Working with entrepreneurs every day can be a myriad of things: fun, challenging, exciting, exhausting… and while I love the work that I do, it can be difficult to speak to a group of people with very different personalities, motivations and behavior patterns.
So this article is just for those creative entrepreneurs who say, “I’m just not a planner” and believe that their success is not only stifled by planning, but also say it squishes their creative spirit and suffocates their brilliance.
Yikes, no one wants to be responsible for that, right? Clearly we have to find a way to allow creative entrepreneurs the same wild success as those Type-A business owners who are up at dawn and burning the midnight oil 7 days a week.
Let’s break that down and first give up any idea that you “have to be” a certain way to be successful. Many entrepreneurs find success precisely by breaking the mold and fighting the status quo, so surely there isn’t one path.
No matter the path you choose to take, there is likely to be twists, turns and bumps along the way, and how you navigate your path it will require determination, grit, and dedication.
I’m not saying you need to get up at 6am every day and spend 4 hour blocks coding or writing or whatever it is that you do, but I do believe that without commitment your business will fail, no matter your personality type.
In many ways, planning for an entrepreneur is all guesswork anyway – we often say this or that, and then circumstances require a change.
So, why bother, right?
For one, if life changes 15% of your plan this month, then you’re still on point for 85% of what you wanted to do and when you wanted to do it.
A good example of this is when you plan a launch with release dates for certain content and email. It’s done and ready to go. Until your site crashes, there’s a natural disaster or tragedy, and things need to shift. It happens and it sucks but adjusting a plan is always easier than no plan at all.
Think about this… I’ve given you a car and 10 days to drive 4,000 miles to a specific location and at that location is a prize: $1M, tax free. The only rules are that you have to get there yourself, you can’t hire a driver, ask a travel agent to book a flight, or ride along with a friend.
How would you get from point A to one million dollars?
I submit that if you get in the car and just drive in that direction, you’re going to experience some stress, get lost a lot and maybe miss the deadline entirely.
If you buy a map, decide the best route and program your GPS, you’re probably going to get there. There might be detours along the way due to weather or road work but you can adjust the plan accordingly.
Planning for your business is the same thing – no plan is perfect and won’t take into account all that could go wrong, but it’s a helleva lot better than winging it.
But… planning is boring
A lot of entrepreneurs self-identify as creative people, and I’m not just talking about artists, musicians and designers but people in so many fields who like to create, build, and express themselves in their business whether that’s brand colors, copy, videos, or a product line.
Going back to our road trip example, creating your plan doesn’t mean you have to follow the same route as everyone else. Maybe you take a southern route or favor backroads. Maybe you stay overnight at state parks or drive through the night under the stars.
All that your plan has done is given you a path from where you are now to where you want to be; you still get to decide how to get there, how long it will take, what it looks like, and a thousand other small details.
Free your creativity
I submit that instead of stifling your creativity, developing a plan allows it to fully bloom. See, with so many ideas in your mind, it can be near impossible to decide what to do next. Design a new website? Develop that product idea? Plan a retreat? Create your own video studio? Write a book? Learn a new skill? Become a vendor at that event?
Ideas are plentiful, developing a plan to use those ideas in a productive manner gets them out of your head and into motion, and that’s when my creative synapses fire.
In defense of planning
There are a lot of negative stereotypes on both sides of this issue – that creative people are airheads with no goals and that planners are obsessive compulsives who plan down to the second every aspect of life.
Let’s meet in the middle.
If you hate planning, then I would submit that you do a lot more of it than you think. If you have groceries in your fridge, clean clothes for work, and gifts at Christmas, then you do some planning in your life already.
Here are 3 ways to embrace a little bit of planning in your business (without going overboard):
- Plan how you want to spend your time to maximize your creative space. By scheduling some of the things you need to do you’ll give yourself more time for the fun stuff you want to do.
- Take your biggest goal and decide the next 2 steps, and plan time to work to get there. Whether that’s writing a book proposal, hiring a new team member, or launching that event you’ve been dreaming about, just work on the next few steps.
- Bring on support with a team member who can put structure behind your big ideas when you know what you want to do but not how exactly to get there.
The biggest shift might just need to be in the attitude. Saying “I’m not a planner” seems so final – try instead “I like a loose plan that’s adaptable” or “I prefer big picture plans and trust my intuition on all the details.”
As an entrepreneur, if you’re in business, planning will lower your stress and increase your success.