Berlin-based insha, the challenger bank ‘with principles’, raises €2.5 million for European expansion

Today insha, the “account with principles”, has announced a seed financing round of €2.5 million, led by Turkish payment service provider Param. insha will use the money for European expansion, further develop its ethical banking product and strengthen the team at its headquarters in Berlin and Istanbul. Founded in 2018, insha offers users a digital…

This content is for members only. Visit the site and log in/register to read.

The post Berlin-based insha, the challenger bank ‘with principles’, raises €2.5 million for European expansion first appeared on EU-Startups.


Berlin-based insha, the challenger bank ‘with principles’, raises €2.5 million for European expansion

Today insha, the “account with principles”, has announced a seed financing round of €2.5 million, led by Turkish payment service provider Param. insha will use the money for European expansion, further develop its ethical banking product and strengthen the team at its headquarters in Berlin and Istanbul. Founded in 2018, insha offers users a digital…

This content is for members only. Visit the site and log in/register to read.

The post Berlin-based insha, the challenger bank ‘with principles’, raises €2.5 million for European expansion first appeared on EU-Startups.


10 Principles For Surviving Hard Times In Any Startup

Devil-in-business“The devil in the details” is a quote that we have all heard, and clearly applies to startups, where success in the long run is all about execution. But for you as an entrepreneur trying to get started, the devil is really in your mind, where you must prevent drifting, and maintain that confidence, commitment, and passion, to achieve your business dream.

This is highlighted well in the classic book finally published just a few years ago, “Outwitting the Devil,” annotated by Sharon Lechter. It was written way back in 1938, by the famous author of “Think and Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill. It was too controversial to publish then, due to religious connotations, but still has key lessons for every entrepreneur today.

The premise of the book is an interview with the Devil, where he admits that he dwells in idle minds, and finds it easy to control the minds of drifters. Drifters are people who do little or no thinking for themselves, and allow themselves to be influenced and controlled by other people and circumstances.

In an interview, the Devil confesses that all people need only follow some key principles to outwit him (adapted a bit here for entrepreneurs):

  1. Do your own thinking on all occasions. Pursue your own dreams and your own thinking. Listen to others input, but make your own decisions. For success, entrepreneurs have to overcome any human tendencies toward laziness and indifference, which lead to procrastination and drifting.
  1. Decide what you really want from your business. Set your goal, and create a plan for attaining it. Be willing to sacrifice everything else, if necessary, rather than accept permanent defeat. Drifters chase a business idea for all the wrong reasons, and then give up easily, like get rich quick, or to please someone else.
  1. Analyze temporary defeat, no matter of what nature or cause. Extract from it the seed of an equivalent advantage. In business, it’s commonly accepted that you can learn more from failure than from success, if you choose to learn.
  1. Be willing to give before you receive. Other entrepreneurs and investors will more readily help you, if you have helped them first. In addition, you dramatically increase your odds of success if you learn the business domain first, before you try to lead in it.
  1. Recognize that your brain is a receiving set. Curb your output, and be an active listener, by providing feedback, an optimistic attitude, motivation, and a concern for people. A key part of receiving input is listening to what is not said.
  1. Recognize that your greatest asset is time. This is the only thing except the power of thought which you own outright, and the one thing which can be shaped into whatever material things you want. Budget your time so none of it is wasted.
  1. Recognize that fear generally is a filler. Fear rushes in to occupy the unused portion of your mind. It is only a state of mind, which you can control by filling the space it occupies with confidence and passion in your ability to overcome obstacles.
  1. When you ask for help, do not beg. Take full responsibility, and don’t be the victim. Make sure you earn any help provided, and don’t forget to properly thank your benefactor. In a startup, there is no entitlement to funding, or to a second chance.
  1. Recognize that business is a cruel taskmaster. Either you master it or it masters you. There is no half-way or compromising point. Never accept from a business anything you do not want. You can refuse, in your own mind, to accept it and it will make way for the thing you do want.
  1. Remember that your dominating thoughts attract. To become the master of your destiny, you must learn to control the nature of your dominant, habitual thoughts. By doing so, you will be able to attract into your life anything you choose. Your thoughts create your reality.

