The famous saying, “Most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan,” encapsulates a fundamental truth in the business world. Planning is not just a step; it’s the backbone of any successful venture. Many enthusiastic entrepreneurs leap into the business arena with innovative ideas and unbridled passion, only to find themselves lost in a maze of unforeseen challenges and unanticipated complexities. Why? Because while their visions were clear, their plans were not.
Here’s what people are really thinking…
“It’s no good planning because lots of things will happen that I can’t predict.”
For example, all the experts predicted that in 2016 “Remain” would win the referendum on Brexit in the UK, it didn’t “Leave” did. The experts predicted that in 2016 Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump in the presidential election, as we know Trump won. In 2019 no expert predicted the Pandemic that happened in 2020 shutting down much of the world.
So this is a common sentiment among early-stage entrepreneurs and business owners. The notion stems from the belief that the unpredictable nature of business renders planning ineffective or even futile. However, this viewpoint often overlooks the true value and purpose of planning in the business world.
First, it’s essential to understand that planning is not about predicting the future with absolute certainty. Instead, it’s about preparing for a range of possible scenarios and having a flexible strategy to navigate through them. It’s a tool for risk management, not a crystal ball. The unpredictable nature of business is precisely why planning is crucial. It equips you with the ability to adapt and pivot effectively when unexpected events occur.
Another common perception is that planning stifles creativity and spontaneity. Many entrepreneurs pride themselves on being agile and responsive, fearing that a structured plan might limit their freedom. However, a well-thought-out plan provides a framework for creativity to flourish. It sets boundaries and priorities, allowing entrepreneurs to focus their creativity on what truly matters, rather than getting lost in the chaos of endless possibilities.
Some also argue that planning is time-consuming and doesn’t yield immediate results. In the fast-paced world of startups, where quick wins are often celebrated, the effort put into planning can seem disproportionate to its immediate benefits. However, this is a short-sighted approach. Effective planning lays the groundwork for long-term success and sustainability. It might not deliver instant gratification, but it builds a foundation that can withstand the ebbs and flows of the business landscape.
Lastly, there’s a misconception that plans are rigid, unchangeable documents that lock you into a fixed path. In reality, the best plans are dynamic. They are living documents that evolve with your business, incorporating new insights, learning from past experiences, and adapting to changing market conditions.
While planning cannot predict every twist and turn in the business journey, it is an invaluable tool that prepares entrepreneurs for a range of outcomes, fosters informed creativity and builds a resilient foundation for sustainable growth. Dismissing the power of planning is not just a missed opportunity; it’s a strategic oversight that can cost a business dearly in the long run. The next reason people avoid business planning is because…
“It’s no good planning because things never happen the way you plan them.”
Again it’s easy to dismiss planning when you look at large infrastructure projects which appear to be invariably late and over costs. For example, the Humber Bridge was 5 years late and cost nearly 4 times as much as budgeted (Planned opening was 1976, actual was July 1981, Planned cost was £28 Million, actual was £98 Million). Another example is the Sydney Opera House which was 10 years late and cost nearly 15 times the budgeted costs (Planned to open in 1963, actually opened in 1973, Planned cost was $7 Million, actual cost was $102 Million).
Therefore this is a common refrain among many entrepreneurs and business owners, particularly those who have experienced the unpredictable twists and turns of the business world.
As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.
While it’s true that no plan is foolproof, and the path of business is rarely linear, this perspective can be misleading and potentially harmful to the growth and sustainability of a business.
The essence of planning is not to predict the future with pinpoint accuracy but to prepare for various possibilities. When people say that things never happen as planned, they are partly correct – the business environment is dynamic, and unforeseen challenges are inevitable. However, this unpredictability doesn’t negate the value of planning; it actually underscores its importance. A well-structured plan is like a compass in the tumultuous sea of business – it may not stop the waves, but it gives you the direction to navigate through them.
Moreover, the process of planning itself is invaluable. It forces you to think critically about your business, to analyse your market, to understand your resources, and to set clear objectives. This exercise in foresight and strategic thinking is crucial, regardless of whether every detail of the plan comes to fruition.
Another important aspect is that planning fosters adaptability. A common misconception is that a plan is a rigid set of instructions. In reality, effective plans are flexible. They provide a framework within which you can adapt and make informed decisions when circumstances change. This adaptability is a critical component of resilience in business.
Furthermore, planning helps in setting benchmarks and measuring progress. Even if things don’t go exactly as planned, having a plan gives you a baseline to compare actual outcomes against. This comparison is vital for understanding your business’s performance and for making informed adjustments.
While it’s true that things often don’t happen exactly as planned, dismissing the value of planning is shortsighted. Planning is less about predicting the future and more about preparing to meet it with flexibility, critical thinking, and strategic foresight. It’s an essential process that equips businesses to face the unpredictable nature of their journey with confidence and clarity.
Also, keep an eye out for our Business Planning Course available in the next week.
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