Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail


Written by Ismail Abdur-Rahman, CEO

Hang with me for a second, OK? First, I'll issue my standard disclaimer: my ADD is a bit out of whack these days, so I'm a virtually incessant stream of consciousness. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program....

Do you plan for success? No, I mean really p-l-a-n for success? Lots of people say they want success, but they put little, if any, real planning into goal attainment. Though this is common, as this is exactly the condition in which I find many of my clients at the onset of our relationship, logically, it makes no sense. It's roughly akin to getting in a car without a map or GPS and trying to navigate from Newark, New Jersey to Fresno, California: there's a tremendous distance that has to be covered, and because there are multiple routes that will eventually help you arrive in Fresno, all routes are not equally viable. That is, some routes will be faster and more efficient than others. 

If you have the guts to go into business for yourself, irrespective of whether you have a side business or a full-time pursuit, if you don't plan - if you don't know where you are going, you might never get there.

I'll give you an example. One of my clients is a young guy with an engineering degree. When I met him a couple of years ago, he was really hungry to make a splash in business because several generations of his family had run successful businesses. He had cash to invest, but had no idea what he really wanted to do with it. In our first meeting, after listening to his story, I suggested that we arrange a follow up meeting to put together a strategic plan. My assumption was that since he was an engineer, the minutiae of planning would be at least tolerable for him. So, imagine my surprise when he demurred and told me about his friends who had simply bought retail and food and beverage franchises and become millionaires in no time flat. Essentially, he wanted to skip the planning and jump straight into success.

Sure. Jump right in, the water's fine.

If only it were that easy.

I'll spare you the sordid details, but in a nutshell, after the second meeting, I cancelled our consulting contract, as I could see that he truly didn't want to follow the process. He came back to me humbled two years later, having exhausted all of his money on a series of failed ventures. I asked him if he what he would do differently today, after having been beaten to a pulp by Murphy's Law. He meekly replied that he would have spent more time and effort planning a strategy and then more time and effort making sure that the strategy was being followed until the end goal was reached.

Cautionary tales aside, I get why many people show little patience for planning. It's detailed. There's math involved. You have to do market research. Blah, blah, blah. While all that is true, you don't have to go it alone. If you have business partners, you can share the workload and distribute tasks to make it easier. Perhaps, you can ask a friend who has preceded you in business for some help finding appropriate resources. If you have the cash to outsource the project, hire a consultant. Not all of us are bloodthirsty sharks looking for a payday. Contrary to the negative stereotypes, we are generally expert solutions providers who try to do the best we can for our clients.

One thing's for sure, though. If you don't plan for success, you will probably end up working really hard for someone who did.