Today we are going to talk about your business consultant business plan and I am going to challenge you to leave the hole. Let me explain what I mean. As consultants we do a lot of thinking. Our job is to think on behalf of our clients, but when it comes to our own business we think too much. Whether you are creating your first business plan or fifth generation new growth plan, I am going to challenge you to leave the hole. Don’t try to think through all the iterations before you actually roll the plan out. Don’t try to come up with every contingency, every plan A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Do your best to come up with sharp thinking, trust your thinking, and then roll the plan.
Old Mindset: Holes are bad and you must fill them. The old mindset that most of us have is that holes are bad and you must fix them. There is a fear that comes along with holes. We don’t want anybody to assume we haven’t thought our plan all the way through; we don’t want the public embarrassment. However, one thing about holes is that holes don’t make mistakes. If you allow your fear of failure to drive you, you will rush to create a new process to solve for a problem that may not exist at all. That rushed process can create plenty of mistakes. But if you have the courage to leave the hole then no new problems will arise. You can manage the situation with more patience and savvy.
Also, consider that a hole is a legitimate data point. Customer complaints are data. Lost revenue is data. Low employee morale is data. Even if you get a zero as the specific output, that is a data point as well. The holes you find are prompts to ask great questions. Think about how the work is supposed to be done. If you realize a hole, this is an opportunity to brainstorm around how the hole got there and solve for the root cause.
New Mindset: Holes make us better. In the spirit of a new mindset, holes actually make us better. Holes remind us of how our best work is done. You review a process, see a hole and think about what’s supposed to be there. How do you want it to work in a best case scenario? The existence of holes allows you to brainstorm in that way. Thinking this way gives you an eye for greater opportunity. Perhaps the existing process is healthy, but maybe you notice a hole before that process begins, or after the process ends. Those holes allow you to see what additional value can be added as an introduction or conclusion to your process.
Holes also represent real (and valuable) business pain. If you are supposed to have a five step process and you consistently miss step two, the consistent miss causes your business pain and pain teaches lessons. Pain attracts attention. None of us like to be around pain, but it’s hard for us to forget real pain. Business pains are things like lost clients, lost revenue, lost employees, lost opportunities, and lost bid prospects. These pains allow you to zero in on the holes that exist and fix them. Take the opportunity to become a better company.
Have the courage to leave the holes. Sometimes you have to go through loss or pain in order to appreciate what in that process needs to be changed.
The system doesn’t work if you cheat it. With that said, you must have the courage to leave the holes and the system doesn’t work if you cheat it. If you insert yourself in certain parts of the plan to cover up holes, you are cheating. You are not allowing the process to stand on its own and that’s necessary if you are going to make an honest analysis of it.
You can’t be afraid to discover a hole. You do your best thinking, put together your best strategy, and realize errors after roll-out. That’s what happens in business. You can’t be afraid of finding a hole later on in the process.
Don’t rob your company of the discipline it needs. You need the courage to leave a hole so that your entire business can see that an error has developed in how you do business. Because the solution may not reside in you as the lead consultant, that solution may reside in some other business relationship. But if you don’t have the courage to leave the hole, then your entire community can’t notice the hole and rally to fix it. Your business community includes your team, employees, vendors, customers, and clients. You all work together to create the best possible business environment. Be transparent with the holes so everyone can be part of the solution.
As the leader of your consulting business you have to be okay with making a mistake and you have to be OK with possible embarrassment. You’ve got to be OK with certain systems and certain processes failing. Those failures give you an opportunity to improve and that constant spirit of improvement is what makes you attractive as a consulting company. The fear that drives perfection only makes you weak and it’s a matter of time when that weakness is revealed to the marketplace. Have the courage to reveal the holes in your business and then work hard to improve them.