Planning is Guessing

Building a successful product and company takes a lot of effort, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of incredible execution and, if we’re honest with ourselves, a whole truckload of luck.

We can have the best laid and strategic plans as well as the most tactically-defined roadmap but in the end the future is just as unknown as what you are going to have for lunch today (or tomorrow).

You see, the simple truth is this: Planning for your startup is as good as guessing. I’ve had more than a handful of ventures at this point and I’ve seen this truth work itself into every single scenario.

It’s not that planning is a bad thing; quite the opposite as it’s a very important part of building your product, service, and bringing it to market but where it can trip up founders (especially new startup founders) is when they put all their “eggs” in this planning process and thus reduce their ability to pivot, to change, to be flexible with their venture in ways that will be necessary.

Even in my current venture with The Iron Yard and the aggressive expansion that we’re experiencing throughout the Southeast I’ve had to stay incredibly flexible with our execution, timeline, and rollout.

For example I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find a decent place to even house the classes in many of the locations that we’ve committed to and even in Atlanta I ended up having to tour nearly 20 different locations and work with a variety of leasing options to just find a decent match! Add the variety of leasing agents I’ve had to communicate with (some who don’t appear to enjoy communicating in a decent timeframe in the slightest) and you’ve got anything but a “plan” that’s coming together nicely!

But yes, I did have a plan and the team still has one as well. We had a timeline and we had what I considered a very decent strategic roadmap and yet when it came down to executing against the many variables and unknowns I’ve had to pivot hard and change direction so that I could make our landfall here in Atlanta a reality.

Was it painful? Has it been frustrating? Have I wanted to quit a number of times? Yes, yes, and yes!

But it reminded me that the best laid plans are sometimes nothing more than guesses and at the end of the day it’s my duty and responsibility to stay nimble, to stay agile, and to remember that startups never go as planned. Heck, that’s kind of the exciting part of leading one (and it’s why I do what I do).

If you’re starting up a new venture this year just remember to take all the time you need to plan as it is an important part of the process of building a successful business but never align yourself too rigidly to it so as to disable your ability to move quickly in directions that you had not originally seen or necessarily planned for.

Oh, and you’ll want a good dose of luck too!