How to Grow a Business with Zero Planning: A Learned Experience

Across the internet, you’ll see thousands of blog posts by business managers and entrepreneurs who preach about creating a formal business plan as the absolute key to success. Here’s a take for you that’s just about as hot as our lasers–that is not entirely true.
In under seven years, we have gone from a one-woman side gig to a full-time business with eight awesome employees. Over those years, I never sat down and wrote a business plan for Skyline Laser.

Now I will caveat that quickly—not everyone is able to take the same path. Some want to dive right into a full-time, full-scale business 110%. In those cases, they may need a formal plan as a prerequisite to acquire a bank loan or other startup capital. I instead grew Skyline Laser more organically and passively. But either way, I think there are lessons to be learned and applied from the experience.

Here is some of what I learned:

  1. Set Your Core Values First & Foremost

I believe that for most business owners, there is an unspoken level of “fake it ‘til we make it”. For most new businesses, having it all together right from the start is not the reality, regardless of whether or not there is a business plan in place.

So how does a new business reassure its clients and partners that it will produce, even without really knowing what they are doing? For Skyline Laser, it began with conveying a set of core values and a determination to always stick to them. We set our sights on delivering the best product and customer service, so I made it loud and clear that this was our promise, no matter what.

As a result, I found that sometimes working backwards is what sparks the best problem solving and most creativity. Especially early on, I learned it’s a heck of a lot of trying, testing, doing, and re-doing. Each backbreaking attempt was motivated by upholding these core values, but because of that early determination to abide by our principles, our current day-to-day is now much smoother.

  1. Listen, Listen, and Listen Some More

Early on when I opened an Etsy shop, I frankly sold a bit of everything. Laser-cut earrings, wedding toppers, you name it. Ironically, logo signs for businesses were never on my radar. I grew by listening to my customers and saying “YES” to what they were asking for.

If I had had a set plan from day one, I may not have said “YES” to projects and ideas that were outside the scope of my plan, and Skyline Laser may never have existed in the way it does today. There’s beauty in listening to the people who matter the most to your business – your customers. Be open minded and let them guide the way.

  1. Don’t Overthink It

Perhaps some hiccups along the way could have been avoided if I sat down and wrote a business plan, but I think in large part, they are inevitable. We cannot predict the future as much as we want to scenario plan.

I guarantee there are still going to be unforeseen challenges and restless nights, pre-planning in place or not. As soon as I understood that a good business relies on humility and flexibility to quickly adapt and change courses, the quicker I felt assured that our growth and success would come naturally.

I truly believe that it’s through our experience that we learned what to do in our business beyond anything else. Largely, because we have learned 100 ways of what not to do first, and no amount of pre-written business planning can substitute for that.

Whatever route that you choose to take with your small business, hopefully you carry with you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

 

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