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From Thinking to Launching Your Business: 7 Essential Steps

businessman thinking in office

“If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first 6 hours sharpening my ax.”
— Attributed to Abraham Lincoln

Let’s Get to Business

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I love planning (business plans, goals, etc.).

However, there is such a thing as overplanning: trying to figure out solutions to every possible contingency or market fluctuation and mapping each step on your path to success.

As Abraham Lincoln alluded to in the above quote, working with a sharp tool is a far more effective strategy than wasting energy hacking away furiously. But even he knew that at some point, you have to put down the sharpening stone and get to work.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a business for some time, these 7 steps will help you get out of thinking and into launching.

1. Stop Planning

Planning is great. I’m a huge proponent of being prepared for the unexpected, but no plan works without action. So when should you stop planning?

Look for clues.

If you’re re-designing the plan for the tenth time, or researching esoteric possibilities (like what to do if your business is flooded in a thousand-year weather event), or trying to prove your plan will work without fail, then you have found your clues.

Also, you can seek the help of family and friends: ask them, “have I been talking about this too long?”

2. Set a Deadline for Launching Your Business

Most Americans dread April 15, the filing deadline for their taxes. Some wait until the actual day to scrabble together their income statements, receipts, and reports to try to meet the midnight finish line.

It can be stressful, but imagine if the government said, “Send them in when you get a chance.” The country would be bankrupt within weeks.

Setting a deadline for launching your business can help motivate you. In one study, 64 graduate students were given a tedious 90-minute task. Half knew the finish line, the other half did not.

The results were clear. The half who knew when it would end drastically outperformed the other half in speed and accuracy.

In short, draw a line in the sand to help you move into action.

3. Commit to Others

While deadlines are great, if we don’t treat deadlines with importance (like the U.S. Government does with fines and punitive measures), they will be meaningless. We can redraw that line in the sand each time we approach it.

Telling others your deadline, though, puts more at risk socially. That line becomes a bit more concrete, and you have more incentive to make it happen.

But don’t commit your deadline to just anyone. Your barista probably won’t care one way or the other, a close friend might let you slide if you miss, and your mom will (hopefully) always love you.

A recent Ohio State University study suggests this: commit to someone you hold in high esteem. This could be a mentor, a successful member of your family you respect, or an associate. The study revealed that people who committed to a goal with someone they held in high esteem were much more likely to hit their target.

4. Make Sure You’re Legally Covered

Before you leave your job, ask a contract attorney to review your non-disclosure and non-compete and any other agreements regarding your soon-to-be-former employer’s intellectual rights.

While some companies don’t enforce some clauses, many do. It’s wise to make sure you’re not violating your agreement before your business is even running. And if it turns out there might be a conflict, knowing it ahead of time allows you to approach your employer to see if there are any possible exceptions to the rule.

Taking this one step can save you weeks and years of headaches.

5. Write Your Letter of Resignation

If you’ve done your legal due diligence, then it’s time to write your resignation letter.

It’s almost cliché that many people dislike their jobs. Some construct elaborate and not-so-professional quitting fantasies worthy of a Hollywood screenplay.

In the real world, you probably have at least a modicum of respect for your managers. And as that golden day draws near, you will want to have your letter of resignation ready to go. Be appreciative, respectful, and thoughtful. In Dear-John parlance, explain to them that the reason behind your departure is you, not them.


Because you never know when you could use some of your old job’s help. You may  need to ask for your old job back, an introduction to a contact, a solid reference, or access to resources.

So write your letter, give them at least 2-weeks notice, and be completely professional. Save the grand exits for your nightly dreams.

6. Actually Use Your Business Plan

You have a business plan, right? If not, watch my YouTube miniseries about why you need one and what it should include.

As mentioned in that series, too many write their plan to launch a business and then stick it in a drawer to collect dust.

You put a lot of effort into putting the plan together. Let it serve as a map forward.

In the beginning, while you’re finding your groove, you can easily lose sight of the big things you need to be working on to get traction. The business plan keeps you focused on each step and strategy.

Yes, the plan may need to change as new information and circumstances arise. Plans are meant to be flexible, but they should never be ignored. Plan each year and each quarter and then review the past period to gauge how close to the plan you performed.

7. Fail Early and Often

Lastly? Go. Give your new enterprise all that you have. Fail!

Yes, you read that right. Fail, learn, fail again, learn… it’s the only true path to success. The faster you fail, learn from your failure, and adapt, the faster your desired success will arrive.

And while there’s a slight danger of going at something too long (like sticking with your Blockbuster franchise past the year 2004, hoping DVD rentals make a comeback, etc.), the mistake I see most entrepreneurs make is quitting too early.

Try new approaches, offers, markets. If your initial due diligence was solid, then keep going.

Key Takeaways

Planning is great! I love planning, brainstorming, and dreaming. But at some point you need to start taking intelligent action.

There are a lot of things that can stop us from taking that action. Whether it’s fear, lack of belief, or too much comfort, at some point we will either need to take action or stop dreaming. I think you know which of those gets my vote.

Feras Alhlou

Feras Alhlou

Feras has founded, grown, and sold businesses in Silicon Valley and abroad, scaling them from zero revenue to 7 and 8 figures. In 2019, he sold e-Nor, a digital marketing consulting company, to dentsu (a top-5 global media company). Feras has served as an advisor to 150+ other new startup businesses, and in his current venture, Start Up With Feras, he's on a mission to help entrepreneurs in the consulting and services space start and grow their businesses smarter and stronger.

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