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Startup lesson #06: You can't plan that far in advance

Lessons from 100 days of starting my own business

I’m a planner. In life, I like to know what events are coming up and what deadlines and opportunities are on the horizon. I like to know what I have to do ahead of time and fulfill deadlines ahead of time.

In the first couple of months of starting to build my own business, I repeatedly tried to plan too far in advance. I understood from the books I’d read that I should be setting goals and achieving them by specific dates. I put pressure on myself to achieve them, even when I had no idea how much effort was required to do so.

Some books told me that I should spend half my time on marketing and half my time on product development. These are very well-respected startup books! So I tried to follow them. I discovered that there’s no magic formula, and that not everything they taught worked for me.

I booked stands at trade shows, fairs, exhibitions and conferences, without knowing for certain whether I’d have a product to show. I spent time on social media, drumming up support for my business. I spent hours blogging. And yet I had no supply chain, no way to make my product and get it to customers. No supply chain equals no product, so the marketing was irrelevant until I could fix that.

I tried very hard to follow the advice I’d read, but it turned out that didn’t work for my company, with an innovative physical product that required a huge amount of product development. I should have focused all my energy on figuring out how to make the product and then on a supply chain, rather than chasing up marketing opportunities. The lesson I learnt here was not to follow other people’s advice, but to do only what was right for my business.

In a startup, you can have a long-term strategy, but you have to be prepared to react on an hourly basis to situations, and adjust your priorities according to new information you discover. This can be super frustrating when all you want to do is make progress, but sometimes you just have to embrace the uncertainty, and know that it won’t be like that forever.

I'm Claire Ransom, and I'm a writer and business owner. I founded Lazy Flora, a garden-in-a-box delivery company, in February 2017. This blog post is part of a series on things I learnt during 100 days of starting my own business.

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