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Is Having a Plan B a Mistake?

Nearly every parent has counseled their child at some point to have a Plan B if their original plan should not come to fruition. Whether we are talking about making plans with friends for a weekend night, attempting to make a school or travel sports team, or even applying to colleges; it is almost accepted as a truth by most that you need to have a back-up plan. However; is that good advice or bad advice when it comes to starting an entrepreneurial venture?

Bad Advice sign

Is a back-up plan good advice or bad advice?

Good Advice

The reasons why it would be considered to be advice worth listening to and following are easy to list for most of us.  It answers the “what-ifs”

  1. What if you are not able/capable/judged unworthy by those who need to approve or accept you?  What will you do then?
  2. What if you try and decide you do not like it?  You risk not having anything to do/pursue/participate in/etc.
  3. What if circumstances or situations change and through no fault of your own or even others, the opportunity evaporates, then what happens?
  4. What if you invest a lot into it upfront and do not see a return on your energy, efforts, money, time, etc.?  A lot of wasted expense that could have been better applied elsewhere

Likely, you have said, thought, or followed this line of thinking yourself. After all, there are very few absolute guarantees in life, so it seems to intuitively make sense to adhere to the idea of having a back-up plan to use just in case we need it.

Entrepreneurial Venture Mindset

At some time or another, most of us have gotten so fed up or frustrated at work that we think to ourselves or maybe share with those closest to us; “Someday I am going to start my own business!”  The reality of starting your own business is such that it is very hard work and not nearly as glamorous as it appears in magazine ads or television infomercials.  While the images shared lead you to believe you can make money while you sleep, it can only happen if you know how to make money while you are awake and conscious.  And to do that, requires being fully present, committed and focused on the work at hand. Part-time entrepreneurs are rarely successful.  In fact, they have split loyalties or focus, so they run the risk at not being especially successful at either pursuit – their current role AND the entrepreneurial venture!

Bad Advice

In what might seem counter-intuitive at first, having a back-up plan can often PREVENT success.  When we permit ourselves to stop or quit something when it gets hard or the going gets rough, we often take that option too quickly.  At the first, or at least early sign of conflict or missed goals or any other hurdle in our way – we look for the easiest path or escape. To be an entrepreneur means to think:

  1. No excuses permitted
  2. If it is meant to be, it is up to me
  3. This has to work – I just have to find a way for that to happen

To be certain, being an entrepreneur does not mean working in isolation.  Relying on others (suppliers, peers, professional service providers, etc.) are essential. We all benefit from having a committee or a tribe to bounce ideas off of, learn from or with, and discuss our ideas. That is very different from building a ready-made exit ramp on your entrepreneurial journey.  While it may seen controversial and not well thought-out, the thought of being totally invested and committed to being a business owner and an entrepreneur without alternatives serves to drive us to achieve BECAUSE there is not another option.

I am interested to hear what you think – which option suits you better?  Having a Plan B in your pocket or having no choice but to succeed?

David Zahn