By Cynthia Kocialski You only have one chance to make a first impression. Likewise, you only have one chance to be a successful entrepreneur. While the old saying goes, “If you fail, try, try again”, that’s not what happens in life. Aardvark was a social search service start-up acquired by Google recently. One of the co-founder told me that what they discovered is that if a first time user got a reasonable or great answer to their question, they continued to utilize the Aardvark service. But if the user didn’t get at least a reasonable answer, they never returned. Likewise, restaurant goers behave the same way. If they try a new restaurant and the experience was decent, they will return again. But if their experience was horrible, that’s it, they will never return to see if their experience was just a fluke of bad luck. First time entrepreneurs or even start-up people behave in a similar fashion. If their participation in the first start-up is somewhat successful, they get the entrepreneurial bug and keep trying until they succeed. However, if they work long hours year after year, foregoing a better salary and a balanced lifestyle, and the start-up eventually fails, they will find a job and never leave the job market. So how can first time entrepreneurs ensure they have a reasonable level of success? First of all, ditch the business plan. In truth, most new business plans aren’t worth the paper they are written on. They are works of fiction and are filled with guesses, assumptions, and wishful thinking. Would you repeat the actions done by a fictional character in a novel and expect the same results in real life? I doubt it. Yet, following most new business plans is exactly that. Second, entrepreneurs need to change the way they think about their new businesses. They should view their start-ups on day one as an experimental start-up, a new business in which everything is subject to change. Just referring to the new business creates a mindset that’s different than that of one with a business plan. A business plan is often researched and a path is devised that supposed to lead to success. Entrepreneurs expect some hiccups along the way, but they expect the business to unfold as predicted in the plan. And when the entrepreneur’s expectations aren’t met, they get discouraged and quit. Many successful entrepreneurs will say that they wrote a business plan, but it wasn’t valid a week later because their business kept changing and evolving. So why write one at all? Entrepreneurs would be better served if they started with a concept plan. This type of plan acknowledges the missing information, the lack of facts and experience, and the assumptions. When coupled with a strategy for conducting the business experiments necessary to uncover the facts, it becomes a power system for the creation of new businesses. Only after an entrepreneur has discovered the right product and workable business model, and has direct experience with the market and customers, should they write a business plan. The last piece to the puzzle is passion for your work. Have you ever wondered why people recommend starting a business where you have a passion? If you have a passion, you will be willing to provide value to the customers. You won’t cling to a specific product concept because it’s a matter of pride. You will be willing to change to accommodate the marketplace. Just because you can do something or you have experience with something, doesn’t mean you should start a business doing that something. I can dig a ditch, but I wouldn’t start a business digging ditches. If I did, I’d just want to get from the starting point to the success phase as quickly as possible, so I could hire someone else to dig the ditches. This is what gets entrepreneurs into trouble, when they want to get from nowhere to somewhere a.s.a.p. They want to follow the cookbook recipe with certainty to that somewhere, and they aren’t enjoying the journey along the way. About the Author Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three start-ups and helps entrepreneurs transform their ideas into new businesses. Cynthia is the author of Startup from the Ground Up and Out of the Classroom Lessons in Success. Cynthia writes regularly at Start-Up Entrepreneurs' Blog and provides in her video series information on New Business Strategies!