Chuck Blakeman

Author, speaker, and founder of the Crankset Group.



You only need 2.1 things to be successful

You never get all three.

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This article was published on June 03, 2011. So far, 8 people have left their thoughts. Share your own thoughts.

Building a business is 20% science and 80% art, and yet all the business schools, the SBA, and the gurus that want to sell us Business Plan software tell us we should treat it like a controlled science experiment in a lab. Business doesn’t work that way.

My next book is called “Bad Plans Carried Out Violently”, and tells the stories of successful start ups who understood clearly that every plan is a Bad Plan because the world is going to interact with it and mess it up.

And “violently” isn’t always bad. It actually means – “with full and total COMMITMENT – great force and motion, extreme intensity of conviction.”

Life itself is a Bad Plan Carried Out Violently. Anyone who has raised kids will tell you that it takes full and total commitment to have a child, great force and motion to raise one, and extreme intensity of conviction to get them to move out.

But we want a tight and tidy process all along the way.

Traditional business planning has taught us that the most important part of planning is to plan the “middle” of the process – the “how”, in great detail, then follow that plan slavishly. Successful parents and business owners don’t do that. Instead they both plan using 2.1 very simple questions:

1) Where am I?
2) Where do I want to end up?
2.1) What are the next few steps?

We always want to have the full third question answered. That question looks like this: 3)How do I get all the way from #1 to #2? Good luck with that.

There are too many variables in business to accurately plan all the way from where I am to where I want to end up. It’s fortune-telling to say exactly how you’re going to either raise a kid or build a Mature Business. All you know is 1) where you are, and 2) where you want to end up. Then all you get is 2.1) the next few steps.

Successful business owners make a decision and get moving. Then they ask the same 2.1 questions to cover the new known problems that have come up since they moved forward. They are more focused on “taking soundings” than on planning every step of the voyage.

What happens when we try to answer the whole third question and plan the entire middle of the trip?

A $1 Billion Woops
Webvans, Inc. had a brilliant idea – use the home delivery model to bring you groceries. Just call and we deliver. They created a classic Business Plan on exactly HOW they were going to get from point A to point B, and then they shipwrecked without taking any soundings.

Webvan built a detailed plan based on assumptions about how things would turn out, then executed on that plan without wavering. Rather than patiently building and adjusting flexibly as demand grew, Webvan ignored how people were responding and moved forward with giant warehouses and huge infrastructure. The company ran through $1billion and went under with a death grip on it’s commitment to the same “HOW” that had been wrong since the day they started.

A Better Way – The 2.1 Planning Process
FreshDirect, a competitor, decided to grow into business as demand rose, and then change with the demand as it became clear what they needed to do to create success. They’re doing fine. They focused on two things 1) Where are we? and 2) Where do we want to end up?. Then they asked 2.1) What are the next few steps?

Focus a lot less on HOW you are going to get where you are going two years from now, and focus more on what you need to do this quarter and this month to get there. Every quarter ask yourself the same 2.1 questions:

1) Where are we?
2) Where do we want to end up?
2.1) What are the next few steps to get there?

Stop building complex, detailed 12 month and three year business plans. All you get is the next few steps. The rest is fortune telling that can put you out of business.



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Iwan

06/03/11

Hi Chuck,
I’ve been doing on a project that have objective in 10 years time. I’ve already made “a blue print” out of that. I find your writing gave me a new perspective! I’ll consider to try one step at a time and start focus on that more than focussing on long term objective. God bless you Chuck!


J Kyle Gregory

06/04/11

Hey Chuck,

I really enjoyed this article and continue to find it’s relevance in every endeavor…music making,
family, kingdom-stuff.

thanks for sharing it!

Kyle


Chuck

06/04/11

Iwan,

LOL – great response! Blueprints are for building a skycraper. But if you take the same approach to construct a trip from Denver to Chicago, you’ll be creating blueprints for a trip that doesn’t exist by the time you hit the road – lights have changed, construction detours, heavy traffic, tornado, car problems… you get the idea.

The best you can do is know 1) where you are (Denver), 2) where you want to end up (Chicago), and 2.) what are the next few steps? (get to the interstate and go when the lights are green.) Then see what you find on the interstate when you get there and ask the same 2.1 questions again.

Blueprints don’t work for building a business. (They also get changed a lot building a skyscraper.)


Lorraine Ball

06/06/11

Having a good business plan does not mean unwavering commitment to a direction. It is about putting the resources, people and process in place to help you grow, and continually adjusting the plan. Not knowing the results doesn’t mean you don’t know the general direction in which you want to move


Rich Anderson

06/06/11

We moved into what I call the “Momentum Phase” as soon as I shifted into this type of mindset again Chuck! Next stop Acceleration Phase and onward to Mature Business Phase at 10:00 am on 12.31.11….:)


Chuck

06/06/11

Lorraine,

Great comment. All we need is our present GPS location, the GPS location of our final destination, and as you say, “the general direction in which you want to go” – (Ex: East).

When we try to map the route from A to B it doesn’t work because business doesn’t work like blueprints or maps. There are simply too many variables. On a road trip we at least know the roads aren’t going to move.

But every new business is a lot more like Lewis & Clark’s very first foray into the Northwest. They knew where they were and where they wanted to end up (Pacific Ocean), and everything else was pure conjecture – fortune telling.

So they put together supplies based on their first guess at what might lie ahead, and took off.

Nothing about their trip was mappable in advance other than the start, the finish, and the next few steps. There were no roads. And the whole thing was controlled chaos. They went directions they never intended, never found the Northwest Passage – their main objective, and had to make dozens of massive adjustments as horses were stolen, tribes clashed and weather obstructed. Lewis even got shot in the leg by one of his men who thought he was an elk.

