December 4th, 2020

I've been working with someone, the CEO, on a project. When I suggest that we write our business plan, he resists, saying he doesn't want to "do work that we'll just have to change later". When I suggest that we keep records, discuss equity division among the people we've brought on board, write contracts, he generally debates me and we do none of it.

He is focused on one thing, getting the programmers to create the MVP for beta testing.

Your impressions?

Steve Lehman Investor, Entrepreneur

December 4th, 2020

Entrepreneurs only have so many hours in a day. A CEO needs to prioritize, and getting an MVP to launch is one of those big milestones in any company. Having said that, your CEO may have a problem delegating to those who can help him with basics. These things are important for structure in any StartUp. After the MVP there will be the next challenge and milestone, which may further push things out. One way or another, contracts need to be written, records need to be kept, businesses need basic structure.

Deniz Acay 2X Founder, CTO, built many products with different technologies

Last updated on December 11th, 2020

Communication is essential among co-founders. If you feel you are dismissed without proper consideration or think that every important discussion you have lead to an argument, this might be a signal of a mismatch.

Building an MVP is one of the most critical milestones for a company, but even if you don't have a fully-fledged business plan, you need to have a basic understanding of the problem you are claiming to solve, your solution approach, your early adopters, so on.

But aside from that, not keeping records, having a cofounders agreement, contracts, etc seems suspicious. I would suggest you to reconsider your involvement with the company.

Dane Madsen Organizational and Operational Strategy Consultant

December 4th, 2020

You do not identify your role in the company. I presume that is a factor in this discussion. It would be helpful to know that to frame the answer.

This sounds like avoidance, not procrastination. While many detailed and mundane tasks are undone in very early startups, often because of the lack of experience in the leadership team about their importance (business plan - maybe, contracts? Absolutely) there is a difference between benign neglect and obsequious intent.

You need to understand his motive, not just for the company, but for you personally. Not keeping records, for some, is a way they think the are protecting themselves for lack of a paper-trail. That usually ends very, very badly.


Last updated on December 5th, 2020

Thank you, Dane Madsen...the CEO brought me on as a cofounder. The skillset I bring to the table is that of UX/UI designer and marketing. I've done so much work that the CEO claims he wants to split this 50/50...but still no contracts.

Dimitry Kushelevsky CEO, Experienced entrepreneur and business advisor

December 6th, 2020

It sounds like your co-founder is a CEO in title only. While writing a full-on business plan is somewhat wasteful, at the least I would expect for him to outline your business model (as in the Lean Start-up Business Canvas). Without it, he is subjecting your start-up to significant risk, regardless of how cool the idea may sound. As for proceeding without a cofounder's agreement - it's a REALLY bad idea. You may not want/need to spend the money on a custom-made agreement, but at least you should find a template (plenty of free and low-cost ones on the net), just to cover the basics like share amounts, vesting schedules and co-founder' responsibilities.

Lastly, by saying that he's focused on the creation of the MVP, I assumed that you meant he's hard at work on the product...However, your later reply implies that he has a questionable work ethic altogether. The former may be corrected, assuming he's flexible enough, but if the latter is true, that would pretty much kill the deal for me. It really wouldn't matter how good the concept is at that point - your odds of building a successful business are virtually nil. Hope this helps!

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

December 8th, 2020

So it's clear you have the more important role and the person playing at CEO is trying to leap forward without doing the required pre-work. Not a CEO in reality, just an empty title. A business plan isn't for others to read. It is a living document meant to test and make clear the direction for the business. Those that start with this document fare better than those without because there's a reference point, a chance to examine the business intellectually before spending money and leaping into mistakes that could have been avoided. Sure, lots of people operate without one, foolishly. Even a 10-year-old business should have a business plan, and it should be updated a couple times a year, preferably on paper, not in one person's head.

My guess is that the CEO cannot articulate their vision for the company, and this will eventually create leadership problems. A vision is not a mission. A vision is the succinct description of the ideal experience of your company and product/service for customers, both external and internal.

Your co-founder is focused on the wrong thing. Before any MVP is built, he needs your work validating marketing strategy to define what the product should be, who the audience is, where they are, what they care about, how to approach them, what they're willing to pay under which conditions, and in sum total, whether there's a business in what you're doing at all.

Anyone who uses the "Field of Dreams" approach is guaranteed to make avoidable mistakes and waste money. Anyone who is worried about change doesn't understand that a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Anyone who doesn't document agreements will generate resentment that will eventually undermine the whole company. He is not a CEO or a leader, just the idea person. I hope all your eggs are not in this basket.

Dimitry Rotstein Founder at Miranor

December 4th, 2020

I agree that writing a business plan before an MVP is a huge waste of time. I did this mistake once, many years ago, spent a lot of time and money (advisor's pay) to write a 40 page document that one one has read EVER, myself included.

The most important thing an early stage startup must do is "go to market", with the simplest and quickest possible MVP. By the way, if an MVP requires beta testing, then it's NOT an MVP, but that's a separate story.

However, it is VITAL to sign proper agreements with all team members and partners, particularly those who get equity, ASAP. Delaying this step even for a couple of weeks (let alone months) is very likely to destroy the startup. I've seen this again and again up close - co-founders breaking up and killing a perfectly good startup, in which they've invested a lot of work and their own money, only because they didn't sign a co-founders agreement in time or because the agreement was very poorly written and couldn't handle even the simplest problem.

It is also highly important to keep records in order, particularly the financial ones, but this doesn't have to be CEO's job - an accountant or a secretary could do it just as well, it's a pretty technical (and boring) work, so it makes sense to hire someone, if possible.


Last updated on December 6th, 2020

Thanks Dimitry,

Yes, what you've written is what I've been feeling for a while helps to have others confirm your notions.


December 8th, 2020

Spot on, Paul...thank you.

You know, it is what I have been thinking for quite a while...just thought I'd lay it out there to see what others' perspectives might be.

Steve Owens Startup Expert

December 5th, 2020

Plans are nothing.

Planning is everything.

You have what is known in the industry as a Visionary. Most entrepreneurs are Visionaries. The lucky ones are paired with an Integrator. If not, they usually fail.

Visionaries clearly see the future, but they have absolutely no idea how to get there. It's the Integrators job to plot a path to the vision.

An Integrator does not debate with a Visionary - that is pointless. He either just does what he know needs to be done, or he tells the Visionary what he is going to do. As long as you attach your plan to his vision, he will not object.