“Always have a Plan B” might be good advice, but it is essential to understand what “Plan B” is in order to realize the true benefits of a Plan B mentality. I strongly believe that “Always have a Plan B” is a sound philosophy for both life and business. However, my emphasis here is providing insights about the business applications of Plan B.
The financial and economic fluctuations that have impacted all of us during the past few years provide a solid rationale for learning more about how “Always have a Plan B” might be helpful. Plan B is essentially a “backup plan” to implement if and when something goes wrong with your original approach (Plan A). You might ask yourself questions such as the following to determine if you should investigate the feasibility of formulating a Plan B:
- Did anything unexpected happen to my business during the past several years?
- Do I think anything could go wrong with any aspect of my business during the next few years?
- Do I already have an adequate Plan B? (for both my business and career?)
Of course, Plan B will not fix all of our problems. The modest expectation that I usually have is that both my clients and I will be better off having a Plan B than not having one. Sometimes it can make the difference between a business surviving or failing. In all cases, a company or individual should be better prepared for the future if they try to anticipate risks and problems in advance.
What Could Go Wrong? And Then What?
I want to start with this question because it goes to the heart of what Plan B is all about:
What could go wrong?
Whether we are talking about an individual or a company, two of the most critical skills required for developing a Plan B are the following:
- Managing Problems and Risks
- Making More Effective Decisions
It is likely that most of us could use a little help with improving both of these skill areas. Dealing with personal or business problems is important, but it is also likely to be stressful and difficult. In my opinion, two of the most important issues are the following:
- Recurring business problems
- Preventing and avoiding problems
For most small businesses, there are at least eight business problems which often recur on a regular basis. Here are several key examples of these common recurring small business problems:
- Obtaining all forms of commercial financing
- Business negotiating
- Evaluating commercial lenders
- Ineffective business proposals
As you might imagine, having a Plan B would be helpful to keep many of these problems from recurring.
Making Smart Decisions and Choices
From a business perspective, here are some areas which usually involve especially difficult decisions (especially in the current challenging financial climate):
- Working Capital Management
- Negotiating with Suppliers and Customers
- Refinancing Commercial Mortgages
- Increasing Revenues and Sales
Plan B Should Be a Team Activity: Business Collaboration at Its Finest
I highly recommend that any efforts to create a Plan B be accomplished in a collaborative team environment. This is true for both personal and business examples of Plan B. One of the best illustrations I can provide of how much more effective contingency business planning efforts will be when conducted on a team basis is based on my experience with small business training. Without both an effective Plan B and teamwork mentality, most business training programs will routinely fall short of desired goals.
Is Plan B Enough? Plan C and Plan D?
Plan B is a superb strategy but it does not have a perfect track record. I have stated elsewhere that Plan C and Plan D are the new Plan B because life and business are getting more complicated all the time. No matter how hard we try, there will always be mistakes and new surprises. As alluded to in the Margaret Thatcher quote above, we also should expect to periodically need multiple attempts to succeed. If Plan A doesn't work, go to Plan B and then Plan C and then Plan D. For example, copyright and trademark laws can change and new plans might be needed. Having one or more contingency plans will facilitate thoughtful and timely actions.
Must Reading for Plan B:
Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong by Alina Tugend
We all need to have a Plan B because we are definitely going to make mistakes along the way. Alina Tugend explores the unexpected benefits which accrue when we make mistakes. This is a superb book about embracing mistakes. I highly recommend it.