Seneca “The Younger”, the great ancient Roman philosopher famously observed, “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable”. The intent of his words is clear. Knowing where you want to go is the essential prelude to planning how to get there. Unfortunately, many people go through life without a plan or a goal, and those people usually end up right where they start from.
Most families have a set vacation time to relax and undertake various forms of leisure together. If the family plans a camping trip to a state park in another state, they will typically make reservations, reserve tickets for campsites, service the car, budget anticipated expenses, inspect and inventory their camping gear, organize provisions and print out a map with driving directions to their destination. This is a simple vacation plan. Very few prudent families would simply gather everyone up, hop in the car on a whim, take the first highway and drive aimlessly hoping to stumble in to a national park and hopefully be able to secure a campsite.
The logistics of moving the family, safely, securely, with reasonable comfort and insuring enjoyment at the park is the reason we would plan the trip. Who wants to waste valuable vacation days on a poorly planned and executed travel experience. This simple illustration of how a family would meticulously plan a vacation in order to insure a fun time and great memories can be transferred to the planning essential to starting a new business.
A successful business startup always is predictive in the planning that is designed and executed to build the foundation of the enterprise. Proper research of the targeted consumer demographic and market category will be exhaustive. All sources of supply and inherent costs will be identified. The product or service that the new Company will provide will be properly priced, readily available, supported with a strategic marketing plan and a comprehensive branding program.
Like the family planning a much needed vacation, the entrepreneur, driven to be successful, will leave no stone unturned in seeking knowledge and advantage that will be key to achieving preordained goals. He will not take shortcuts. He will not make guesses. He will detail the basis utilized to construct each assumption that buttress the conclusions he uses to write the business plan.
The failed entrepreneur is usually a dreamer. Like the disorganized family stumbling into “vacation surreal”, this impostor thinks he can game the system. He does not believe that he needs to research his targeted marketplace, if he can even identify his real demographic target. He guesses at his actual costs based on incomplete information and an unwillingness to perform the crucial due diligence required to identify the best source of production. He believes that because “Cousin Joey” loves his idea, the consuming public will as well.
The “Dreaming Entrepreneur” is a fellow we see all of the time in our marketing consulting business. Planning is for others. He doesn’t believe in the need for a business plan. He guesses at costs, lead times and component availability that are essential for any successful business to know cold in order to meet and exceed goals.
There is no magic bullet or elixir that entrepreneurs can access in order to insure they will succeed. However, there are things they can do that will absolutely insure failure. A key lesson for any person seeking to launch a new product or new business is to take every precaution to minimize negatives that can be reasonably controlled by planning, research and performing due diligence. You can mitigate the chance for failure by properly vetting all contingencies. You will insure failure by sloppily moving forward without properly knowing to which port you are sailing.