There was a legend at a former workplace of mind that a guy, let's call him Josh, who had left just before I started, did fantastic work. Actually, he just did fantastic presentations. Most engineers liked design and hated documentation. Josh was the opposite. His documentation and his presentation were flawless. It was too bad his designs weren't up to par.
Dane Carlson has stirred up a bit of controvery with his 20 Things Not To Do Before Starting a Business. His list violates just about everything you will learn at Score, your chamber of commerce, your local small business development center, or by talking to your local venture capitalist. Just take a look:
5. Don't hire an attorney
6. Don't hire an accountant
10. Don't patent anything
19. Don't write a business plan.
Yikes. You will never get investors with these tips. Has Dane gone mad?
No. He hasn't. He's just telling the truth. Read the fine print. It's in point number 18.
Don't tell all of your friends about the business that you're going to start someday soon. Every minute that you spend telling someone you love about your future business is one less minute you have to either try to find someone to buy your product/service or to refine it. Plus, everyone knows an "entrepreneur" that is all talk and no action: don't be one yourself.
There are planners, and there are doers. Too many people write a business plan, look for money, talk with accountants, and so on and so on – and they don't even know if their product will really sell. Like the legend of Josh, they were all dressing and no substance. So far, the comments seem to be negative on the article, but I think it's right on track. Dane isn't saying not to talk with lawyers ever. He isn't saying not to plan anything. He's saying figure out what you can sell, and if there is really a market for it before you waste time on those other things.
Here is the truth. Starting a business sucks. It's hard. No one wants to buy your stuff. You get rejected all the time. You get discouraged. You think you might go broke. But if you perserve, and keep trying, eventually you figure it out. That's when you worry about all that other stuff – when you have a sale. When you realize you've got the right model. That is the point of the post. Why write a plan that isn't grounded in reality? Why have your accountant set you up for something only to have it change dramatically once you go to market?
Planning is the easy part. Ideas are all fun and games. It's easy to sit with your lawyer and talk about how successful you will be. I've done it. And I've also had the market slap me right back in the face. You have to be spiteful to be successful. You have to be motivated by failure. It's not easy. And that's what Dane is saying.
Don't plan your NBA career without ever touching a basketball. And don't plan your business when you don't really have one. Figure out how you make money. The other stuff is easy.