F the Business Plan! Why Most Would-Be-Entrepreneurs Never Get Started
With Instagram entrepreneurs making entrepreneurship look sexy and tech start-ups becoming household names, it’s no wonder so many people (including you) dream of starting their own business.
Unfortunately, most business ideas and dreams stay exactly that; ideas and dreams.
Most would-be-business owners listen to hours of podcasts, read books, and take courses but then get stuck in overwhelm. The problem is that influencers flaunting their success make it look easy, when it’s not. While at the same time, most business advise over-complicates the process of starting a business, making wannapreneurs intimidated by the legal requirements and discouraged by the learning curve (and expense) of marketing. (Yuck!)
It’s easy to drown in the sea of confusion caused by conflicting business advise and infinite options.
What started out as a glimmering hope of living life on your terms and making money doing what you love quickly dulls, and the certainty of traditional employment and mediocrity regains its appeal.
“Entrepreneurship just isn’t for me,” you say.
It’s too hard.
I don’t have the time.
I don’t have the money.
I don’t know how.
It takes too long.
I don’t even know how to make a business plan. How can I create a business?
We say, “F the Business Plan!”
F stands for FORGET, of course (ahem).
We have created a dozen businesses, most of them in just 6 weeks. Our rapid business creation was possible because we skipped the business plan and a lot of other unnecessary complication. While this mindset, as well as most of the unconventional methodology that has lead to our success, may not be effective for large businesses or tech startups, it is absolutely vital for INDIEpreneurs (aka independent businesses, meaning people who are self-employed or are starting a micro-business).
The truth is most people aren’t even sure what they want, especially when they’re just starting out. And if they’re starting a side gig or toying with an idea, there is no way for them to know what their business will evolve into. There is a lot of trial and error and simply trying different ideas until something works. So, it’s challenging to create a 5 or 10-year plan, let alone a formal business plan.
Too many people hold themselves back because they’re trying to do everything right, to be perfect.
And they do that because they think if they overthink it they can prevent risk. THEY CANT.
The most important thing for any new entrepreneur is to TAKE ACTION, do research, try things on for size, and explore, all for the purpose of getting proof of concept. Then, if the business continues to grow beyond being a solopreneur, you can start more long-range planning. If you grow so big you are going to be dealing with banks or investors, then go for it and make a professional business plan. But until then, F-it.
You do not have to be another would-be-entrepreneur who never launches.
Not all business advise is overwhelming or bad. It doesn’t have to cost you money or be a time-suck. You don’t have to recreate the wheel, and you can get started quickly – in 6 weeks, in fact!
If want to be self-employed or you have the next world-changing idea and you’re not sure how to get started, read on.
The Story Behind Our Process
We mentioned starting numerous businesses in only 6 weeks. You’re probably wondering, “how?” Honestly, even though we had pulled this off several times we had no idea how we did it. We didn’t even realize it was “our thing” until we went to a conference that would help us identify our unique process so we could use it to help others.
We had been networking with people all day. A woman asked us the question we had answered dozens of times that day, “So, what do you do?” And we said, “we do a lot of things” and started telling her about our coaching, publishing, events, speaking, and on and on… and we totally lost her. She said “oh, that’s nice” and walked away! We were confused; how could she not get it?!
This happened to us all day and finally we were so frustrated that when the next person came up and asked what we do we simply said, “we help people follow their passion and purpose and take that idea and launch a business in 6 weeks.” Her eyes lit up and she grabbed her friend by the arm and introduced us to him. We barely said a word and she was selling him on why he needed to work with us.
Even though in that moment I blurted out that we developed businesses in 6 weeks, because that was always the time frame of our startups, we didn’t actually know how we did it. But, by the end of the conference we had identified exactly what we were doing during that 6 weeks that allowed us to get our businesses up and going so quickly.
We discovered our process – and ever since then we’ve been passionate about sharing it with others.
How to Quantum Leap Your Business in 6 Weeks
But first… what this process is NOT.
Below you’ll find the exact process we have used over and over again to rapidly jump-start a business. There are 6 steps, nearly all of which are about mindset and focus and none of which involve:
Writing a business plan
Choosing an entity
Registering a business name
Getting insurance or bank account
Building a website
There are thousands of other resources where you can learn how to do those things, so we won’t bore you here. More importantly, in most cases you absolutely do not need to do any of those things in the first 6 weeks. In fact, if you move forward with any of them before doing these 6 steps below, you’re putting the cart before the horse!
