Focusing on your perfect business plan is actually holding you back


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Years ago I worked for a large small business support organization. We’ve provided resources for entrepreneurs to help them succeed. At one point, I led a new initiative focused on helping startups and start-up entrepreneurs. The focus was on those who were starting to chart their own path. By watching so many start-ups, I was able to learn a lot from their efforts. Their hard work and tenacity, coupled with the right business model, would propel some to great heights. Others would work just as hard, but not quite reach a level that would allow them to continue.

The perfect business plan

I’m lucky to have read some outstanding business plans. They have been well studied. They presented an innovative look at the market. They provided examples of how others have had success working within this same market. But there never seemed to be a correlation between the business plan and future success. After a while, I stopped caring so much about their business plan.

Of course they needed one. They had to think about their business and have a plan. But that wasn’t the only thing they needed to succeed. Instead, it seemed that other factors mattered more when it came to determining who would succeed and who would close their business after a few years.

Now, I encourage anyone who is starting to focus less on the perfect business plan. Things change and we cannot predict the future. Your “perfect” plan will soon become imperfect and obsolete. To continue, you must stay focused on the necessary things, not just think about them or even plan them.

To make this change, I always recommend focusing on progress rather than trying to be perfect. Being perfect sounds great, but usually leads to stagnation.

If you’re determined to try to be perfect, you won’t take chances. If you want to be perfect, you will not use trial and error because there is a chance that you will make a mistake. Being an entrepreneur inherently involves taking risks.

Ultimately, a lot of things will go wrong with your business. You cannot be afraid of failure.

Related: Why You Should Build a Startup When Everything Has Already Been Invented

Outside push to be perfect

Our society places too much emphasis on avoiding failure. In fact, even when someone achieves greatness despite failures, history always seems to omit that information.

Athletes are a perfect example. NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre tops the list of quarterbacks with the most career interceptions with 336. He played 302 games, which means he committed on average one of these major errors in every game he played. MLB Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson has hit more than anyone in his career. He hit 2,597 times. Hall of Famer Jim Thome finished second with 2,548. The two with the most errors are in the Hall of Fame for their elite careers.

These athletes dominated the game they played. But none were even close to perfect. They did not succeed without failures and errors. If you’re starting a business and you’re afraid of making missteps, you’ll be playing it safe. You won’t put yourself out there, vulnerable to mishaps. But getting down to it is the way to success. It is a requirement for the success of a business.

Related: Everything I Learned Growing My Startup to 10 Million Users with $0 Funding

Focus on progress

A better approach is to always make progress. If you keep moving through adversity, through obstacles, through challenges and setbacks, you will come out more experienced and better informed.

Successful entrepreneurs I’ve worked with have embraced it. They weren’t afraid to take the uncertain road. They weren’t afraid to stick their necks out. Boldly, they charted a new course. They didn’t just try to copy others to avoid having to take the risk. Sometimes it didn’t pay off. Sometimes it paid off. But anyway, they moved on and got better. Every day they were better equipped to grow the business. Every day they grew wiser.

Once you accept that you will make mistakes, you will become free to innovate. This freedom is important for start-up entrepreneurs.

You don’t start with brand awareness and years of building a customer base. These are necessary to be a successful business and only come after trials and tribulations.

Choose from a bunch of bad options

When I took over the operations of a company that was looking to grow, the first thing we had to do was stop looking for the no-nonsense approach. We had to stop trying to be perfect. Often this meant we had to choose between a bunch of bad options. We had no easy and obvious ways.

We had a problem and had to decide which way to go, even if everything was risky. After each strategic meeting, we found ourselves at an impasse. Whichever option we chose, it was flawed. Every choice had consequences and risks.

Once we were at an impasse with leadership that didn’t want to move forward, someone was like, “Well, it looks like we have a bunch of bad options, but we have to make a decision. Let’s choose the best and move on. This allowed us to avoid analysis paralysis. It helped us get over trying to be blameless. We knew the choice we were making was imperfect. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that we navigated the situation as best we could and then tackled the problem.

Now, whenever I work with startups and start-up entrepreneurs, I look for those who are ready to push forward when others are afraid of trouble. When everyone wants to wait for the perfect option to appear, they will already be ahead. They will make mistakes, but they will move forward with the new wisdom that comes from experiencing the ups and downs on the path to building a successful business.

Related: Why Everyone Should Work For A Startup At Least Once


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