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I have an MBA. I’ve worked for over 12 years at Fortune 500 companies. I’m supposed to tell you that a business plan is the first step in your journey as an entrepreneur.

Instead I’ll say: It’s not. It’s actually the vehicle and the enabler of procrastination.

On paper, in theory, many ideas sound great, look enticing, feel incredible. In practice, most of them are in fact, crap.

Not because they’re not good ideas, but because the world doesn’t actually need them. Only you do.

And business plans are these nice security blankets where dreams go to live. They find a comfy place to nestle in and there they stay until that glorious, turbulent day that you decide to actually give it a go. Then, your dreams are subjected to the cold, harsh reality of real-life and the hard work begins of molding these dreams into something tangible and real.

It’s incredible the number of would be entrepreneurs that I talk to that are toiling away on business plans.

Stop it. Stop it right now.

It’s all so very irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you know how to size your market properly (just be reasonably sure there’s a big enough market). Theoretical customer acquisition tactics are just that  — theory. Sales projections are … well, don’t get me started on what a joke that exercise is.

Truly, the only thing that matters is if you can figure out how to get 100 paying customers. Of course, I’m talking about consumer facing examples where you don’t need to build some massive thing to be able to get there, but then, most ideas do play in that area.

Want to know if you have something you should be devoting more time on?

Do this instead: Take $100 and figure out a version of your idea that you can test out within that amount of money.

Not possible, you say? You’re not trying hard enough or being resourceful enough.

Give yourself two weeks max to pull that prototype together. And by the way, depending on what you’re building, never has it been easier for someone to create a beautiful prototype for so cheap.

Need a website? Build it on Squarespace or Shopify. Need T-shirts? Teespring. Custom packaging? Pakible. Email campaign? MailChimp. Beautiful surveys? Typeform.

There is literally zero excuse for someone who is non-technical to be able to pull together a prototype — online or off.

By week three, figure out how you’re going to get 20 people to show it to. If possible, try to find people you don’t know. Friends and family are wonderful support networks but they’re entirely crap for simulating your target market.

Selling natural beauty products? Camp outside a Whole Foods. Productivity tool? Head to UW. Have the lastest in kids gear? Check out a mommy group. Or, if you do want to leverage your network, hold an evening wine and cheese party where you can show off your wares.

Whatever it is, find 20 people that you can share your baby with.

Now, figure out how many will buy.

That’s it.

Don’t worry about what people say about it, how enthusiastic they sound, how eager they are to commend you on “actually giving it a shot.”

All you need to think about is how many people buy.

Then, take that number and what you heard as feedback and go through this loop again another two or three times.

Before you know it, six weeks will have flown by and you will be shocked at how much more you know now vs. when you were tinkering with your business plan.

avni-patel-thompsonheadshot 628And now, if you’re still hell bent on writing a business plan, then update it with the one page of what you tested, what the metrics were and what you learned.

You’ll now be more clearly able to decide if it’s an idea that has real potential based on true purchase and whether you want to really commit your life to building it for real.

Unfortunately, I know all too well what business plans really are — the safe shield behind which we can tuck and hide away our insecurities and fears. I get it. It’s so hard and humbling being this open and vulnerable.

But it’s also where all the learning is happening. And it’s also where the successes will be.

So put away that business plan. It’s time to figure out if your dreams have what it takes to live and thrive out in the light of day.

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