5 Disadvantages Of A Too-Complex Business Plan

Pink SkyOur lives are filled with contradiction.

Business is no different. One area this seems to be true is the business plan. Many successful, and long-term successful, businesses have very basic business plans. But over time they add details behind the basic overview.

I like Jim Collins’ finding on the topic. He saw that successful business often preferred SMAC Recipes to complex business plans. These were specific, but simple formulas for running the business.

But if you’re starting a business, a trap you can fall into is thinking that you’re not ready to start until your business plan is perfect.

Here are a few reasons to avoid this…

1. Procrastination

The idea of entrepreneurship is appealing to many. But in the early days the false feeling of awesomeness quickly fades. Then it’s time to work to work. But many think that “work” is in the plan. Some work is in the plan, but much more work is in the action. Creating a complex business plan can feel productive. But usually it’s a form of procrastination. We often do it as a way to avoid the uncertainly of starting the business.

2. Difficult For Team To Comprehend

A complex business plan can be difficult for others to put into practice. It’s not that they’re not smart. It’s more that it’s frustrating to figure out what direction to take and how to make decisions. And complexity often leads to multiple interpretations, which can lead to even more frustration. In the end, you get little action.

3. Outdatedness

Complex systems often get dated quickly. People are incentivized to do as they’re told. They avoid innovation.

4. Lack of Self-Discipline

A complex plan can make it seem like everything is figured out. Follow the plan and everything will be fine. This can work for awhile, but it doesn’t allow for personal growth or personal discipline. People start thinking only about the plan and they avoid learning for themselves the limits of life and work.

5. Lack of Bullets

Unless noted, complex business plans usually focus on one big idea. This is great, if the target is hit. But often, businesses need to adapt fast and fire more “bullets“. These are little tests that lead to data that lead to the knowledge necessary for larger bets.

Imagine buying a new bow and arrow. Your friend bets you $100 that you can’t hit the bull’s eye with the first shot. You know that you’ll need a few shots to adjust the initial sight. You offer to bet $10 on the first shot, $20 on the second, $30 on the third and $50 on the fourth. They might not accept, but if they do, you’re very likely to get close to $100 vs. a high likelihood of losing all $100 on that first shot.


Simple doesn’t mean unspecific. You need both with a business plan. But chasing complexity often leads to more negative outcomes. It can actually lead to unspecific directions and plans. You’re usually better off creating a SMAC Recipe than a super complex business plan.

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