None of that was in the plan and it would have been a massive waste of time to build one that did anything more than identify the starting and ending points and the first few steps for getting from A to B.

That is how business works, not like skyscraper blueprints or road maps. Neither analogy captures the massive variability that creates the adventure called “growing a business”.

So you’re right – the general direction is all you get – Lewis & Clark knew they wanted to go northwest. That was pretty much it – the rest of it they made up as they went along.

By the way – even though Lewis & Clark didn’t accomplish the main objective of finding a passage to the Pacific Ocean via the northwest, they ended up wildly successful in all kinds of other things that made the trip a huge success. That is also how business works – we rarely end up where we started to go, but if we’re willing to strike out without much of a plan and take soundings all along the way, we’re likely to do something pretty special.


Lorraine Ball

06/06/11

Love the example of Lewis and Clark. Yes, they were successful in ways they never imagined at the outset.

However, could any of the obstacles they encountered been anticipated? All too often we see business owners who are completely oblivious to the possible detours or challenges. Talking about what could go wrong is not negative, it is being prepared.


Chuck

06/06/11

Lorraine,

Thanks for the continuing dialog. Discussing what COULD go wrong is part of the subject of my second book, Bad Plans Carried Out Violently.

One of the biggest problems with PRE-planning (emphasis on the PRE) is that it is very good at uncovering hundreds of things that COULD go wrong, but doesn’t identify which ones WILL go wrong. And it usually altogether misses a few that WILL go wrong.

But in the meantime it has created a laundry list of things that will take massive amounts of preventative measures to avoid, when in fact most of them will never go wrong, they only COULD go wrong. This delay is deadly – the paralysis of analysis. The #1 indicator of success in early stage business (besides vision) is Speed of Execution – the ability to move quickly. Pre-planning ensures we move cautiously – all the research shows that successful business owners move quickly and fix things as they go.

The second problem with it, and the even bigger issue, is that it plants all sorts of negative things in our heads. Imagine if you were presented a 3" binder at college graduation with a few hundred pages of lists of things that COULD go wrong in the next 20 years. Only 45 of the 1,500 things listed will actually go wrong, but since we don’t know which ones, we’re going to live in fear of the POSSIBLE, when we should only fear the PROBABLE.

Example: I’m never going for another hike because there might be a bear in the woods (fear of the possible). Better solution – enjoy your hike, but if you turn the corner and there is a bear in front of you, don’t keep moving forward. Use your healthy fear of the probable to back up and get the heck out of there.

So Lewis & Clark could have easily compiled a list of 5,000 things that could go wrong on a two-year hike like theirs. Instead they likely invested a reasonable (but short) amount of time considering the PROBABILITIES and planning for those. The rest would have been fortune telling and required that the 32 person team would be 500 (with commensurate supplies).

It’a a balancing act, but my experience is that most of us ALWAYS error on the side of planning too much and moving too slow.

Speed of Execution – get moving, plan as you go. (Vs – plan it all out, then try to execute the plan.)

In short – Implement Now. Perfect as you go.


Tracey

06/11/11

Hi Chuck,

This is exactly how I have been growing my business, although it wasn’t because I was clever like you:-), just didn’t have the education to do it any other way, I received a fair amount of flack for it, but the momentum has started to happen and I have learnt amazing lessons from my mistakes, your book and now your blog are a huge encouragement and will help and guide me. thank you for doing what you were born to do!!!
My business started out as a freelance trainer, the recession hit and i thought it was over, but my passion for encouraging and connecting people to grow their business had created a coaching, then networking and now also a Christian Business Magazine to get to that end. I have not actually qualification to do any of them, but a burning passion to see people esp small business owners grow and be successful. My capacity has grown along the way. Your gift often makes a way for you.


Chuck

06/12/11

Tracey,

You said you don’t have the "qualification to do any of them, but a burning passion…

We’ve been programmed to think that qualifications are achieved by going through academic exercises like college, trade certifications, and other ceremonies that declare someone competent just because they read some books and regurgitated it back on a test.

The fact is you’ve got the few things that qualifies someone to be successful:
1) Vision – a clear idea of what you want to see happen
2) Speed of Execution – you got some ideas and you moved on them.
3) Commitment – the heart of the bull dog to stick with it until your vision is realized.

That’s stuff you just can’t teach in college. Check out my blog post – “Why Education is Not Important for Success” – http://chuckb.me/xm .

You’re incredibly qualified!


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12/20/12

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Erick

03/16/13

Hi Chuck,

So what is the release date for your new book?


Chuck

03/17/13

Erick,

We forecasted having “Bad Plans” released in April. The cover design, web design, and editing are all done – ready for layout. But we have shelved it to get my next book, “Why Employees Are Always a Bad Idea” out as quickly as possible.

The feedback we have gotten is that “Employees” is a time sensitive book that is giving a narrative to people for where business is heading in the near future. “Bad Plans” is not time sensitive, so we’re putting it out next spring. Stay tuned. :)




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Chuck’s Books

Why Employees Are Always a Bad Idea (WEAAABI) is radical book about the Participation Age, for everyone who: has a job, owns a company, or manages people.

Making Money is Killing Your Business

You’re too busy making money; no business can survive that. Your business should give you both time and money. Not just money.

Making Money is Killing Your Business

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We started Crankset Group out of the desire to help small businesses grow and mature. Along the way, we have developed a lot of the tools and practices that we’ve created working directly with business owners. Now these tools and resources are available to you.

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