I had a lot of fun and laughter thinking about this topic today. I thought about all of the times that I had an idea, the inspiration, the motivation, the drive and the determination to do some things, and had NO real plan. Some things worked, some didn't. Some failed. Some flopped. Sometimes I landed safely, and other times I felt like I was in a free-fall off of a cliff. It's only funny looking back. It was anything but funny at the time. Some of the things I've done before that didn't quite work out, if done again, I would do one thing over: make a PLAN A, PLAN B, PLAN C, ...
I ALWAYS had a strategy, so these were not completely blind leaps that I took. I've had a few formal business plans constructed, too, to guide me. Even so, you know what I learned the hard way? Even the best laid plans can fail, too. It's the one thing about business that can get so tricky and frustrating, the day-to-day calculations of what you'll produce. Or not.
PUT IN ON PAPER
So what does having a plan really have to do with anything? Well, a business associate told me something very interesting recently. She and her partners were constructing a deal to acquire business from another company. They are smart, experienced women, and were eager to get this client on board. They were promised a deal if they could provide the plan that would guarantee the client the financial success he needed. They were confident that they could, but due to some timing factors with preparation, failed to show the client how his business goals fit into their business strategy. Can you say "OOPS"? So, instead of walking away with the whole caboodle of business, he gave them a small quotient of it as a "trial run". They needed and wanted all the business he had allocated for them, but didn't get it.
That was still a good thing, but having a plan, a strategy to view, would have netted them much more money. That was the goal. That was the plan. The plan was clear in their thinking, but there was nothing on paper to show their client. Plans provide focus. They can be altered, but they keep us moving toward our goals. They help us remember to make our decisions based on the structure that is already in place. Flexibility is important, of course, but the PLAN is the course of action that gets us from our starting point to the finish line.
IS A PLAN A GUARANTEE?
YES AND NO. I've also learned that businesses that don't survive, don't for a great variety of reasons. Sometimes I felt like questioning my own intelligence when things didn't work out. I stopped before going on that trip, because I know my intellect, and I know myself. Trust me, there are variables that go into becoming successful that go far beyond your intelligence, hard work, faith and money. On any given day, someone else's decision could impact everything you've planned. Someone or something that happens can so blindside you in the midst of your strategy and throw everything out of whack. How can you possibly plan for that? You pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and hopefully, keep going if you can.
No one PLANS to fail, but I have also learned that once you have put your business plan together, there should be an "alert clause" at the end saying that it may not work. Factual. Sad, but true. I know that sounds negative, but businesses still fail annually at an alarming rate, and not because they didn't have a plan.
THE BUSINESS OF TRYING
The recent Vikings and Cowboys game comes to mind (because I'm a FAVRE-VELOUS fan!). To the best of their understanding and ability, those teams came out to do business. They had studied strategy, had a plan as definable as possible. Each team, when given the ball, made their plays to the best of their strengths, ability and focus. They called the plays as each prior play required. There was one goal in mind: TO WIN. That would be the ultimate SUCCESS for that team. The athletic prowess was there, but sometimes things just were not working out, not going according to the "plan". The Cowboys lost, not because they are not a great team, and not because they don't have great leaders.
Sometimes the "business" of all of our "trying" just doesn't give us the results we planned for. If you can see the analogy, it's the same for business folks. You don't always lose because you didn't plan well or try hard enough.
Then do you really need a plan? YES. Do you need to know that plans can take an unexpected turn? YES, YES. Should you understand going in that being in business is, in itself, a tough business? YES, YES, YES. If you understand that, you're ready to do business, my friend, and by all means necessary, hang in there.