“No plan” is a solid idea
If you haven’t yet read the book REWORK by 37Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson, I recommend you pick up a copy. As a first time business owner, I found their advice and viewpoint refreshing and motivating.
One lesson has been ringing very true in the past couple of weeks. Under “Takedowns” in the first section of their book, they discuss that planning is more a form of fortune telling. They proclaim is that long-term business plans are a lot like guessing. One sentence I underlined on the page was, “Plans let the past drive the future.”
This would most certainly be the case from my last post as Group Director, Sales & Marketing for Apple Tree Hospitality in SE Asia. My arrival in December of 2008 could not have been at a worse time in the status of the global economy. Between August and December that year, the travel industry flipped upside down and sideways. It was NOT a pretty sight. The past could not have dictated that overseas travel agents and tour operators would not be able to fill large groups as they had in 2007 and therefore cancel numerous dates booked on the calendar. The past could not have predicted that agents would want to stop booking one year out, but 90 days prior and therefore change the terms of contracts for groups. Trade show attendance turned more into lessons about what was happening in overseas markets and changing travel trends than it was gaining new clients. The global events were not predicted or labeled anywhere in the 2009 business plans.
The changes in the travel industry pushed us to drive business online and build entirely new websites for our boutique group of properties. We had to be more open to last minute bookings locally, push this even, and “go with the flow,” bending to the changes in traveller habits and new business methods of tour operators.
So when I returned to the US and launched my website and business in May, I did not write a specific business plan. I initially planned to offer services in naming, branding, copywriting and marketing consultation. I wanted to play to my strengths and my joys.
What’s happened over the last few months is that I have had numerous conversations about my business, about what’s happening in San Diego industries, trends in the US, and certainly what’s happening online, and I’m finding that my focus is being shifted. My contacts are leading me down a path which was unimaginable to me at the beginning of this year, but now is so wonderfully possible. I’m seeing my business, my clients, and my future in a whole new light. It is extremely exciting.
I spoke in my last post about being accepting of change. And while this piece hints at that, I’d like to suggest “not planning” is more an encouragement to be more open. Be open and be flexible. Listen to what your friends, contacts, clients, …what the world is telling you. Take a moment to realize when new opportunities are staring you in the face. Be willing to change directions. Fly by the seat of your pants on occasion. I’m enormously amazed at how wonderfully things are falling into place and what big cheers I am hearing from all the right people. I’m glad I am ready to shift into a new gear.
Working in the industries I have in the past, I have always subscribed to having a “solid” business and marketing plan. While it is hard to let go of that completely, I am finding, with the advice of REWORK and the nature of all these fabulous circumstances, that a rough outline and a red notebook filled with scribbles of ideas are working just as well. I do have goals, a vision of what I want my business to become and what clients I want to serve, but I’m also OK with writing them down in pencil.
Q: Would you feel comfortable without a business plan, or do you find that structure helps you succeed? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and comments.