And that last one… no one (NO ONE) will or should consider giving you money for a business if you cannot get it started without their investment. We’re talking side gigs, self-employment, and micro businesses here… you shouldn’t need thousands and thousands to get started. Even big tech start-ups were scrappy side gigs someone started in their basement long before they reached the point they were getting investors. No funding should be required. If you don’t have the small amount you may need to get going, start SUPER small and generate something that you can reinvest. Or do a different money-making side gig to raise the funds to invest in yourself. Get creative! See our case study below for an example.
The 6 steps to quantum leaping your business are:
CREATION: Make Your Idea Concrete
CONNECTION: Identify Your Target Market
COMMUNICATION: Master Your Message
CAPITALIZATION (aka Ca-Ching)
COMMITMENT: Plan for Success
CULTIVATION: Stay Motivated
We will cover all 6 of these steps and give you the blueprint to follow to apply it to your own business idea. But first, we’re going to dive deep into step 1 in which you make your business idea concrete, a.k.a. getting your idea out of your head, onto paper, and fleshed out enough so that you know exactly what to do next.
Step 1) CREATION: Make Your Idea Concrete
The secret to turning a business idea into a business in 6 weeks is to make your idea concrete.
No matter how great your idea is, if you don’t flesh it out and turn it into actionable steps, it will remain just a great idea.
We will warn you that this process is so simple you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of it yourself.
This step itself has 4 steps that get cycled over and over again:
We call this ultra-simple process The Wheel of Creation.
The first step is to have a business idea. You wouldn’t be reading this if you hadn’t gotten this far, so congrats!
The second step is what we call the Art of Brainstorming. This is when you flesh out your idea. Specifically, what you want to brainstorm what you will need to know and do in order to implement this business idea. Brainstorm with a creative and supportive partner (no nay-sayers) and come up with as many questions as you can thank of that you need to answer.
These are questions we always have our clients start with. All of them are related to market research, a.k.a. researching other similar products, services, and the businesses that sell them to get a sense for what you should be offering and at what price.
What are similar businesses offering?
What are the different price points?
What company would you want to model?
The third step is what we call the Art of Research. Take the questions you determined in your brainstorming session and start searching on Google for the answer. You will need to try a variety of keywords to find the best results. You may be looking for specific information, instructions for how to do something, or for resources or people who can help you
The fourth step is to act. Through your research you will have found answers to your questions. The next step is to study the information, follow the instructions, and reach out to those who can provide additional resources. This step is the most important!
Failure to act is the #1 reason most businesses get stuck in the idea phase.
The only way to learn is by doing. After you implement what you found in this first round of the Creation process, you’ll find yourself with new ideas based on the experience you’ve had so far.
From there, you find yourself back at step 1 and it’s time to brainstorm new questions, do more research, and implement what you find.
This process of iteration from idea to implementation can cycle several times before you have enough understanding of what you need to do. In fact, you’ll see this cycle pop up again in the remaining steps.
You’ll know it’s time to move on to step 2 when you can answer these questions:
What am I selling?
Where does it fit into the marketplace?
Who am I selling it to?
Not quite sure of the answer to the 3rd question? Move on to step 2.
Step 2) CONNECTION: Identify Your Target Market
Understanding your target market is the key to effective marketing. Most businesses struggle with marketing because they either don’t understand their ideal customers or they don’t target them, instead casting their net too wide.
What is your main expertise, topic, or focus within your industry?
What are the characteristics of your ideal customer?
What are they passionate about?
What do they struggle with?
What do they really need?
Where do they tend to “hang out” both in person and online?
What other businesses do they already do business with both in person and online?
Research similar companies in your niche (specific focus within your industry) as well as the types of businesses you identified already have access to your ideal customers. The goal is to look for:
Who they are targeting in their marketing
Where they are doing their marketing
What problems they are solving for their customers
Learn more about your ideal customers (their wants, needs, problems, passions, and interests) by searching for the answers you identify to the questions above.
Write a summary of the profile of your ideal customer or avatar.
Join groups and forums online where your ideal customers tend to be.
Attend local events or visit locations where you ideal customers go in order to observe and/or meet them, with the goal of learning more about them.
Make a list of the businesses who do business with your ideal customers who you feel could be a possible referral partner, such as doing a joint venture, cross promoting, or speaking in front of their customers.