I couldn’t help but think that these points are still so relevant today in our own pandemic recovering economy, even though they were written during a comparable challenge over 70 years ago. I guess we all should take comfort in the fact that even though we live in a world of constant change, some things about human nature will always be the same.

Can you outwit the Devil today to succeed in your dream?

Marty Zwilling
Startup Professionals Musings

9 Principles Especially Critical For A Micro-Business

home-micro-businessToo many of you business owners think success only means being the next Amazon, or you stress yourself out trying to be everything to every customer. In reality, the opportunities are greater for starting with a micro-business, ideally from your special expertise or passion, with fewer than five employees, and just enough sales to comfortably support you and your team.

This type of business has long been primarily run out of the home, well before COVID-19 made that a necessity, and it still works to keep the costs of operation down. In time, many businesses outgrow their meager beginnings, to become major enterprises, comparable to the current giants Amazon and Apple. These are proof that you don’t have to start with the mindset of a giant.

Yet my years of advising entrepreneurs and small businesses has taught me that you do have to follow some basic principles and operational strategies, even to get a micro business off the ground. Key ones in my mind include the following:

  1. Build your business around what you know and love. I still hear people determined to start a business as a path to an easier life, or a way to make some money on the side. From my experience, these drivers are fraught with risk and unhappiness. Think first about where you have a natural advantage, or a unique insight or critical purpose.

  2. Keep the initial scope within bootstrapping limits. Just because you want to start a business doesn’t mean you are entitled to outside equity, loans, or crowdfunding. These only make your startup riskier, and add stress you don’t need. By spending only within your means, and re-investing the money you make, you will more likely enjoy success.

  3. Meticulously manage cash inflow and outflow. Cash flow is the nemesis of every business, particularly small ones. Don’t delegate this task to another family member or accountant. Understand and write down every expense, and budget for required costs, especially initial inventory and accounts receivable delays. Details are important.

  4. Learn to use basic business financial tools. One of the most useful tools for any small business is Excel or Google spreadsheets, for monthly profit-loss statements and operational tracking. You need to see quickly both positive and negative trends, and understand whether the fluctuations are caused by customer or internal needs.

  5. Take advantage of bartering and less-than-new equipment. You don’t need the latest-and-greatest computers or office furniture to get the job done well. Put the message out that you are willing to trade a little extra work for something you really need. Be creative in negotiating work agreements with vendors and even initial customers.

  6. Limit the scope and focus of your initial offering. You must learn quickly when to say no, as well as when to say yes. Customers will always want to stretch your limits, and it’s tempting to agree to things which may be outside your realm of expertise. Attempting to deliver these can kill you, both in quality of your solution and time to completion.

  7. Get in the habit of documenting all agreements and terms. In my experience, this is what separates a business from a hobby. Hobbyists tend to work informally with like-minded people. Skip the complex contracts by lawyers, but at least use an email to confirm terms and conditions to all parties. It’s good communication and good business.

  8. Don’t forget to do continuous marketing and networking. There is an old saying in business that what you know is not as important as who you know, and who knows you. You have to find your customers, and people who can help you – they won’t find you. Count on spending 50 to 75 percent of your time marketing and networking.

  9. Pay attention to competitors, and differentiate your offering. The quickest way to fail is to be just “one more” consultant or assistant. Every business solution has competitors and alternatives. Define your “secret sauce” or intellectual property, and advertise it as well as protect it. Be prepared to update it regularly as customers and trends change.

Businesses that start in the home are becoming more and more the norm. The Small Business Administration reports that over 50 percent of small businesses are now home-based. Yet these can fail just as quickly as any other, if basic business principles such as the ones outlined here are not followed.

