It’s smart to plan, if you have the time to do so.
Working out as many details as possible. Getting the right business plan written up. The right people involved. The right stationery designed.
You don’t really have nearly as much time as you think you do when you’re starting a business. Sure you feel rushed and like there’s never enough hours in the day, but usually the reason you feel that way is because you’re trying to create a full-blown, fully-evolved business from day one, and I’m sorry, but that never works out as planned (no matter how many months are spent planning).
In my mind, the more difficult (though less time-consuming) path is to act quickly. Show your hand and play the cards as they fall. Think things through then move as quickly as you can to make those ideas concrete, rather than spending years adjusting and readjusting the scaffolding where the concrete will someday be poured.
Seth Godin calls this ‘delivering,’ I call it being a business-person rather than a person planning a business.
This idea is prominent in the coding world, where ‘agile software development’ has become a very dominant philosophy when it comes to rich Internet applications. The company that can innovate AND deliver the fastest is the one that gets the cookie, leaving the one that innovates and plans and then plans some more with nothing but crumbs.
There will be problems and hiccups and a million little glitches when you release a beta version of anything. The thing is, there are problems with an over-planned product, too; the difference is they’re correcting problems that arise in the lab, whereas the company that delivers quickly is able to start fixing real-world problems.
Additionally, from the start the more nimble company is earning money from their product, building their brand and bringing in early-adopters as pseudo-consultants and evangelists.
A big part of why this is on my mind is that I recently started up a new endeavor called ‘ebookling.’ I’ll be making a more formal announcement about this business soon: you can join the mailing list if you want to be really edgy. And though developing the concept took some doing, and there are still many details to be worked out, the project itself has come together very quickly, despite the sheer number of other people who are involved and the fact that with it I’m dabbling in a business that I’m still quite unfamiliar with.
At the end of the day I know that I’ll be able to evolve the project much more quickly and effectively if I release it to the world before I have each and every bell and whistle fully tweaked. Ideas have a time, and I think that I’ve come across something that was bound to happen sooner or later, I just want to make sure I’m able to get it out there and make it work well before someone else does.
Update: December 16, 2016
Ah! Ebookling. It was such a fun project, and a lot of what we were doing (and in some cases, trying to do) were things that Amazon eventually did, and in doing so, crushed us. Though to be honest, we were also held by back by having chosen some big, cumbersome problems that required big, cumbersome technologies to solve, and operating as we were simply wouldn’t cut it.
That’s clear looking back on it, now, but at the time, we felt we could bootstrap our way to scale in time.