Imagine planning a picnic. You carefully get the food ready, the drinks and plates, and carefully pack it all into a nice little basket and drive to your “perfect picnic spot.” But once you arrive you discover the stream has dried up, the lush grass has become overgrown with hard weeds and there are swarms of biting insects and ants everywhere.
Three Ways You Could React
At this point, you could react in one of three ways.
Your first option is to decide to go ahead and have the picnic in that spot despite the unexpected developments. You resolve yourself to “make do” with the situation. Sure the grass is prickly, and the stream has disappeared and you are going to be fighting biting insects. But you planned to have this picnic here so you simply make the best of a bad situation.
The second approach would be to decide that your picnic has been ruined. Off you go, back home, silently (or not-so-silently) cursing your bad luck, the bad situation, and all the other circumstances that got in the way of your nice plan.
Your third option is to admit your picnic plans need to be changed and then adjust your plan. You pack up and try another spot – one that has lush grass, a nice stream and less biting insects. You may not have the picnic exactly as you planned, but you will still accomplish your overall objective of having a fun and relaxing picnic.
Running Your Business Is A Picnic
So how does this apply to you and your business?
As a business owner, you are continually making plans to do things you believe will drive your business forward. Maybe you make plans to hire a new team member. Maybe you plan to launch a new product or service. Maybe you plan a new marketing effort to increase the number of customers you have. Or anything else you feel will give your business better results for you.
But when your plans meet reality things often don’t unfold the way you assumed they would. That’s not being negative or pessimistic – it’s simply being realistic.
How you react to this collision between your plans and reality determines your actual results – good (if you react in a productive manner) or bad (if you react destructively).
Do you decide to grit your teeth, and drive on with your plan? Even if it’s unpleasant, painful, and potentially harmful? Or do you get upset, blame bad luck, the market you’re in, your competitors, your customers, or the economy? Or do you accept the fact that creating a plan and initiating it is just the first step in the game?
Three Steps To Make Sure Your “Business Picnic” Isn’t A Disaster
Here’s the best way to successfully implement any plan in your business:
Determine the big outcome you are hoping to achieve with your plan. This is the overall goal – not the details.
For example, if you are planning on launching a new product, what is it that you are really trying to achieve? Is it increased revenue and gross profit? Is it to provide a complimentary product or service to your existing customers that will add value to them? Maybe it’s to get new customers to experience your business in a low-risk way so you can start to build a relationship and sell more to them over time.
Develop the major details for your plan to accomplish your big outcome. The key is to develop these major details quickly. Your goal is to create an plan that is adequate.
Yes. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Because it is very likely that whatever level of detail you incorporate into your plan – it is going to need to be adjusted to react to actual circumstances. In other words, it’s pretty much a certainty that the assumptions you use in your plan are going to be wrong.
So creating an adequate plan saves you time, and avoids the tendency to get to anchored to a plan that you spent too much time creating.
Embrace events as they unfold, be flexible and willing to change your plans to take advantage of opportunities and avoid getting hurt by unexpected developments. Your goal is NOT to necessarily fulfill the details of your plan. Rather, your goal should be to adapt as needed and keep moving toward your big outcome.
You will find yourself much more relaxed, and your business will be much more likely to thrive – no matter what happens.
Picnic Ants Photo via Shutterstock
Great post, Steve. In business it’s all about being able to quickly adapt and roll with the punches. Creative innovation and persistence will ensure success.
An interesting take on business planning!
Well, to me, business plan is not a guide. It’s a diary. As new “story” unfold, I write what I do and what I haven’t done yet. I will then plan on doing what I haven’t done yet.
Indeed, you are right – flexibility is the key in business planning.
Cheers, Steve, for the interesting article!
Amir @ LizBusinessOdyssey
Thanks Steve for the insightful post. I found that creating yearly goals as a guide/direction and planning for 30/90 days works best for me. As you said, one can not really write down (in details) its entire plan as things change or as Liz like to say, “Shift happens”, but breaking a goal to 30 days and 90 days detailed tasks and than review and adapting to reality works pretty well (at least for me).
Thanks again for the great post.