I'll make a really forceful statement, and then backpedal from it - I do this for emphasis.
Business plans are an enormous waste of time. Utter crap.
There. That said, here's the backpedaling...
Everyone has to have some sense of where they're going and how they plan to get there. That's healthy. It's normal. Even prudent.
But people get stuck in the plan and become incapable of thinking outside the plan. Especially when starting a business. So I'll make another forceful statement (no backpedal this time):
There isn't a person on the planet who is so smart and full of foresight that they can write an accurate business plan for the startup business.
That's not to say that they won't be successful. It is to say that the market is smarter than they are, and while they might find some measure of success adhering to their plan, having a long-term conversation with the market will prove itself far more profitable and sustainable for the business.
The truly successful startup isn't managed; the truly successful startup emerges. It evolves, and usually in some ways that no one could have predicted. Its reach into the market is like a glue that finds its way into the pockets and texture of the materials to be joined. So, in analogy, a business plan is like tape - generic and easy to implement, occasionally enough to bring it all together, but generally not long-lasting. A successful startup seeks to fill in gaps and fingers its way into life. A glued, dovetail joint bonds for decades, and that's the weave with the market that the startup must seek.
To hell with tape.
The great problem is that tape is predictable. It's accessible and user-friendly. It's quick and easy. It doesn't require change.
So, who gets stereotyped for their fascination with duct tape? Smart folk? People who love interactive conversation? Not so much...
Who do you know in your life who lives and dies by The Plan? Your manager? Your spouse? You?
Another forceful statement, but this time it's not mine:
No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. - Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von MoltkeMoltke, a smart guy, regarded strategy as a practical art of adapting means to ends.
Art, not science.
Practical, not idealistic. An emphasis on what works, not what we want to work.
Adaptative, not willful.
Goal-oriented and mindful of the destination, not rigid to the plan.
I had a wonderful meeting two nights ago with Sherry Borzo and Ginger "Snap!" Johnson. I'm working with them to adapt my 247Toolset technology toward helping local non-profits integrate better with local businesses. (See the beta site here.) The beauty of working with them is their willingness to allow this to evolve. Sherry is very conversational and Ginger conducts conversation better than just about anyone I know.
We met with local small business leaders and with some key non-profits to learn more about how they might cooperatively assist each other in helping people through a hub that streamlines donations.
Glue, I think.