Imagine you have a solid plan for starting a business. Now imagine it meets reality and every step of the way goes differently.
Mike Tyson once said that everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.
Every great entrepreneur understands that a huge part of the entrepreneurial mindset is understanding and accepting uncertainty.
Thinking about the big picture and the essentials that pave the way for success, which in this case is planning for the unknown – is part of a winning mindset.
What’s the worst-case scenario and how can you solve it?
The entrepreneurial mindset is about oozing creativity and motivation to succeed, yet not caving in to fear to take risks and embrace failure. Just as it’s important to always seek novel ideas and innovations, it’s important to envision and understand potential failures to evolve.
In any given situation, you can do this:
think about the things that, no matter what, you can rely upon without needing anybody to help you. The self-reliant fallbacks.
I am a stickler for self-reliance, so much so that I strictly don’t venture into businesses where there are too many things beyond my control.
I understand that I can’t control every situation, especially in this rapidly moving entrepreneurial world of ours. People will disappoint you, sometimes often, sometimes rarely – but they will. It’s not because they’re bad people or anything but because there are so many variables you can’t affect.
As a person who had to help and challenge myself to be where I am today, the thought of not being able to control things in business scares me.
I’m not a control freak. I try to avoid micromanaging at every cost and I’m a big fan of the flat organizational hierarchy. I want the people I work with to have complete freedom to make mistakes, experience the business itself, and evolve.
So, I always think about the worst-case scenario and how I can solve it first. For me, that’s the most important scenario in any business ordeal.
The reality of being an entrepreneur is that 90% of the time, you’re taking care of problems, while the other 10% is spent on celebrating wins – if you’re lucky.
So the idea is that you won’t have major problems (certainly less of them) if you account for the uncertainty and the unknown. Think of everything as it goes down the shithole and hedge yourself with a few different creative solutions.
Now, to address the issue that a lot of people say to me:
“This sounds like a waste of time, you can’t dress rehearse and prepare for all scenarios”
That’s right, you can’t. But you can become a grandmaster player of the chess that is your life. And if you learn to plan wisely, letting go of fixations and straight lines, you’ll save a lot more than time.
Being prepared for the worst-case scenario can literally save your business.
As we likely head to another round of lockdowns, the current pandemic makes for an excellent example and an exercise in planning for the unknown. In a blink of an eye, you can feel overwhelmed and lose perspective.
Having a plan B, even plan C, that focuses on outcomes within your control prepares you for the worst. From brand perception to employee engagement to expansion into new or untapped markets, and everything in between, you’ll gain the necessary momentum to respond and adapt as best you can.
Probably more important than any business outcome, even if the worst-case scenario never happens: you take the pressure off yourself.
By getting it out of the way early, you can make decisions without being in panic mode. There’s far less stress that way, even if things go south because you’re prepared.
I find I don’t get to make bad decisions or decisions that put me in a bind because, in my mind, I’ve already lived through whatever difficulty happens.
How to cultivate a planning mindset
The trick is to not think about what planning for the unknown takes away from you in terms of time and effort but what you can get to make a win-win scenario.
Let’s say I’m meeting with more developers than I need to for my new businesses. On one side, I’m taking the time to understand what a developer would want and what I can offer them. On the other hand, I’m building a database of these people so that one day, I can hire them. Maybe I will find a talented person that will get so excited and decide to sign up for a joint venture.
This way, I am actually marketing myself and building my networking, whether it’s a developer, investor, or someone else.
From a practical standpoint, do job interviews. It sounds unorthodox but it’s actually a neat option if you don’t have a mentor or some other person to rely on for wisdom and knowledge. This way, you can learn about the things that didn’t work, which, in turn, can take away a lot of uncertainty. The people you are interviewing with have to sell to you as much as you have to sell yourself to them. So, it’s a way to understand a lot of things as you’re allowed to ask anything.
Next, find a way to demystify the uncertainty. There are endless ways to get to any destination and if it’s too hard to get there, that’s on you. If I’m not sure if something will work 100%, I will hedge. But – if I don’t have enough ideas on how to hedge, then my problem is I don’t know what it is I need to do. If that happens for whatever reason, be honest with yourself and don’t go there. Great entrepreneurs know their momentary limitations and don’t play the game of chance.
Finally, try Blinkist. It’s a great hack to get ideas in the form of key insights from various books. In general, I prefer story-based learning because stories are memorable and easily conveyed. They are more honest in explaining the hardship, with the added bonus of hindsight. Having everything summarized takes a bit of the pressure off you in trying to be a better entrepreneur and a better you.
If there is one thing the experience of living through the past year and a half has taught us, it’s that entrepreneurs must be flexible. We must plan for tangibles to become critical factors in order to meet new challenges.
The best thing about planning for what shouldn’t happen is that the diversity you create from your fallbacks will probably yield creative innovation and amazing people. It will provide creative solutions to problems that will help you, and most importantly, access to people from whom you can absorb a lot of knowledge.
Also, you become a person who is in the driver’s seat when it comes to the kind of life and career you want to have. There is a feeling of assurance and ease because you’re planning how to get there, no matter what.
As an entrepreneur, that is one of the greatest feelings to have.