iStock_000009265701XSmallIf you’ve ever been to business school, you’ve probably learned how to write a business plan. There is some value to that activity, especially if you’re launching a business that has an obvious precedent. For example, if you’re launching your own cleaning company, using figures or projections from other cleaning companies can help give you some sense of where you need to take your company in its early stages.

For most of us, though—particularly those whose businesses have an element of newness to them—writing a business plan is a surprisingly futile effort, or at the very least premature. Businesses are often compared to babies, and writing a full business plan for a not-yet-launched business is a bit like having a newborn and drafting a detailed plan for the first 10 years of its life. You can do all the planning you want for what your child will be like, what interests your child will hold, and what activities your child will gravitate toward—but it doesn’t mean anything until the child actually starts growing and developing all on its own.

Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of an extreme example—but my point is this: A business plan for a brand new business is going to be pretty arbitrary. You can try to make some projections and predictions, but the odds that the document will in any way align with reality are fairly slim.

Meanwhile, you’re either going to be setting yourself up for failure—creating goals that are unrealistic and unattainable—or else limiting yourself with a business plan that’s overly rigid and confining.

So what I propose for new entrepreneurs is radical: Don’t write a business plan. At least, not at first. Instead of spending so much time drafting a long-term plan for your business baby, before that baby is even born—and all while the world passes you by—just spend some time getting to know your company, your market, and your customers. Find out what kind of a company it really is—something you can’t know for sure until you’ve actually got your doors open and customers in the queue. And maybe after a year, then you’ll know enough to begin formulating a business plan.

I know: This sounds a little bit like I’m encouraging you to fly blind. Well, not exactly. What I recommend in lieu of a formal business plan is:

  1. Just throw as much shit against the wall as you possibly can—that is, as much as you can afford.
  2. See what sticks—that is to say, follow up and test everything you try.
  3. Build supplier and industry relationships.
  4. Develop the structures and efficiencies you need to maintain daily operations—customer service, order fulfillment, etc.
  5. Tinker! Try different things with your pricing, messaging, etc. Again, follow-up, test, stick with what works, and learn from what doesn’t.

Spend a year just running your business—and developing the knowledge you need to form a business plan that might actually be meaningful.