You Don’t Have to Get it Right…


One of the constant themes running through the past 70 or more of these blogs has been planning. The need to make plans, monitor them regularly, make sure you stay on track and if and when you get blown off course, guarantee that there’s a network of peer support available to get you back on track.

The trouble is, it might all have been completely wrong.

Because there’s a growing school of business thought which says you don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going.

The reasoning is simple. If you’re starting a business – and in particular an online business – then you can do it for next to nothing. Register a domain name, grab a year’s hosting, design a simple website, sign up with Paypal – and you’re open for business. All done from the comfort of your own home and paid for with your credit card.

Business plan? Not required. Cash flow forecast? Waste of time. Interview with your bank manager? You must be joking. And if you’ve made a mistake? So what. Adapt as you go along – after all, it didn’t cost anything to get the business going in the first place.

Did Alan Sugar have a detailed business plan when he started selling car aerials out of the back of van he’d bought for £100? Did Richard Branson worry about his cash flow forecast when he began selling records in a church crypt?

The answer in both cases is no. Neither Sugar nor Branson would have agonised over the decision for more than ten seconds. Failure? So what if it fails? I’ll start again…

The trouble is that most of us are not Alan Sugar or Richard Branson. Most of us have had more than the occasional moment of self-doubt. And much as we’re told it ignore it – to see it as a learning experience – most of us are affected by failure.

And that’s where plans come into their own. That’s when it’s worth researching your market, checking what the competition are doing and making sure the numbers add up. For most of us, good, well-researched plans give us the confidence to press ‘play.’ And they dramatically reduce the risk of it all going horribly wrong.

So I’ll stick by my advice on planning – but keep the plans in proportion to the risk involved. And then? Go for it. To quote Goethe:

Knowing is not enough: we must apply
Willing is not enough: we must do

One of the big differences I see between really successful people and everyone else is that they take action. It comes back to Messrs Sugar and Branson: they had an idea and they acted on it.

Knowledge is power? Maybe. But I tell you what knowledge most certainly isn’t – money in the bank. In business, taking action is the only thing that will swell your bank balance. So for the vast majority of us, the equation is simple: plans + action = success.

And now on to next week, which is the last ‘proper’ blog of the year – and with the help of several interesting predictions from you, I’ll be taking a look ahead to 2012. And here’s one early prediction for you: one of the trends I see for next year – and for plenty of years to come – is the rise and rise of the business angel. So one of the first blogs of next year will discuss the pros and cons of outside investment in your business, and another one will look at the best ways to secure outside funding if you decide that’s a route you want to go down. If anyone has any specific questions on these subjects, then send me an e-mail and I’ll make sure the points are answered in the blog.

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10 comments

  1. donald · December 8, 2011

    Business is risky, but by using appropriate business plans that risk can be minimised. But much better to do than worry about how to do it.

    • edreidyork · December 9, 2011

      Hi Donald – agree about “doing” rather than “worrying how to” – great point – thanks!

  2. Michael Harrison · December 9, 2011

    Picking up on “Because there’s a growing school of business thought which says you don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going.”, I wonder whether some businesses are unduly concerned about making wrong decisions. It seems to me that, on average, the consequences of a wrong decision are not very bad whereas the consequences of a right decision are very good. We almost always make decisions based on insufficient information and this can be unnerving. However, doing nothing is not that much better than making a wrong decision whereas a right decision can be a big step forward for the business.

    • edreidyork · December 9, 2011

      You’re right Michael – often really helps to focus on the great things that could happen if a decision is made, as opposed to being paralysed by the risk of acting and it being wrong

  3. Steven Partridge · December 9, 2011

    Thought-provoking stuff, Ed. I’m a firm believer that you do have to plan, but plans are of little use unless converted into the actions needed to implement them.

    • edreidyork · December 9, 2011

      Hi Steven – plans that aren’t acted upon might as well be dreams – completely agree.

  4. Dick Jennings · December 9, 2011

    Reminds me of what Tom Peters was very insistent about some years (and books) back. He said, don’t “Get ready, aim, fire” because the best way of aiming is to take a sighting shot and then adjust to the result. So “Get ready, fire, aim” makes more sense in business.

    If you wait to aim right first, you’ll wait for ever. And if you pay for lots of professional advice confirming that your aim is right before you fire, those advisers have a fool for a client.

    None of which means that business planning doesn’t have a role too: you need to pick a target intelligently in the first place, and you need to “get ready”. It’s just that you need balls as well as plans.

    • edreidyork · December 9, 2011

      “Balls as well as plans” – terrific quote, Dick! Tom Peters eat your heart out

  5. Dave Rawlings · December 9, 2011

    Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”. Which backs up what everyone’s saying I think. Trouble is, in most large organisations (such as the ones we all cut our teeth in) the immediate, personal consequences don’t reflect this. It’s usually better to do nothing than to do the “wrong” thing.

    • edreidyork · December 9, 2011

      Dave – as usual, a great quote. I hadn’t heard that one before, so thanks for sharing. Also agree on the large corporation syndrome – fear of reprisal often can be paralysing

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