Business Success – No Backup Plan

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”
- Thomas A. Edison -

I was thinking a lot about setting my business values and business success. Charlie and I were talking about it quite a bit in the past few weeks, I want you to think about your business values, and I have a challenge for you. If these business values were to transform to a physical object, what would it be? Interesting right? We tend to think about values as big words like honesty, transparency, outstanding service and many more. But I find it much easier to imagine physical object (like chocolate :-)). If you could take all your business values and represent them as physical objects, what would it be?

It took me awhile to work on it, so I am going to give you 2 weeks to think about it. Promise me you’ll do it! It’s very important, and I promise to tell you why, but first you need to do this exercise. What physical object represent your business values?

I had a very busy week this week, it’s now almost the weekend, Charlie stopped by a few hours ago for our weekly talk and strategy meeting. We were talking about keys to business success. We had a long chat about broadening the competitive advantage of my business and as we came up with some tactical tasks, Charlie stood up, raised his hot chocolate cup and said “one key to business success is having no backup plan of what to do if it fails”.

I was extremely puzzled, and said, “but Charlie we are talking a lot about different situations and what to do in case of failure, for example, what to do if the delivery guys goes on strike, or if chocolate prices go up. We are always looking for backup plans, we are always thinking about what do in case of…How can you tell me that having no backup plan is a good thing?”.

Charlie smiled and said maybe a story is necessary.

“Once upon a time…”

“Come on Charlie, I know it is a real story, why do you always need start with a fairytale beginning?”.

Charlie repeated “Once upon a time, there were two business owners. They both ran a candy store business. Both struggled, they were at the beginning phase of their business, the phase in which you build your reputation, your product and forging relationships”
I smiled and said “I remember those days”, I then remembered the struggles, the desperate feeling but also the happiness of small victories.

Charlie continued “Both were really nice guys, both of them, Mr. Back and Mr. Novak. They both believed in their business, they did their market study and knew there should be demand for their product in the little towns they established their business. Both of them wrote a business plan with all the financial implications and assumption. They both created financial projections plan and marketing plans.”

Charlie took a sip from his chocolate cup, smiled and continued “You see Elizabeth, Mr. Back and Mr. Novak were very organized people, they planned carefully before starting their business, they had backup plans of what to do when their ordering systems failed, when the delivery would not arrive and many other situations”.

“They started their stores almost at the same time, about one year ago. Steadily their business grew, but it did not grow fast enough, both fell behind their financial plans, both did not meet their cash projection estimates”.

I was sad, I don’t like seeing businesses failing, I know how much effort business owners put into it, but I also know that many businesses fail in the first few years.

Charlie looked at me and said “Don’t be sad Elizabeth, this story has a happy ending”.

Charlie thought for a second and then said “yes, I think it is a happy ending”.

He continued, “Mr. Back and Mr. Novak tried harder, they added more items to execute on their marketing strategies, they held more events, went to more networking events, formed more strategic alliances. Their businesses grew but not fast enough. At that point they started to dig deeper into their savings”.

Charlie asked if he can buy his favorite chocolate cookie, I quickly gave him the cookie and sat back across from him, listening.

Charlie took a bit of his cookie. His smile was so big now and he said, “Elizabeth, this cookie is very good! You should start a chocolate store” he started laughing.

It drives me nuts when he’s laughing from his own little jokes, “Charlie, come on, what happened to Mr. Back and Mr. Novak?”.

Charlie said “yes, yes. You know Liz, there was one difference between Mr. Back and Mr. Novak – before starting his store Mr. Back was a senior director at a software company. Mr. Back graduated from the right school. He was well educated and well respected in the software industry. He could always find a job. Mr. Back had a backup plan of what to do if his business failed”.

I could not wait and said “And what about Mr. Novak?”.

Charlie looked at me. He had a very thoughtful look in his eyes. He said “Mr. Novak barely finished high school, he worked in all sorts of odd jobs, washing dishes, cleaning cars, selling movie tickets, and operating a bowling alley. Mr. Novak never created a backup plan for his business, Mr. Novak had No backup plan”.

I was sitting quietly, I knew the end of the story, it made me think, I was thinking about a lot of failures. I knew sometimes you need to fail, some businesses are not meant to be successful but I also know that sometimes we quit too early. When we have a backup plan, sometimes we tend to act upon it too early. Sometimes we are very close to success but our backup plan prevents us from accomplishing our business success.

I looked back at Charlie and said “Is Mr. Back happy now that he is back at his old software job?”.

Charlie smiled and nodded.

I nodded too and asked “How about Mr. Novak? What happened to him?”.

Charlie smiled and said “Mr. Novak opened his third store 2 weeks ago, one of his key decisions was to find the right partner, a partner with money and a shared vision, a partner who knew the candy industry. Mr. Mario helped a lot. Mr. Mario knew what it’s going to take to make it successful, he is a tough guy and have the right contacts in the industry. Mr. Mario likes Mr. Novak for his enthusiasm and his vision”.

Charlie left a few hours ago.

Backup plans are very important. I don’t want to end up with no solutions to difficult situations. However, sometimes our backup plan gives us an easy way out. Sometimes not having a backup plan forces you to achieve your business success, if you cannot fail, then your only option is to be successful.

What do you think? Has having a backup plan always helped you and your business? Or did it ever prevent you from achieving your business success?


About the Author: Liz

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