Step 3) COMMUNICATION: Master Your Message
Marketing is about communicating the right message to the right audience in the right language.
What outcomes or benefits will customers receive?
What problems does your product solve?
What words would your ideal customer use to describe these outcomes and problems?
Explore forums, social media groups, and product reviews with the goal of reading what language your customers use to discuss their problems or similar products. Use those words in your marketing copy. You can also use Google Keyword Planner to do additional keyword research.
Read through the websites and other marketing material of the businesses you found that are the most like you and/or the ones you want to model. Get ideas for keywords, phrases, and other languaging from them, putting it into your own words of course.
Write description of your product/service from your CLIENTS’ perspective
Let’s focus on two important areas most people overlook.
Setting the right price
Diversifying your revenue streams
Price: Skip right to the research step and investigate your competitors using the same process real estate agents use to determine the market value of a home.
What are similar businesses charging?
Who charges more or less and why?
Where do you fit within the spectrum of pricing?
After evaluating the marketplace and what price point is best for your product or service, brainstorm the following questions:
What is the true value of your product or service? How does it impact your customers’ lives?
What does it cost your customers NOT to do business with you?
Create pricing sheet for your products/services
Diversification: There is a lot of talk about diversifying your income. But when we mention it here, we’re talking about diversifying your offerings. The best way to do this is to offer additional products or services that your existing clients or customers want or need. You already did the work to get a customer (go you!). The lowest-hanging-fruit for additional sales is these existing customers, who already know you, like you, and, most importantly, you can easily contact them to make an offer.
We call this the PSPS Formula. In a nut shell, your product or service solves a problem for your customer. However, they still have other problems. Offer them a solution to another problem and viola! You now have another business idea to start noodling with. You’re welcome!
Ask yourself the following questions to get started:
PROBLEM: What is the problem your ideal clients have that your product/service will solve?
SOLUTION: What is the solution that your product/service provides?
PROBLEM: What problem still exists, even after you give them the solution that your product/service promises?
SOLUTION: What can you offer that solves the remaining problem?
Step 5) COMMITMENT: Plan for Success
Achieving any goal requires knowing 3 things:
Desire: What do you really want?
Drive: Why do you want it?
Do: What do you need to do?
Having a clear goal and a big enough reason (1 & 2) are absolute musts! But they won’t get you far without planning.
A great idea without an actionable plan will remain just a great idea.
You’ll need a long-term plan, but what we’ll focus on here is weekly planning because it where planning meets action.
We lovingly refer to our weekly plan as a “Ta-Da List” rather than a “To-Do List”. It’s not a nagging list of obligations it’s a fun way to celebrate accomplishments— ✓ “ta-da!”
Schedule a weekly planning session
Identify actionable tasks for the week
Another important aspect of planning for success is to look honestly at the various responsibilities and needs of your business and what you can and cannot manage effectively on your own. Whether you have to fly solo and wear all the hats for the foreseeable future or you can bring on staff or contractors right away, this brainstorming activity will help you identify how best to make use of your own strengths and how to compensate for your weaknesses with outside help.
Brainstorm Ongoing Responsibilities
What are the ongoing responsibilities that will be required?
What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
Which responsibilities, roles, or tasks will you need help with?
What type of help will you need? (volunteers, affiliates, partners, employees, contractors, online services, etc)
The truth is that this final step is something that begins as soon as you start this process and remains a key factor for success at every step of your business evolution, indefinitely.
Even the best plan can be derailed by:
Lack of motivation
Full transparency– we actually don’t believe in motivation, at least not the way most people think about it.
Motivation is B.S.This has two meanings. The first is what you assumed, and the second is that it stands for “belief system”. What this means is that motivation is a state of mind, not a feeling.
The problem with the way most people think about motivation is that they believe they need to “feel motivated” in order to take action. The problem with this is that entrepreneurship is hard. It takes a lot of work. It creates a lot of uncertainty and challenges and fears. Frankly, it is not going to feel good all the time. So, waiting until you “feel like” doing any of the hard things it will take is never, ever going to get you there.
Instead of depending on summonsing an elusive emotion to keep yourself moving forward, a better strategy is to cultivate deep clarity and an actionable plan. Hence everything we covered in step 5.
Only having a clear and compelling “why” and deep commitment to achieving it can pull you through those times when resistance creeps up on you.