Make the effort to do it right, and you too can enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 10/02/2020 ***

Startup Professionals Musings

10 Key Principles For Managing Your Time In Business

work-time-managementEvery startup founder feels the pressure of the thousands of things that need to get done, all seemingly at the same time. There is just not enough time! The real solution is better time management to put you back in control of your life.

We all know someone who always professes to be stressed out and “so busy” that they never have time for anything – yet they never seem to get things done. The real reason is that these people don’t manage their time well. They waste too much on low-priority busywork, procrastinating on higher priority but tougher tasks, resulting in last minute crises, and failure to complete the critical work that people are really expecting of them.

I still remember the classic book on this subject by Dr. Jan Yager, called “Creative Time Management for the New Millennium.” She preaches that “Managing your time well means managing your life well. People who handle their time well do it creatively. They practice creative time management by taking control of their time and therefore their life.”

Here are ten of her key principles and mine:

  1. Set goals. In business, this means create a business plan before you start. I’m still amazed by the number of entrepreneurs I meet who have no business plan, or who haven’t updated their plan for years. If you have no goals and milestones, you can’t measure progress.
  1. Be proactive, not just reactive. Doing things before the deadline is looming reduces stress and gives you a sense of being ahead of the game. For a startup, this means starting your networking before you need money, or building the website before the business is ready to open.
  1. Prioritize actions. The secret is to identify what really needs to be done in each day. If you look closely at how you spend your days you will probably find that there are many things that aren’t really that important, but take a lot of time. Skip those.

  1. Keep your focus. Everyday interruptions in your new business can be a key barrier to managing your time effectively and, ultimately, a barrier to your success. Close the door to your home office, or turn off the phone when you have work which needs to get done.

  1. Create realistic deadlines. A realistic schedule takes several things into account. You need to spend time working, eating, sleeping, doing chores, running errands, and spending time with family. Unrealistic deadlines create stress, rework, and unhappiness.

  1. Plan and delegate. Strive to understand the relevant capabilities of team members, and then deliberately schedule tasks, delegating to the right people to get tasks done within deadlines. Even an entrepreneur can’t do everything personally.
  1. Don’t procrastinate. Some entrepreneurs actually sabotage themselves by putting obstacles in their own path that take more of their precious time. They often choose paths that hurt their performance. This represents a profound problem of self-regulation.
  1. Be a pragmatist, not a perfectionist. A proven path to success in business is to get something out, and iteratively improve it. A new product or service will never be perfect in a rapidly changing world, so don’t delay.
  1. Balance your life. When life is busy, or all your energy is focused on a special project, it is all too easy to find yourself “off balance,” not paying enough attention to important areas of your life. This causes inefficiency and stress, and your work is not fun.
  1. Do it now. In my opinion, this is the most important element of time management. Too many people procrastinate, worry, and defer, rather than just do it. Divide and conquer what you have to do. Now, not tomorrow.

Take back control of your time and your life. We are not all endowed with brilliance, good looks, or lots of money, but we each get the same number of hours every day. Use them effectively to get your startup going, and have some fun in your life. Start with item #10.

Marty Zwilling
Startup Professionals Musings

5 Team Engagement Principles Are Vital To Leadership

Engaged-business-teamThe days of leadership without engagement are gone. With interactive social media and video everywhere, everyone needs to feel they have a relationship with their leaders, and every brand needs leader personification for customers to relate. Soon you won’t be able to name a business as one of your favorites if you can’t personally visualize and relate to company leadership.

In the same way, great entrepreneurs and company leaders should no longer rely on faceless and nameless processes to drive business strategy and innovation to stay competitive. The old way doesn’t work, and results more than ever in slow decision-making, lack of real connection with employees, and ignorance of what customers really want.

The new principles of engagement, as well as the dysfunctions of the old, are well illustrated in the insightful classic book, “Why Are There Snowblowers in Miami?” by Steven D. Goldstein. He speaks from a wealth of personal experience in private equity, as well as top executive positions at American Express, Sears, and Citigroup.

