Fact: I despise clichés. You know the ones I mean, the ones you find on magnets in gas stations that read “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” or “if you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Now, it’s not that phrases like these are false in their underlying premise, it’s simply that they are overused and generally used to start or add fire to an argument.
That’s why when I saw one posted on Facebook the other day, I wanted to pull my hair out. “Failing to plan,” it read, “is planning to fail.”
Listen, I don’t care what you say — nobody plans to fail. Not in business and not in life. That’s why I think the phrase should be this: “Waiting to plan is delaying — and possibly eliminating — the opportunity to succeed.” True, it’s not as catchy, but it is a whole lot more factual.
You see, what I have observed, especially lately, that businesses are waiting to plan. In fact, many who would normally have had their budgets well in place before the ball dropped in Times Square are still trying to struggle through them well into Q1.
What have they been waiting for? First it was the election. Then it was the fiscal cliff. Then Obamacare. Then it was this month’s unemployment numbers, or whether Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow in February, the annual State of the Union address, or whether they saw a black cat walk in front of their car. They keep waiting to see what’s going to happen instead of planning for ways to make it happen.
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Listen, I’m not belittling the many things that business owners are faced with every day. I’m a business owner myself and know the many pressures (and questions) we have because of things largely out of control. But I do believe that there is a better way to do things than just sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
1. There needs to be a plan. And I do mean now. Start by determining what is important to you today, six months from now, a year from now and even two years from now. What do you want your business to achieve in those time frames? What is necessary to support execution of those goals? How does marketing tie in, both internally and externally? What are the tools and tactics needed to meet those goals, and what are the cost estimates?
2. Be willing to embrace fluidity. The difference between the plans that many businesses are making today and the ones they made in prior years is the fact that it needs to be more fluid to accommodate the many changes that may come. The goals may remain unchanged, but the ways you’ll accomplish them will.
3. Get moving. I think many of us in business (especially small business) agree: we’re going to be the ones to turn the boat that is our economy around and get it pointed in the right direction. Get out there, get marketing, tell people what you do great and find the opportunities that will allow you to do the work you want to do.
Oh, and if you want an example of businesses that learned that waiting is an impediment to growth, I’d suggest looking to the folks in the energy business. There is perhaps no industry with more challenges, including sage grouse and anti-development legislators, yet they are out there every day exploring new opportunities, developing new technologies and going as hard as they can as fast as they can. And unsurprisingly, it’s paid off, in a big way. We can all agree there’s nothing cliché about that.