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Pulling The Trigger

“Pulling The Trigger”.  It’s an expression we use to describe taking an action.  But what if we pull the trigger too early?

Recently I watched a non-profit pull the trigger on assembling a group of volunteers prior to establishing a clear direction and mandate.  As their leader struggled with the direction, the once eager volunteers fell away.

I witnessed a tech startup pull the trigger on investing in a rollout team before it had a viable product.  They burned away their cash as they struggled to make the technology work.

I recently interviewed someone on my podcast who referred to entrepreneurial decision-making as being “ready – fire – aim” rather than “ready – aim – fire” and I think that’s true.  Entrepreneurs by nature are creative problem solvers who like to move quickly.  They see a market opportunity and they know how to mobilize people to get there.  Something opens up and they dive right in.  And yet, statistics tell us that 50% of the time, that new business will fail.

I wonder what the entrepreneurial success rate would be if we all took time to plan?

People ask me when is a good time to leave their day job for their side hustle.  My answer is simple.

  1. When you have a solid plan and projection on how your side hustle will make enough money to support you.
  2. When your side hustle is keeping you so busy that it’s making it tough to sustain your day job AND (and this is the important part) if you calculate your hourly rate it’s a number you’d be proud to tell your mom.
  3. When you have enough cash to sustain yourself for 2 years in the event your side hustle isn’t profitable for that long.

Now assuming you’ve made it that far and you understand the value of people-to-people connections to grow your business, how can you improve your chances of being on the good side of that 50% statistic?

Plan.

Whether you’ve been in business for a month, a year, or a decade, taking the time to plan or re-plan your business, rather than managing on guesswork and hope, can make a significant difference as to whether you’ll still be sitting here a year from now.

Whether or not you create a formal business plan, research published in the International Small Business Journal showed that just going through the planning process, made a business more likely to succeed.  The study showed that having a planning mentality also helped with their success mindset, which made them better leaders.  Better leadership, as you might expect, breeds success.  They found the same positive impact on serial entrepreneurs as on first time entrepreneurs.

Now I’m sure a lot of you are nodding wisely and agreeing that this planning thing makes logical sense.  But guess how many of you are actually going to do it?  Probably zero.  So what’s the problem?  The problem is that we’re entrepreneurs.  We’re the ready–fire–aim people.  Planning isn’t fun.  It’s much more fun to leave here and go fix something or build something.

But what if planning your business could be fun?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Don’t think of it as planning, think of it as mind mapping.  In fact, for our clients, we have started using visual, interconnected bubbles of ideas to describe their brand and their marketing priorities.  We have been using a tool called Mindmeister.  It’s helping us to better connect with their strategy because rather than simple writing a bunch of boring notes, we’re visually laying out ideas.  And as a side benefit, I have noticed that the visual learners on my creative team are internalizing key brand concepts that we always had written down, but now we’re presenting it in a more interesting way.  Even if you’re just doing it on a whiteboard, mind mapping is a great way to get everyone engaged in brainstorming.
  2. Start your planning session with physical exercise.  Whether this includes going for a walk with your team, playing a game of dodgeball in the parking lot, or getting your favorite personal trainer to come and get everyone to plank in the conference room when you get your blood moving, you’ll think more clearly and your planning session will be more enjoyable.
  3. Use pictures.  Even if you’re not into doing a full vision board, and I realize that a lot of people feel that’s a bit over the top, have your team find pictures online that describe various aspects of your business, including pictures that describe their ideal culture, customers and your services.  This can sometimes be an amusing exercise depending upon what they come up with, so it’s a great brainstorming opener.
  4. Plan with Post-its.  For some reason, writing ideas on post-it notes and sticking them on the wall in phases of your plan is much more fun than writing them on a whiteboard or typing them into a document.  Perhaps we love the arts & crafts feel to all of the multi-colored pieces of paper.  So grab a big roll of brown paper and stick a piece on the wall, and mark down the quarters of the next year.  Brainstorm the different changes and projects you’d like to work on and write them down on post-it notes, then stick them on the wall in the quarter you’d like them to happen.  Take a picture and boom – instant plan!
  5. And for the more social media inclined, try picturing your plan as a series of posts, for example:
    1. What we sell and what makes us different
    2. How do we solve the needs of our target clients
    3. Categories of competitors and how we’re better
    4. Where we sell and what marketing activities we do
    5. Who are our key team members and what roles do they play
    6. Who are our key partners and what roles do they play
    7. What is our growth goal
    8. What steps are we going to take over the next 12 months to meet our growth goal?

If it’s more fun, do those on post-it notes too.

So yes, we may be entrepreneurs and are the masters of firefighting, but while we’re still at the beginning of the year, take an afternoon with your team to plan.  It will help keep you on the positive side of that 50% business success rate statistic.