He found the dysfunctional engagement that sent snow blowers to his store in Miami every year. As a result of this incident and many others, he defined five key engagement principles which resonate with me as just as relevant for new business founders as mature business executives. Here is my adaptation of his engagement principles for all the aspiring entrepreneurs I advise:

  1. Learn to adopt an outsider’s perspective. Every entrepreneur, even though confident in his domain, needs to fight complacency in a world that changes almost daily. You need to look at everything through fresh eyes, continually ask questions not usually asked, and actively listen to contrary views. No change means you are falling behind as a leader.
  1. Interact with employees and customers on a regular basis. Authentic communication at all levels and encouraging feedback is how you find out what is really going on. More meetings in your conference room won’t get to the truth as well as simply talking to people who interact with customers directly. Never be too busy to talk to real customers.
  1. Focus on two or three pertinent metrics in any situation. Keeping it simple is the best course. No one can remember your top ten priorities and measurements. Unbundle projects into smaller elements, and personalize the top couple of metrics for each team. These simplified targets are crucial to motivating a team, and getting the focus you need.
  1. Help people know more, so they can do their job better. Knowledge is power, and good information flow and collection tools are of the utmost importance. Information that is relevant and timely needs to be shared widely and efficiently. It’s also important to share the evaluation insights, and to tie the next action steps directly to current results.
  1. Accept that whatever speed you are going is too slow. Time is the enemy in today’s global marketplace. Follow the guiding motto of Andy Grove at Intel, “Only the paranoid survive.” It’s vital to get quick wins, learn rapidly from failures, and get comfortable with constant change. Waiting is never an option, as competitors will always be moving.

In the same fashion, these engagement principles must be applied to customers. More and more, I see evidence that customers want to be pulled to your company by engagement, rather than feel that you are pushing yourself on them. There are a multitude of opportunities through social media to engage your customers, as well as getting out of your office into the marketplace.

Customer business leadership through brand icons, such as Ronald McDonald and Aunt Jemima, is fading fast. Customers as well as employees want to relate and engage with real people as leaders, and business leaders need to interact with real employees and customers to stay vital and current.

As an entrepreneur, you need to start this focus early, with the same passion you currently apply to your new idea and solution. Have you taken a hard look recently at where you are spending most of your time?

Marty Zwilling
Startup Professionals Musings

What Is Marketing? – Principles, Types & Scope

what is marketing

Contrary to what most people think, marketing isn’t just about communicating and informing about the brand and its offering, but everything that’s involved in developing the offering, promoting it, selling it, and making the customer buy it (and rebuy it).

It doesn’t revolve around the product. Marketing revolves around the customers. This process focuses on exploring, creating, and developing an offering that fulfils the needs, wants, and demands of the customers while helping the business make sustain and gain. 

But what exactly is marketing, and why is it important? 

Let’s find out.

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is a process or a set of processes used to understand the target audience better, develop a valuable offering, communicate and deliver value to satisfy the needs, wants, and desires of the target audience at a profit.

In simple terms, marketing is an umbrella that includes –

  • Identifying the unfulfilled needs, wants, and desires of the target market,
  • Developing a valuable offering that satisfies the unmet needs,
  • Communicating the value to the target audience,
  • Delivering value to meet the needs, wants, and desires of the customers, and
  • Earning a profit.

simple definition of marketing would be, as Kotler puts it, “meeting the needs of your customer at a profit.” Thus, marketing involves everything that a business requires to meet the needs of its customers, and that too, at a profit.

Besides this, other institutes and renowned personalities define marketing as – 

The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

American Marketing Association (AMA)

The science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.

Dr Philip Kotler

The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. 

Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)

What Is The Purpose Of Marketing?

Contrary to what most people believe, the purpose of marketing isn’t limited to selling the offering. Considering there are seven functions of marketing ranging from product development to pricing to selling, marketing pertains to all aspects of the business and works on fulfilling the three core purposes of the business – 

  1. Identification of the goals and needs of the customers,
  2. Development of offerings that provide value to the customers, and
  3. Communication and sale of the product to earn profit.

