5 Consequences of Skipping a Business Plan

Author: Kody Wirth

Kody Wirth

Kody Wirth

9 min. read

Updated May 10, 2024

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You’ve got a great business idea, something that could be truly special. 

You’re ready to dive in, ditch the day job, and build it yourself.

But you keep being told you need to write a business plan.

It feels like an unnecessary roadblock when all you want to do is go, and you’re tempted to skip it entirely.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen? 

That’s the question we’re tackling in this article. 

I spoke with seasoned planning experts Tim Berry, Sabrina Parsons, and Noah Parsons to uncover the consequences of starting a business without a plan. 

1. An idea isn’t always a business

That initial rush of excitement when a business idea hits is intoxicating. You imagine the possibilities, the potential…but the journey from concept to reality is where things get tricky.

“Without a business plan, you won’t know if your idea can be turned into a business,” Sabrina cautions. “To transform an idea into an actual business, you need to test if it’s viable.”

The problem? Most people lack a framework for that testing. 

The idea remains trapped in your head. You lack answers to critical questions, like:

  • Does it solve a real problem? Who are your ideal customers, and what pain point are you addressing?
  • Is there a market? Are enough people willing to pay for your solution?
  • How will you make money? What’s your basic business model for turning a profit?

Creating a one-page plan gives you a structured way to answer these questions. It could save you from wasting time and resources chasing a dream that was never meant to be a business. 

Or it might just reveal that your idea has potential and deserves more research.

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2. If you build it, they don’t always come

Even a seemingly good idea may not actually work

It could be too expensive to execute, face overwhelming competition, or simply not appeal to enough customers. 

“If you build it, they will come” is one of the biggest myths in business,” says Sabrina. “You need to attract people who actually want to buy what you are selling.”

This means finding product-market fit—the sweet spot where your solution meets a real customer need.

“It’s the single most important factor in the early stages of a business,” explains Noah. “If your product doesn’t solve a problem for your customers, you don’t have a business.”

True product-market fit requires testing. It means getting out there, talking to potential customers, and getting honest feedback:

  • Do they truly need what you offer?
  • Is the price point appealing?
  • Are you even targeting the right audience?

You can’t meaningfully ask these questions without first outlining the assumptions baked into your idea. Who are your customers? What problem do you solve? What’s your basic business model?

Again, creating a one-page plan forces you to address these assumptions from the start. It lays the groundwork for the kind of testing that separates successful startups from those that fizzle out because they misread the market.

3. You won’t know how much money you need

You hear about bootstrapping success stories—entrepreneurs building empires from scratch. But the reality is every business requires some investment, even if it’s your own.

“You need to know how much it will cost to start and keep the business running—and then what it will take to become profitable,” Noah stresses. 

If you lack a business plan, you’ll have no idea of your revenue and expense categories. These are the starting points for creating sales, expense, and cash flow forecasts that help you understand:

  • Startup Expenses: How much cash do you need to make your business operational?
  • Operating Costs: How much will it take to run your business for the first year?
  • Hidden Fees: Have you considered every potential expense, from licenses to marketing?
  • Cash Flow: How long will it take for enough money to come in to cover your ongoing expenses?

Trying to figure this out in real-time is a recipe for disaster. 

As Sabrina puts it, “It’s like playing high-stakes poker blindfolded. You’re risking everything without a clear picture of what you’re working with.”

A plan brings clarity. It helps you determine whether you have the funds to succeed, how quickly you might become profitable, and how to allocate your cash wisely. 

Without it, you risk running out of money before your business has a fighting chance.

4. You won’t know what is and isn’t working

“Tracking your business performance—reviewing how your actual results measure up to your plan—is the key to running a successful business,” Noah emphasizes. 

Without a business plan and financial forecasts, you’ll lack the foundation to build a business strategy. That ‘blindfold’ that Sabrina mentioned before will stick with you throughout the life of your business.

Here’s what that means:

  • Inefficiencies bleed profits: You won’t be able to identify the areas where you’re losing money.
  • “Big decisions” are risky: You won’t know when it’s the right time to make critical decisions (like hiring team members or expanding).
  • Profitability is a mystery: Without tracking towards specific business goals, “what it will take to be profitable” remains unknown.
  • No data for decisions: When do you need to change course? Without the clarity a business plan provides, it’s impossible to say.