You cannot do it because you feel inspired. You have to do it because you MUST!
Another misunderstanding many people have is that they believe it is supposed to feel good. If you need to feel good doing it you are never going to do anything. It is not Supposed to be easy. Whoever told me that is wrong and we would like to throttle them! The truth is that it takes uncertainty and risk and bravery and facing fears and overcoming challenges and being bad at things and confronting things… all of which certainly do not feel good. Yet, they’re required in order to accomplish growth and learning and developing the skills you need to create a business and life you love.
Roadblocks and setbacks can weigh heavily on your faith in your vision. Unfortunately, they’re inevitable, which is why the solution is to prepare for them in advance. Brainstorm what could go wrong, including both internal and external obstacles, and how you would deal with them. This helps you be prepared. You may even be able to ward off some of them by knowing they’re possible. But most importantly, practice working through them emotionally so that if (when) things go wrong in the future, you already know you can handle it.
Almost all overwhelm is caused by taking on too much at once or not being focused (again see step 5). When you feel overwhelmed, you’re likely to use avoidance mechanisms to distract yourself from doing what needs to be done. For example:
You might binge watch Netflix instead of spending your evening researching your brainstorming questions.
You may catch yourself aimlessly scrolling social media when you’re supposed to be making an intimidating phone call.
Identify your time-wasters and avoidance mechanisms and put them on a “not-to-do” list. Post it somewhere visible.
Case Study: Transformation Magazine
Yes, we really have used this process to start multiple businesses in six weeks. We want to share an example with you, but we promise not to bore you with the nitty gritty steps. Instead, the following story illustrates how this 6-week process can unfold.
We were implementing coaching programs, workshops, and laughter yoga in the community. At an event, someone mentioned the idea of creating a spiritual and holistic magazine in our region. Within days this seed that had been planted started to take root in our minds. This was our next calling.
Being that neither of us knew anything about running a magazine, we jumped into learning. Joeel was a master at networking, and I had experience doing design and layout of a magazine, as I used to create trade publications at my old marketing job. I also used to design display ads for the real estate company I worked for. So at least we had one piece of the puzzle.
We researched printers and pricing so we knew how much ad revenue we would need to cover the costs of the minimum of 32 pages.
We investigated where other free, local publications put their racks so we knew where we could distribute the magazines.
We studied other options in the market and created a pricing sheet for all sizes of display ads, as well as resource directory listings.
I designed a logo and the first magazine cover, as well as a few sample pages and the pricing sheet, which we printed it at Kinko’s.
We started driving around the region looking for health food stores, holistic medical centers, new thought churches, and other forward-thinking, open-minded, health-conscious businesses.
We walked in with nothing more than our simple packet and a dream to sell—a vision of bringing together like minds in our area, while offering a lower-cost, more highly-targeted marketing opportunity for local businesses.
We also did online research and created a contact list of over 600 businesses in our area, a couple hundred of which we visited in person and the rest we reached out to through phone calls, emails, and letters in the mail.
We posted on Craigslist looking for local writers to contribute articles, and we offered this option to our distributors and advertisers too.
At the end of 6 weeks, we picked up 7,000 printed magazines and started the process of delivering them throughout the region. It was surreal to see them sitting there on racks outside of stores or on tables in offices.
What was only an idea 6 weeks earlier was now a manifested reality being picked up by shoppers before we even left the store.
And we did it all with our only out-of-pocket expense being the packet we printed at Kinko’s and the gas we used driving from business to business. The rest was funded by the ads we sold before the first issue was even printed.
By the time we had printing our first issue, we had learned a lot about what it took to produce a magazine. We continued to use our Wheel of Creation method to further identify ways we could improve our processes and what else we would need.
No business cards.
No paid advertising.
No business entity (just used the default sole-proprietor).
No over-thinking or complication.
No Photoshopped Instagram photos. (In fairness, Instagram didn’t exist, but we wouldn’t have cared anyway.)
Joeel & Nataile are co-founders of Transformation Academy®, where they train leading-edge entrepreneurs, leaders and life coaches how to master their mindset and create a purpose-driven business. They have started more than a dozen businesses, and trained over 500,000 coaches from 200_ countries and territories. Joeel is a former psychology professor with a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Education is currently completing his dissertation on eudaemonic happiness for a Ph.D. in Psychology.