Being an entrepreneur requires you to be agile when faced with potential difficulties. It also means having the ability to recognise an opportunity when you see it, no matter how wacky it might seem to other people or how well hidden it might be.
As the founder of a company, keeping it alive requires you to think creatively because more often than not, conditions will change so rapidly that all your carefully laid plans come to nothing.
In essence, all real entrepreneurs have a Plan B. Perhaps even a C and D bubbling away in the background. In some ways, the definition of a start up is a series of Plan Bs looking for a scalable and repeatable business model, especially when you consider the oft-cited stat that 90% of start-ups ‘fail’ in their first year.
So, if you’re in the start-up game, what are the steps towards having a plan B and how do you know when to put your contingency plan into action?
Taking the first step
The hardest part of plan B is accepting that plan A might not work out. No one wants to admit that their crash hot business idea is prone to flaws and unforeseen disasters.
Accepting that you need a plan B is the first step into putting it into action. It doesn’t mean that you’re ‘tempting fate’ to even think about failure, it just means that you’re being sensible and giving yourself a safety net. It may also help you take a realistic approach to making Plan A work.
Shift your focus
If you’re finding that growth and profits are not where they should be, perhaps your plan B is to rethink where your focus needs to be. Consider changing your target audience or redefining how you’re addressing their needs. It might be as easy as refocusing your core message rather than changing the core business itself.
Rethink your approach
Are you using the right platforms to reach your customer base? Perhaps your plan B is to modify the process of getting your product to the people. Your central business idea could be sound – it just needs a tweak to make it work.
Do your homework
Your product is the key to the success of your business. Make your plan B an investigation into your product and a process of refinement rather than give up on the idea altogether. Try some of the following:
- Focus groups – get some real-time feedback from the customers who you assume will benefit. It could give you some valuable insights for improvement.
- Research the latest innovations – do some reading on the latest technology for your product and put your findings into practice.
- Send out a survey – does your product address the needs of its audience, or are you just assuming? Ask them through a survey using an incentive.
There may be nothing wrong with your product or your approach, but how you look and sound could be unappealing. Make plan B a facelift for your company, both regarding design and your tone of voice. Be careful though; a rebrand is just cosmetics if what you really need to fix is the product itself.
And if your idea really does suck…be like Twitter
Sometimes your Plan B could be something you hadn’t thought of before. In the case of the Twitter team, for example, they were initially working on a podcast app called Odeo, but they ran out of ideas. They created Twitter as an internal communications platform that forced them to keep their ideas to 140 characters. And just like that, a social media behemoth was born.
For an entrepreneur, flexibility and agility are your watchwords. In the world of start-ups, your Plan A could, in fact, be a series of Plan B tweaks and pivots until you find a model that works.