the time to ensure their foundation was solid and to test the potential of their initial idea. It was that first phase which allowed them to attract enough business to get to the stage where a shift was worthwhile.
In short, if you are going into business, be crazy enough to not change your mind, have confidence in yourself and your ideas, and listen to your customers … they will tell you which direction to take. And if you are still hesitant after that, I would be happy to help you evaluate your project’s potential!
Co-written with my former Human Equation colleague