Planning is good. You may not need a full formal business plan, but you can certainly use planning to manage. So I’ve written this book to help you get going quickly, and easily, with only as much planning as you want and need to succeed. That might require a full plan, and it might not.

In an old Peanuts comic strip, Linus and Lucy are walking on a sidewalk when they see in front of them something that Lucy — who knows everything — identifies as a rare Brazilian butterfly. She starts talking about the wonder of the butterfly having traveled all the way from Brazil, when Charlie Brown looks closer and interrupts: “It’s a potato chip.”

“Then isn’t it even more amazing,” Lucy continues, without missing a beat, “that this potato chip got here all the way from Brazil?”

This story reminds me of what’s happening to business planning. People who mean to say what I’m saying with this book, that not every business needs a complete formal business plan, end up missing out on planning. And that’s a shame.

So I say let’s keep it simple and practical. Do as much planning as you’ll be able to use. Realize that all plans will change, so think of your plan as ongoing and use it to guide your business. Expect it to change, but use the planning to keep your eyes on the long-term goals even as the details change. It’s like planning a trip, for example:having the plan doesn’t lock you in, it helps you keep track and revise as needed. Or like dribbling: you keep your eyes on the whole field (or court) while you deal with the ball, watching the play develop without losing track of the goal. Plan as you go.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.