Startups must go with the flow…

I’ve recently started a business which provides remote secretarial/admin assistance to small businesses. At least that was the inital idea. On paper, it all works exactly the way I want it to. In practise, however, I’ve discovered – amongst other things – that many people are resistant to the idea of passing information to people they don’t know, let alone cannot see, and often want someone who will physically be in their office for at least some of the time.

As a result, I’ve realized that I am required to make changes to my original business plan and go with the needs of the market. Initially, I was slightly perturbed by having to do that. At first I thought ‘wow, maybe I’ve got this all wrong’, but then I thought it would be more foolish of me to stick to my original plan when the market (my clients) were telling me it wanted something else. You can’t control life, and the market is essentially reflective of that. If you don’t adapt and/or can’t be flexible, it’s likely that your business will not survive.

Anyway, I was pleased to come across a great article by Marc Andreessen in which he states that “a startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much, because it is very hard to determine up front exactly what combination of product and market will result in success.”

I have to say that I agree with him. First of all, I believe that while a business plan is important (for general direction, accessing finance etc) there can be an over-emphasis on it as the key navigational system for a startup. But, like a budget, a business plan has to take present needs/demands into account and be adjusted accordingly. Andreessen cites Microsoft, Intel and Oracle as examples of companies which have succeeded by being responsive to changes in the market.

I personally think you’d be hard pressed to find a successful business that has stuck rigidly to its original business plan. The major record companies in the music industry are an example of how you lose out when you are unwilling to respond to market demands.

Markets will change regardless – that’s life – so if you want to grow you have to go with the flow. Hence why the music industry sits with its mouth open while Apple continues to sell gazillions of songs through i-tunes.

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