Do I Need a Business Plan & 4 Other Questions

Toner's Pub, Baggot Street, Dublin, Ireland

 Talk is cheap, but guidance based on hard-won experience is a little more valuable.

March’s Entrepreneurs Anonymous featured a raft of advice from established entrepreneurs on a wide range of topics.

Departing from its usual speaker format, this month’s meetup was purely a Q&A format. The questions were answered by a panel of experts — the group itself! — but there was some backup from lean expert Paul Daniel (@PaulRDaniel) and serial entrepreneur Manoj Chawla.

Entrepreneurs Anonymous is a group I run. It meets once a month and is pitched at early stage and aspiring entrepreneurs. As such, it attracts people with a lot of questions to answer.

Do I need a business plan?

There were two schools of thought. One woman said it focused her mind and made her concentrate on business basics. However, another speaker said a start-up cannot accurately predict any great distance in to the future.

After some back and forth, the question boiled down to one of vision vs tools. Daniel also reminded people to use the lean canvas.

Think lean is new? Here’s how a backwoodsman perfected the typewriter.

Do I need to know bookkeeping or coding?

That was a big, fat “no!” Time is precious, was the consensus. Find someone who can do the work. There was advice on reasonably priced software such as Sage or Quickbooks.

Co-Founders: How to find? What to look for?

“The chemistry and fit is harder than a marriage,” Chawla said.You are also likely to spend more time with them than a spouse!

He compared the process to a man and woman in the early stages of dating. If they go off in a canoe without experience, the craft is likely to capsize, he said.

What happens next predicts their future. Is it splashing and laughing? Or something more foreboding? “It’s the blame game that makes life miserable.”

Chawla also recommended a book called The Monk & The Riddle.

Advertising – Websites – Social Media

The question here was initially phrased as an either/or: Should I buy advertising or have a website?

The near-unanimous answer was to get a website. They can be quickly put together in WordPress or some other Content Management System (CMS).

Some people noted Facebook and Twitter are useful for social products, but as one speaker said, “If you don’t have a website, people will never find you. They are not going to look you up in the phone book.”

Another said if money is being spent on ads, it is essential to track response rates, one speaker said.

Pricing Tips?

Are you paying $4 for a watery coffee at Starbucks or $2 for time in a comfy armchair?

Some readings suggested were:

Laure Joumier (@LaureJoumier) is working on a new venture called Incend. This makes research in many fields available. She invited the audience to a private beta to explore research in to the psychology of pricing.