Forget Planning? Plan For Opportunities?

“The only thing we know for certain about your plan is that the numbers in it are wrong,” said Peter Zaballos, who was in the venture capital business at the time. But anyone who has ever developed a budget for anything, let alone started a business, knows that all too well. So why bother? Why bother planning or budgeting?

In the book, Reworked, authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson said, “Unless you’re a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands: market conditions, competitors, customers, the economy, etc. Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control… Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses.”

Great! One less thing to do. Eliminate all planning, all budgeting. Yippee! Less work.

While I agree one hundred percent with Peter’s comment about all numbers being wrong, I think the most important part of planning is not the end product – not the plan itself. No, the value comes from the process of planning. It’s the thinking that goes into the planning. It’s identifying the critical metrics, the things that make the biggest differences to your business. Without thinking through the plan, it’s likely you won’t identify them until it’s too late.

Ahhh, but Fried and Hansson do hit on a key point: “Plans are inconsistent with improvisation… And you have to be able to improvise. You have to be able to pick up opportunities that come along.”

Have you seen the Facebook and Twitter page, Sh*t My Dad Says? Just one year ago, the author of this page, Justin Halpern, was nowhere. He had a job, but his girlfriend had just dumped him, he moved in with his parents, and the future didn’t sound too bright. Within a month or so he started tweeting “Sh*t” his dad had and was saying, and within a couple of months of that he had over a million fans of the page. The agents started calling, he’s released a book, and work has begun on a sitcom based on it. To say his life has changed in the past year is an understatement. Oh, and the “Sh*t” Halpern senior says is pretty funny.

Did Halpern have a business plan? I don’t think so! I think he “picked up opportunities that come along.” I’m pretty sure Halpern is the exception to the rule, though. I don’t think this type of experience happens that often.

Something I’ve noticed is that opportunities seem to come to those who do put it out there – they plan for big things, they stretch, they think outside the box. So, planning shouldn’t box you in, it shouldn’t limit your thinking. It should make you think deeply about you want to do, but you then need to be open to opportunities. I think I’m on my seventh or eighth career right now, all because I had a plan, and then have been open to opportunities. Fun stuff – the planning, and the opportunities.

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