“Managing your business against your plan leads to better decisions,” says Sabrina. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated—again, with a simple one-page plan, you’ll have a tool “to better understand your financial drivers and revenue opportunities.” 

This plan becomes your roadmap. It lets you make data-driven decisions, minimize risk, and proactively steer your business toward success. With this knowledge, surprises become fewer, and your understanding of your business will grow deeper.

5. You will struggle to raise money

Investors and banks live in the world of business and financial plans

As Tim states, “Don’t get caught thinking investors just want pitches and summaries. They expect a plan and will want to go over every detail.” Without these documents, you’ll face serious hurdles in securing funding. Tim adds: “I’ve seen investors reject a startup from just summaries without reading a business plan document. But I’ve never seen them invest without having seen a plan.”  

Think of it this way: If you don’t have a plan, you either scramble to assemble one or walk into investor meetings unprepared. 

“I’ve seen it countless times in actual investor pitches,” Tim recounts. “Things seem promising until investors start digging into specifics like marketing spend or administrative costs. Those without a well-thought-out plan freeze up. Investors can smell that a mile away.”

The very process of creating a business plan primes you for the questions investors will undoubtedly ask. “The planning process forces you to answer questions about your business that you may not have thought to ask yourself,” explains Noah. 

This includes the critical question: How much funding do you truly need?

“Getting the right amount of financing for your business will save you heartache and money,” says Sabrina. “Do yourself a favor and create a full financial forecast to understand exactly how much funding you need.” Otherwise, you risk under or overestimating, damaging your credibility with investors.

TLDR: If you’re seeking outside funding, a formal business plan isn’t just helpful—it’s essential. While a more detailed plan is likely necessary, the one-page plan we’ve discussed will form the foundation.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Writing a business plan will make you a better business owner.

It’s not just about avoiding pitfalls; it’s about unlocking your business’s full potential. The planning process forces you to dig deep, examine your ideas, and refine them into a powerful strategy built for long-term success.

The best part? You don’t need a complex, time-consuming document to reap these rewards. 

“We’re talking about a lean one-page plan to run your business,” Tim emphasizes. It’s easy to develop, keep updated, and build on bullet points, lists, and tables. If you know your business, you can do it quickly.”

So, whether you’re a new or existing business—don’t face the consequences caused by skipping out on your business plan.

Download our free one-page business plan template and write it in as little as 30 minutes. You and your business will be glad you did.

FAQ

Skipping the business planning process can lead to several negative consequences:

 

  • Your idea might not be viable: You risk wasting time and money on a product or service that nobody wants or isn’t profitable.
  • You could miss your target market: A plan helps you understand your ideal customer and ensure you’re offering something they truly need.
  • You’ll be financially unprepared: You won’t know your true startup and operational costs or how to reach profitability.
  • You’ll lack a roadmap: Without a plan, it’s difficult to track progress, identify problems, or make strategic decisions.
  • You’ll struggle to get funding: Investors and lenders rely on business plans and financial statements to assess the potential of your venture.

Remember, even a simple one-page plan can help you avoid these pitfalls and set your business up for success.

Technically, yes, a business can survive without a plan. There are examples of businesses that found success without traditional planning—but they are the outliers.

 

The reality is that businesses without a plan face significantly greater obstacles. They’re more likely to:

 

  • Make costly mistakes due to a lack of foresight.
  • Miss out on opportunities due to a lack of direction.
  • Struggle to obtain funding from investors and lenders.
  • Fail to understand their full financial picture.

While survival is possible, a business plan dramatically increases the odds of not just surviving but thriving.

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Create a professional business plan

Using AI and step-by-step instructions

Create Your Plan

Secure funding

Validate ideas

Build a strategy

Content Author: Kody Wirth

Kody Wirth is a content writer and SEO specialist for Palo Alto Software—the creator's of Bplans and LivePlan. He has 3+ years experience covering small business topics and runs a part-time content writing service in his spare time.