What Is The Importance Of Marketing?

Marketing is essential because it helps the business consider the customer as its focal point and develop a sustainable business that provides value to society.

It is the heart of the business which collects information from the outside, filter it, and convert it into specialized strategies which help the business fulfil the customer requirements while making profits.

Marketing is important because it flows among all the departments of the business including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising, and makes the business follow a holistic approach – 

  • It enquires: It is through market research that business understands the actual needs, wants, and desires of the customers. 
  • It builds: Marketing helps the business produce what is actually needed in the market. 
  • It informs and engages: Communicating about the brand and the offering is a huge role that marketing plays.
  • It sells: Marketing is important because it helps the company to sell its offerings. It helps the company to make money by attracting customers, making them buy the offering, and reaching the set end goals.
  • It sustains: Marketing makes sure the company and its offering sustain for the long run by adapting to the changes in the business environment.
  • It builds identity: Marketing builds identity. 
  • It grows: Marketing is an essential function to ensure the smooth growth of the business. It helps the business expand its customer base, increase sales, and build a brand.

What Are The Objectives Of Marketing?

The main objective of marketing is to fulfil customers’ demands while making profits. Besides this, the other five objectives of marketing are – 

  1. Customer Satisfaction: Satisfying the needs, wants, and demands of the customers.
  2. Profitability: Earning profit for the business to support sustainable growth. 
  3. Demand Creation: Develop demand for the offerings by communicating about it to the target audience.
  4. Brand Development: Building a brand out of the company and/or the offering and differentiating it from other players in the market.
  5. Create Goodwill And Public Image: Building up a public image of the brand and increasing its equity by providing offerings with a consistent brand promise.

The Four Principles Of Marketing

Since marketing is the sum total of all the activities involved in the transfer of the goods from the seller to the buyer, it relies on four basic principles. These principles, also called the 4 Ps or the marketing mix, are – 

  • Product: It is the offering that the company sells or intends to sell.
  • Price: It is how much the company charges from the customer for the offering.
  • Place: It refers to the point of sale – the place where the offering is offered for sale.
  • Promotion: It encompasses all the marketing communication strategies to communicate and persuade the customer to buy the offering.

These four principles form the pillars marketing stands on. These principles give way to the core functions of the marketing too – 

  • Developing an offering that the market needs
  • Pricing the offering by predicting the perfect balance of product value and the customer’s paying capacity, to maximise profits.
  • Using the right distribution channels to distribute the offering
  • Communicate about the brand, brand message, offering, and offering’s USP to increase sales.

Nature Of Marketing

Marketing is considered to be holistic in nature. While there is usually a focus on a particular goal, marketing tries to make use of a 360-degree approach to fulfil the goal.

  • Managerial Function: Marketing is a process that requires officials to manage product, place, price, and promotion of the business in a holistic manner.
  • Economic Function: Earning profit and developing a sustainable business is a crucial objective of marketing.
  • Social Process: Marketing is a social process that results in the parties obtaining what they need through the creation and exchange of offerings and values.
  • Consumer-Oriented: Marketing revolves around fulfilling the needs, wants, and demands of the customers and earning profits in the process of doing so.
  • Both Art and Science: It is science as it requires the marketer to understand customer behaviour and art as it involves using this knowledge along with skills to create the demand for the offering.
  • Goal-Oriented: Marketing revolves fulfilling the goals of the business by aligning it with the customers’ goals.
  • Interactive Activity: Marketing involves the marketer to actively interact with the audience at all stages of the business.
  • Dynamic Process: It makes sure that the business keeps at pace with the changing business environment, trends, and demands of the customers.
  • Creates Utility: Marketing aims at providing utility to the customer through four different means – offering (kind of product or service), time (whenever needed), place (distribution availability), and possession (ownership).

Types Of MarketingScope Based On Entities Marketed

Most people mistake types of marketing strategies to be types of marketing.

They both differ.

Types of marketing strategies refer to the ‘how’ of marketing – how an offering is marketed. Types of marketing, however, focuses on the ‘what’ of marketing – what is marketed.

