The Value of Asking Questions
To Plan, or Not To Plan
Welcome Players! One of my very good friends texted me about a business he wanted to start the other day.
After some light back and forth I started to really dig in to what his plan was.
Why did he want to start it?
What was his model?
What separated his business from his competitors?
What was his market? How does he know his market will purchase his product?
To me, this is standard procedure. When you think about starting a business, you don’t start with the one scenario that if everything works perfectly, you’re successful.
You work backwards from all the things that can go wrong, and if you get through that gigantic list, and have a plan or solution or an acceptable risk tolerance to those negative things, then it’s a green light. All systems go.
So it was only natural that I try and help him identify all these potential pitfalls. At least that’s how my brain works.
The devil you know is better than the one you don’t.
What I didn’t expect, was my friend to start taking things personally.
Now, this is someone I’ve known for over 20 years, so personally doesn’t mean our friendship was at a crossroads or anything like that.
But you know how when friends get defensive they start to get a little outlandish and then start launching some shots at you, etc.
I realized at that point that our conversation was no longer productive, and so it ended, but I had been wondering about why it was he got defensive over my questions.
Was it because I was questioning something that he was proud and excited about? Maybe making him realize that it wasn’t all rainbows and pots of gold like he thought?
Was it because he wasn’t really looking for advice or perspectives, and was just sharing his aspiration with a friend?
Was it because instead of blindly supporting him, I critiqued and criticized his idea in a way that I thought would be helpful?
I don’t know.
It was probably a mix of all those things.
I’m sure he might not have thought out the full business plan as much as I’d expected and I was probably a bit pre-mature with asking some in-depth questions on it. I can also relate to simply wanting to talk about an idea and instead receiving full-scale criticisms, even if they are well-intentioned.
I’ve learned to preclude some conversations with certain people with, “I’m not looking for advice - I just want to vent…” *initiates dramatic rant*
I also understand that the stage from having an idea to the stage of developing a formal business plan can be deflating.
When you have the idea, you’re looking through one lens that lines everything up perfectly, and at the end you see the light.
It’s an awesome experience and one that fills you with hope and energy!
But when you’re developing the business plan, you start to realize that your frame may be a little crooked. And the lens is cracked. And there’s now a door where the window was. And the light isn’t as bright. And some annoying dude saying he works for a bank keeps calling you and asking for money.
Suddenly it’s not so exciting anymore.
What you do next - is what makes an entrepreneur.
Do you allow all the problems that overshadow your idea to stop you? Or do you simply start focusing on solutions, one at a time.
Because the unfortunate reality is there is no perfect business plan.
There’s no perfect plan of any kind.
No perfect training program, no perfect diet, no perfect military strategy.
The closest you can get is maybe perfect directions to get somewhere in the least amount of time possible, but even that plan gets blown to shit when some doorknob rear-ends an old lady and now they’re both sitting in the middle of the road backing up traffic for the next 2 miles.
I’ve found that planning is an extremely helpful part of the process. First I plan, then I try to think about everything that can go wrong. What is the worst possible scenario?
Ok, got it. Now if that is what happens, is that an acceptable risk I’m willing to take?
Is there a way to mitigate that risk? Is there a solution?
And on that goes until I end up with a plan that I like.
But at some point, you have to transition from planning, to doing.
A still ball generates no momentum. You’ve got to start.
I know people that say to hell with all plans, just start first! That’s the hardest part after all. I think for some people, that certainly is the best approach. Remember, you’re not going to get it right on your first try anyway.
Might as well start, run into your biggest problems, and then slow down to identify the best course of action.
I’m actually a proponent of starting with no plan over spending infinity in the planning stage.
But likely the best answer lies somewhere in the middle.
And so my message to you today is two-fold: 1) if you’re having a conversation with someone, communicating your expectations from the jump can save you both some time and effort. If you’re looking for advice, say so. If you’re just looking to shoot the shit and toss some ideas back and forth, that’s cool too, just say so.
And 2) Spend time on making a good plan, but don’t get stuck in planning purgatory. It’s better to start without a plan than never start at all, but it’s best to go from planning to executing with ruthless efficiency.
Regardless of whatever the plan is, you’ve got to start somewhere.
- Trainer 01