According to Plan

An elder once told me that if your plan requires perfection, you’re more likely to fail. I was in high school or early college, so I didn’t grasp the weight of this comment at the time. Over the years, I learned exactly what he meant.

As a founder, I was super bullish and optimistic about many things I was doing. In my mind, if I did X and Y, Z should happen. Eventually, I learned two things. First, I hadn’t fully understood a lot of things about X and Y, so I couldn’t accurately predict how long they would take to execute and what resources were required. Put another way, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and hadn’t factored in that knowledge gap. Second, I realized that this is an imperfect world. Things beyond my control could happen that would dramatically affect my plans. (Think pandemic.)

Over time, I learned to do a few things that were helpful. I sought out people who had done something similar to what I was attempting and asked about their experiences so I could fill my knowledge gap and adjust my plans accordingly. Next, I started adding a buffer to my plans. If I thought something would take three months, I had a plan in case it took four or five. If something was projected to cost $10, I budgeted for $12. It was my way of accounting for the inevitable curveballs the universe would throw at me.

Early-stage founders should remember that nothing in life is perfect. Especially not in startups! The entrepreneurial journey is a long one, and everything won’t go according to plan. Consider incorporating some wiggle room for yourself and your team.