This is the final part in 4-part series on self-employment for people on the autism spectrum and the one I’m most nervous about posting. I nearly titled it “Don’t Try This at Home” because when I say this is what works for me, I’m not kidding. Your mileage may vary greatly. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you. Starting a business is far from a textbook undertaking and there are as many ways to go about it as there are successful business owners.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably still wondering, but how exactly does this starting a business work? You can find a ton of advice about starting a business online. I feel like it would be irresponsible if I didn’t strongly advise you to read extensively, across many different sources, to get an understanding of what owning a business involves. It pays to know how deep the water is before you dive into the pool.
Having said that, I’ve always been more of a learning on the fly kind of gal. If I can doggie paddle, I’ll dive in and figure the rest out as I go. You can only learn so much about swimming by standing on the pool deck watching a YouTube video.
I’m going to close out this series by sharing the five things I’ve learned in the deep end that go counter to much of the formal business school type of advice you’ll encounter elsewhere. Keep in mind that this is what worked for me–what played to my strengths. It may or may not work for you, but I think it demonstrates that doing what works for you is often more important than doing things the way you think they should be done or the way someone else has told you they should be done.
1. Forget the Business Plan
If you Google “how to start a business” you’ll find lots of start-up checklists and on most of those checklists one of the steps will be “create a business plan.” I have a confession: the only time I ever wrote a business plan was last year, as part of an Entrepreneurship course. By that point I’d been a business owner for more than two decades.
I know that a business plan is necessary if you want to go to a bank or other investors for funding. Other than that, I’m not sure what purpose it serves. To me, it seems like a poor use of time. The business plan that I wrote for class required at least forty hours of work and I was just doing the minimum necessary to get a decent grade. If I was making a serious effort, it would have easily taken me five times as long. And still it would have been based on assumptions that inevitably go right out the window once you get down in the trenches of running a business.
As the old Yiddish proverb so wisely says: Man plans and God laughs. Continue reading Starting a Business Aspie Style (or What They’ll Never Tell You in Business School)