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Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey? Do not write a business plan (Book Review)

Burn the Business Plan: What Great Entrepreneurs DoBy Porisma P. Gogoi,

Title: Burn the Business Plan: What Great Entrepreneurs Do; Author: Carl J. Schramm; Publisher: Hachette India; Pages: 272; Price: Rs 499

The entrepreneurial process involves innumerable notions like “starting really early in life” or the necessity of being a “college drop-out”, or even that the whole process requires an actual “written plan” for the idea to flourish. However, neither all successful start-ups are babies of very young entrepreneurs, nor consequences of penned business ideas.

“Burn the Business Plan” busts the common myths surrounding the entrepreneurial journey and should be a must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs. The book is the outcome of Carl J. Schramm’s findings while he led the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation — an institution supporting entrepreneurship — spending time with many successful as well as aspiring entrepreneurs, investors and business visionaries.

Schramm says: “The book is for those who think that they might want to start a business some day. It is for ‘Everyman’, a medieval term describing regular people. Most people who start companies are like you: They have never come close to meeting a venture-capital investor, never studied entrepreneurship in college; never heard of a business incubator; and never wrote a business plan.”

The author, University Professor at Syracuse, describes an entrepreneur as someone who exploits an innovative idea — one that he develops, or copies, improves, or rents — to start a profit-seeking scalable business that successfully satisfies demand for a new or better product.

Describing the entrepreneurial journey, the book’s first four chapters explain the “what” of business start-ups, the next four describe lessons learned by those who have already succeeded as entrepreneurs, and the last section seeks to explain data-derived facts and realistic guidance from successful businessmen.

During the decade spent at the Kauffman Foundation, Schramm realised that there were numerous popularly-held but wrong ideas about how, when and why people start companies and that the real story on start-ups and their success rates have a totally different disclosure.

“Most entrepreneurs never went to college, and most did not start their companies until they were well along in their careers. The average entrepreneur is nearly 40 years old when he launches, and more than eighty per cent of all new companies are started by people over 35,” writes the author.

Data also revealed that the age of more entrepreneurs are between 45 and 55, with those over 55 creating more companies than those under 35, and that the chances of a new company surviving rises with the age of the entrepreneur, says Schramm.

The book recognises that the “mature entrepreneur” is a significant element in the start-up world. The author establishes the fact that a big company can operate as a “de facto” school in which an aspiring entrepreneur can learn about the various facets of the actual market ahead of handing out their innovation.

“Nearly 90 per cent of all entrepreneurs have worked for other employers before starting their companies. Embryonic entrepreneurs cannot help but absorb lessons working for established companies that can prove useful as they start their own,” the author says, citing big names like David Kyle, Fred Valerino, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, among others, who previously worked for other bosses.

A successful entrepreneur charts a different path with innovative ideas that even dismiss the popular myth-making stories of the entrepreneurs of Silicon valley. New businesses flourish with great ideas, not merely planning a business. As the author puts it: “If you have already written a business plan, take my advice: Burn it!”

(Porisma P. Gogoi can be contacted at )


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