Plan to Change Plans

31 07 2011

Developing a plan is great, but plans never seem to go as we expect. It is easy to look good on paper but your success in the real world depends on how well you react to change. Be open to change and finding a new direction. Sometimes it is a small change, but other times it is a complete transformation in company goals.

When I first came up with my business idea, I immediately developed a business plan. I wanted to define my business, develop a marketing strategy, create a financial projection, and determine all costs involved. This was easy. The hard part comes when you begin to implement your plan and talk to other people. One single idea can be perceived a million different ways so it is your job to adapt to meet the needs and wants of others.

My objective from the beginning is the one thing that has not changed: to connect communities through an online social network. This may sound vague, but it forces me to find different ways to achieve this goal. I haven’t limited myself to take one path to reach my destination, rather I have left the path open for me to fill in as I go along. The journey is the best part because you never know what will lie in your way. There will be shortcuts, obstacles, and you will make mistakes, but as long as you keep moving towards your ultimate goal, you will be fine.

The first battle was deciding on my target market. The idea came with Lake Orion in mind but my solution seemed to be perfect for a college town. I started to make my plan for Oberlin College to serve as my first test market. I always knew the ultimate goal was to help Lake Orion but felt I wasn’t ready for that. If I could develop a proven model first and generate revenue, then I could launch my service in Lake Orion.

With Oberlin, I wanted to partner up with the school and have students pay $5-$10 as a student activity fee to access the service. I was talking with a developer in New York about not only developing a website but mobile apps for the android market and iphone as well. Everything was all set and I was ready to commit except for one small detail. The developer wanted me to pay a subscription fee every month to use his service, so I felt restricted in what I could do. Even though the initial startup cost was far less than my other developer I talked to and this New York developer had already created a market-tested product, it would be more costly in the long-run. I decided to pass and completely change my model.

I found a local developer and decided I wanted to launch in Lake Orion. I wasn’t going to settle for a product that didn’t have all the functions I wanted it to. Now I would have to sacrifice getting mobile applications but my website would be much more customized to meet my requirements. This also meant I could no longer charge users for the product but would instead have to charge local businesses a subscription fee. To sell my product I had to push the idea that my product would serve as a much more cost effective marketing tool.

If you look back at my original business model, you could hardly recognize it. I created a plan, but in the end all my plans changed. All of this happened in the span of two months. You may think it was a waste to create a plan I won’t even end up using. I disagree! Creating plans forces you to think critically and find solutions. Plans will constantly change. You can’t expect to ever have it all figured out. Instead, make plans to change plans. Find new solutions, create new models, and progress to your ultimate goal.




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