Marketing isn’t limited to just physical goods. Today, even human, places, and experiences are marketed.

  • Product Marketing: Tangible offerings manufactured in bulk and requiring proper marketing to make it available to the right customer at the right time. Example – mobile phones, televisions, etc..
  • Service Marketing: Intangible activities that can’t be separated by the provider. Example – hotels, airlines, barbers, etc. 
  • Event Marketing: Time based events like trade shows, artistic performances, etc.
  • Experience Marketing: An orchestrated mix of services and goods which leads to an experience. Example – amusement park experience, foreign trip experience, etc.
  • Person Marketing: A person known for his skills, profession, art, experience, etc. Example – Ronaldo, Michael Jackson, etc.
  • Place Marketing: Places, cities, states, and countries with an aim to attract potential investors and/or tourists. Example – Hawaii.
  • Property Marketing: Intangible rights of ownership of the real estate, stocks, securities, debentures, etc.
  • Organisation Marketing: Corporations and not for profit organisations like schools, colleges, universities, NGOs, etc.
  • Information Marketing: Information related to healthcare, technology, science, media, law, tax, market, finance, accounting, etc. offered by books, schools, universities, websites, media houses, etc. 
  • Idea Marketing: The basic ideas that result in the entity, offering, etc.

Scope Of Marketing

When compared to other functions of the business, marketing’s scope seems to be a bit more vast. It flows within almost all of the business activities and present at all stages of the customer buying cycle.

Even a separate type of marketing, known as digital marketing, has evolved to expand the scope of marketing over the internet.

  • Market Research: Researching consumer demands and consumer behaviour.
  • Product Planning and Development: Planning and developing the offering according to what’s needed in the market.
  • Product Pricing: Pricing the offering according to the product value and the buyer’s paying capacity to maximise profits.
  • Distribution: Distributing the offering, so it is available wherever and whenever the customer demands it.
  • Promotion: Communicating the right message that results in demand creation.
  • Sales: Offering incentives that increase sales.
  • After-Sales: Providing after-sales support to the customer to maintain a good brand image in the market.

Marketing Vs Sales

While sales and marketing have the same goal – generate revenue and increase the profits of the company, there’s a big difference between them.

Marketing is an umbrella that includes all the activities that result in meeting the needs, wants, or demands of the customers at a profit. 

Sales, on the other hand, is a process that results in a transaction between two or more parties in which the buyer(s) receive the offering and seller(s) get something of value in return which is usually money.

In simple terms, sales is a subset of marketing. 

Marketing Sales
Definition Systematic planning, implementation, and control of business activities to fulfil the needs of the customer at a profit. A transaction between two or more parties where the buyer receives the offering and the seller gets something of value in return.
Approach Broader approach that involves identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customers’ requirements with the purpose to make profits. Narrow approach to make the customer’s demand match what the company offers.
Focus On fulfilling the customers’ need and making profit out of it. Fulfil sales volume goals.
Strategy Used Pull Push
Horizon Long Term Short Term

Marketing Vs Advertising

Advertising is the subset of marketing which focuses only on the promotion aspect of the business. It is the action of calling public attention to an idea, good, or service through paid announcements by an identified sponsor.

Moreover, marketing’s promotion aspect includes activities like public relations and sales promotion, that are not limited to advertising.

Marketing Advertising
Definition Systematic planning, implementation, and control of business activities to fulfil the needs of the customer at a profit. A paid communication message intended to inform people about something or to influence them to buy or try something.
Approach Broader approach using more than just promotion. Offering oriented promotion backed by a goal to increase awareness or increase sales, etc.
Focus On developing a customer relationship. On fulfilling offering related goals.
Strategy Holistic strategy Promotion strategy

Go On, Tell Us What You Think!

Did we miss something?  Come on! Tell us what you think about our article on marketing definition in the comments section.


