Burn the Business Plan

Through the years I’ve worked for several entrepreneurs at the point where their business became stable enough to hire an additional employee: me. Their dedication, passion and yes, obsession for their company was inspiring, despite the long hours.

In Burn the Business Plan: What Great Entrepreneurs Really Do, Carl J. Schramm combines real-life stories with practical advice. An entrepreneur, venture investor and consultant, he began to realize that commonly-held beliefs about how to start a business was wrong. And, those stories about Steve Jobs and others in Silicon Valley were only a tiny fraction of the entrepreneurs starting businesses.

For years I’ve asked entrepreneurs how they got started:

“My wife got pregnant and I lost my job at the same time.” (Accountant)

“I saw a problem and started solving it.” (Founder of a portable restroom business)

“I made almost as much money with my hobby as I did at my dead-end job, so I quit the job and made the hobby my company.” (Market researcher and strategist)

None of these people I met had a business plan, nor an MBA. One story told by Schramm was about Dan, manager of his foundation’s mailroom. No one knew he had a secret life as an inventor and repairing Harley-Davidson motorcycles. When he announced he was leaving, Schramm asked if he wanted to give up the security of his job, since he was in his forties and had a wife and family. Dan told him the sales of the wrench he had invented was close to what he was making working for Schramm, plus his wife was in favor of the move.

Forget college dropouts. Most entrepreneurs are not young hotshots, but men and women in their forties with considerable business experience. Existing companies are the largest source of innovation, not small start-ups. Who knew?

Schramm’s findings parallel my own experiences in working with local business owners. Big companies already have a history, they know their industry, and everyone pretty much knows the strategic plan for the firm. By contrast, a start-up needs to find its niche, test the concept, and revise. Since everything is so unpredictable, entrepreneurs make decisions on the fly. Their business is one ongoing decision after another. Get the MBA if you want to remain in corporate America; buy Schramm’s book if you plan to go out on your own.

Are you ready to start your own business or side gig?

How do you get started?

What information will you need?

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