Pick a plan, any plan
My friend Steven started King of Pops by rolling a cart of popsicles to a street corner and tweeting out his menu. (I’m glossing over a few details, but not many.) By the time I joined the business it had grown, but it was still clinging to that early scrappiness.
This was a feature, not a bug.
The fact that we were still figuring things out as we went along was empowering for our current team and a major selling point for attracting candidates from more traditional organizations. This is how it is with most startups—talented people value freedom.
But they also value clarity.
And you can’t have clarity without some sort of plan.
To give the team at King of Pops more clarity, we decided to implement the Entrepreneur Operating System. EOS is exactly what the name says: a set of tools and practices designed to help entrepreneurs and their teams better manage their businesses.
EOS isn't anything groundbreaking; it's a well-crafted repackaging of ideas that have been around for ages. In fact, I remember we only picked it because someone read a book about it on a flight and it sounded doable.
As soon as we rolled it out, there was a mutiny. Everyone despised it. There were accusations that having things like revenue goals and meeting agendas would crush the soul of the company.
I will never forget one frontline employee bemoaning, “This business is starting to feel too much like . . . a business!”
At the height of revolt, Steven pleaded with everyone at an all-hands meeting:
“Everything around here is too crazy and we just need to try something, so let’s do this stuff for a little while and see how it goes, okay?”
As soon as he admitted that we knew the plan wasn’t perfect and that we just needed to try something, adoption soared.
We ended up sticking with it. We got the clarity we wanted and we kept our scrappy spirit alive. More importantly, we developed practices that allowed us to grow.
I was reminded of all this while listening to a recent episode of the Tim Ferriss Podcast with renowned Silicon Valley investor Bill Gurley. In it, Gurley talks about the fact that what plan you pick is far less important than picking a plan:
I do think entrepreneurs benefit from frameworks because [it beats] just running by the seat of your pants. You need a framework for having weekly meetings. You need a framework for executive recruiting. You need a framework for development of your team. And there are a lot of good ones. There’s probably 20 good ones of each of those, but the worst thing you can possibly do is have no framework and just kind of fly by seat of your pants. And by the way, that’s the most frequent solution—the ‘absolutely no framework’.
The notion of flying by the seat of your pants may sound exhilarating and daring, but in reality it’s usually just masking fear and insecurity.
Committing to a plan is a courageous act.
It means dealing with things we don’t know and can’t be sure about, making difficult choices, and choosing one path while rejecting others. It’s normal to worry that plans might fail, but we can’t let that fear stop us from taking action.
In fact, it is precisely because of this fear that having a plan is important. Plans give us a roadmap to follow and a structure to fall back on when things inevitably hit the fan.
You don't have to follow a plan or framework dogmatically forever either.
My business partner Callie is great at setting review dates to evaluate the effectiveness of any course of action. "Let's try this for three months and see how it goes," she'll say. If we don't like it, we can change it, but not before the three-month mark.
Having a plan isn't about being perfect; it's about moving forward.
Pick one and get on with it.
Thanks for reading! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.