10 Startup Principles To Validate Fit Prior To A Plan

pensive-entrepreneurIf you are one of the new age of entrepreneurs who hates the thought of doing a business plan as a first step in starting your new venture you will love this message. More and more professionals agree that a better strategy is to explore and fine tune your assumptions before declaring a specific plan with financial projections based only on your dream and passion.

In the process, you may save yourself considerable re-work and money, or even decide that your dream needs more time to mature, before you commit your limited resources, or sign up with investors to a painful and unsatisfying plan.

In a classic book on this approach, “Beyond the Business Plan,” Simon Bridge and Cecilia Hegarty outline tradeoffs and recommends ten principles for every new venture explorer. Here is my edited summary of their ten principles, which I like and may convince you that you don’t need a business plan at all, or at the very least will help you write a better one later:

  1. A new venture is a means, not an end. A new enterprise should be pursued primarily to help you achieve your goals, like providing a better life for others, satisfying a passion of yours, or enjoying the benefits of a technology you have invented. In that context, it could be a social enterprise, or even a hobby, and a business plan may not be beneficial.

  2. Don’t start by committing more than you can afford to lose. New ventures are usually exploratory and risky in nature, so don’t let any business plan process convince you to commit more than you can risk as a person, if your exploration fails. Start with an effectual approach, which evaluates risk tolerance, and suggests more affordable means to an end.

  3. Pick a domain where you have some experience and expertise. Don’t handicap yourself by starting something for which you have to build or acquire knowledge, skills, and connections from scratch. No business plan will save you if you are just picking ideas at random, or copying others, just because the story sounds attractive.

  4. Carry out reality checks and make appropriate plans. Before a business plan has any validity, some work is required to validate that your technology works, a real market exists, and your assumptions for cost and price are reasonable. Don’t be totally driven by your own passions, the emotional enthusiasm of friends, or even third-party research.

  5. The only reliable test is a real one. Market research techniques for trying to predict the market’s response to a new venture can be costly and are often unreliable. Testing for real is the assumption behind approaches such as Lean Startup. It is also what explorers do – they go and look, instead of trying to predict from a distance what they will find.

  6. Get started and get some momentum. Too much hesitation will kill any new venture, as markets move quickly and difficulties mount. Getting started helps to generate momentum and the sense of having done something, which provides encouragement, more incentive to keep going, and can carry your startup over obstacles. Early perseverance pays off.

  7. Accept uncertainty as the norm. You will never remove all uncertainties, so accept them, and plan your activities in an incremental fashion. Too often, a business plan is seen as a mechanism for eliminating uncertainty, lulling the Founder into complacency. Eliminate major uncertainties before the plan, and update any plan as you learn.

  8. Look for new and best opportunities. Many useful opportunities are either created by what you do early, or are only revealed once you have started and can see out there. So keep your eyes open and respond to new customers, new markets, and new partnerships. You will also find that looking hard also eliminates opportunities that are not acceptable.

  9. Build and use social capital. Social capital is people and connections. No entrepreneur can survive as an island. Social capital is as important as financial capital for all ventures. As with all capital, you can use only as much as you have acquired to date. If you have no social capital, no business plan will likely get you the financial capital you need.

  10. Acquire the relevant skills. Three basic skill sets are required for successful delivery of almost every venture. These include financial management, marketing and sales, and the appropriate production ability. If you don’t have the relevant skills and knowledge, take the time to build them or find someone to partner with, before you attempt any business plan.

If you do decide after exploring these principles to continue building a conventional business, especially with investors and employees other than yourself, I’m still convinced that a business plan is a valuable exercise. You should do it yourself, to make sure you understand all the elements of the plan, and facilitate communication of the specifics to your team and to investors.

In essence, building a complete and credible plan is the final test of whether your venture has “legs,” meaning that the opportunity matches your resources, skills, opportunity, and a level of risk you are prepared to handle. The entrepreneur lifestyle is all about doing something you enjoy, without undue stress, uncertainty, and risk. Are you having fun in your new venture yet?

Marty Zwilling
Startup Professionals Musings