Why Your Business Plan Failing Can Be A Good Thing

by Ed Martin on November 12, 2009

Did you know having your business plan fail can be the best thing that can happen to you? Sounds crazy right? But it’s true, and here is why.

Why Plans Fail
Business plans, marketing plans, heck any kind of plan is going to fail. Some just a little and others spectacularly. It’s not for lack of work or analysis. It’s because we can’t predict the unpredictable, and when we try we aren’t very accurate. Customers and markets are fickle. Something unexpected occurs. Or we just screw up and it all wrong.

I’m sure New Coke looked great on paper. Anybody remember the Apple Lisa or the Cube ?

Plan to Fail?
So if plans are going to fail, why bother with them at all? That is certainly one approach which I talked about in Do You Really Need a Business Plan?

But a better approach is to don’t sweat getting your plan right the first time out since chances are it is going to fail anyway. Its more important to understand this and think about your plan B. And remember, this isn’t just for business plan, it is for any kind of plan.

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything for success
Since we know change is going to happen and things are going go wrong, why are we got off guard all the time when they do?

The most successful people recognize this happens and are prepared to adjust. And not adjust by blindly taking another, different stab and things. They have planned ahead. They look to the market and find what is working with their plan. They run with the things they got right, They see what isn’t working and adjust.

They look at what others who have succeeded did or didn’t do. Same for those who failed. They find the lessons from failures. When they do that they are able to make better decisions. Then they just do it all over again until they get it right.

The lesson is that they are always planning. It’s like the idea of the one page business plan. You still have to put in all the prep time on it. No shortcuts. But the what makes this work is that you regularly review and update your plan. You don’t just toss it aside when you are done or scrap it if you hit some problem. Fix what isn’t working. Adjust to changes and any new or missed opportunities.

This really works

This is how software gets developed only they call it the iterative approach. You don’t write a program all at once. You work through it in cycles, getting more done each time. You fix the broken parts and add new features until you are all done. Then you sell it. Unless of course you’re Microsoft. MS sells and lets us find the broken parts, but that’s a different story.

I worked with a microbusiness that wanted to do consulting on importing/exporting industrial equipment. We found there wasn’t a market for their consulting services, but we did find out there was a big need for technical translation services. Okay, we rethought the business model and changed. I worked with another small company that did custom software development. They only wanted to do work on big projects, but they found out that they were making much more money doing body shop work–putting individuals into specific contracts as consultants instead of taking on big projects as a team. Time to change directions.

Getting to Plan B
I started to think about this after I read an interview with John Mullins who wrote a book called Getting to Plan B. In it Mullins lays out some approaches you can use to see if and how your plan is failing and how to fix it.

Make no mistake. Unfortunately this isn’t a license to be lazy and count on working it all out later. Quite the opposite. You have to do more work, but it is smarter work that gets you through failures and has its rewards in the end.

Failing to adapt is one of the most common reasons businesses fail. Sign up for my MicroBiz Made Simple newsletter and receive a free copy of my report Succeed By Not Failing: The 50 most common reasons businesses fail and how to avoid them.


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