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The Instinct-Driven Entrepreneur: Plan for an Evolution

The daughter of self-made immigrants, Monica Mehta learned firsthand how the lessons learned in business school don’t mesh with those of the instinct-driven entrepreneur, who must learn to plan for an evolution and thrive on a shoestring.

“It’s not much good having a map if you can’t see the road and don’t even know where you want to go,” said Monica in our free teleclass, August 28. “If evolution is the norm, then the way you prepare for the journey must accommodate the unexpected.”

While traditional business plans can help you raise outside capital and check your assumptions, they don’t do much to help you prepare for what is a very unexpected journey, says Mehta. In fact, 40% of Inc 500 companies say they wrote business plans, but only 14% actually executed those plans.

In our teleclass, Mehta offered several best practices of the instinct-driven entrepreneur:

1. Launch a business using instinct

Understand that the early days of a startup are more creative than analytical, so work in ways to tap into your creative mind. At this early stage, prioritize action over planning. When it comes to funding the journey, put an emphasis on planning over action.

2. Market quickly and inexpensively

You have two strategic options during ramp up, says Mehta.

Strategy 1: Sell a product before it exists

Look for the “maverick” within a target customer organization, and focus on showing them how they can gain from your product or service. By ensuring that your product can help ensure their success, you’ll create an ally who feels vested in the success of your company. Nurture your creativity to spot new customers, and keep your pitch agile. Keep the cost of trying the product low.

Strategy 2: Find shortcuts to a beta product launch

Don’t focus on perfection. When Henry Ford created his first automobile, he used available parts; the result might not have been what rolled off the final assembly line, but it got the point across! Know the key assumptions you need to validate, says Mehta, and work around the features that don’t matter.

3. Don’t spend a dime until you exhaust your imagination

In the beginning, you will likely be your own lead investor. When cash is tight, make the most of your network, and get lean.

Before you spend a dime, consider ways to get what you need for free using your network. That includes asking friends and friends of friends for help. Seek barter and in-kind arrangements.  Slack resources are low-hanging fruit, and knowing how to ask for help can go a long way in the aid you receive.

Getting lean means trading your time for savings and keeping a tight rein on costs. Do what you can on your own and be sure to shop around before pulling the trigger on purchases.

It’s the ability to take risks and take leaps when the road ahead is unclear that really separates entrepreneurs from the rest of the pack, says Mehta. Listen to the 30-minute teleclass to get all of her great advice.

Monica Mehta is the author of The Entrepreneurial Instinct: How Everyone Has the Innate Ability to Start a Successful Small Business (McGraw-Hill, Sept 2012). Read more from the author here or visit