Are You Planning for Success?

(Laura’s note: I am on maternity leave, and while I’ll be blogging occasionally over the next few weeks, I wanted to take the opportunity to run some guest posts by my favorite bloggers. Enjoy!)

By Katherine Lewis

Recently, I saw social media guru Peter Shankman speak for the second time, and even got to meet his mom. (She’s adorable.) One of the points that resonated most with me was his advice to make a backup plan for success.

I am risk averse, as I’ve blogged before. That’s why I never thought I would become an entrepreneur. But while I love to plan, there is a limit. I plan vacations, child care, future spending and major career moves. It never occurred to me to make a back-up plan for success — that is, a plan for how I’d manage if things went better than I dreamed they would.

Shankman’s point is certainly a valid one. By telling would-be entrepreneurs to make a back-up plan in case they fail, we’re unwittingly sending the message: “You’re such a loser; you’re bound to screw it up!” What about a back-up plan in case you succeed?

Peter Shankman told the story of printing 500 shirts, around the time the movie “Titanic” came out on video, that said: “It Sank. Get Over It.” He sold them all in one day, in Times Square, and told a friend at USA Today the story. That weekend the item ran on the newspaper’s front page and the resulting visits to his Web site crashed almost all the hosting company’s servers.

Shankman spent the following weeks frantically filling thousands of orders for T-shirts (placed by email correspondence and snail mail check) out of his apartment. “It was the Rube Goldberg Fulfillment Center,” he said. He raised $100,000 and started his public relations agency.

To me, this is a success story. I suppose if he knew the T-shirts were going to go viral, he could have planned better. But who can ever predict that? And in the same talk, he commented that in the early days of AOL, they tried something new, and if it worked, they did it some more. You can’t really plan for that.

For entrepreneurs who happen to also be busy parents, however, I do think you can make a backup plan for success. It contains at least these elements:

  • Line up child care. If you receive a breakthrough opportunity, you need to be able to jump onto it without a worry about your children. This can be as simple as setting expectations with your partner. Or, making sure you have the occasional babysitter so that your children are used to child care outside of the regular work day.
  • Stay organized. Say you get a call from venture capitalists who want you to fly to the West Coast for a meeting. (Yes, let’s say that!) You’ll need to be able to pick up and get on a plane with the key materials to convince them to give you funding. That means your big selling points
  • Network with an eye on the future. Perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Venture capital? They’d never be interested in me.” You never know. When opportunity strikes, it helps if you have an address book full of contacts at various sizes and scales. Entrepreneurial mothers, in particular, are notorious for thinking small and planning only to replace their income from the day job. If you allow yourself to envision huge things for yourself and your business, it frees other people to do the same.

How are you planning for success?

Katherine Lewis is a journalist who has written hundreds of articles that have appeared everywhere from the Kalamazoo Gazette to MSN Money, Parade and the Washington Post Magazine. She created and writes the working moms site. As national correspondent for Newhouse News Service, Katherine contributed to the New Orleans Times-Picayune coverage of Hurricane Katrina that won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 2005. She also runs the website CurrentMom, where a version of this post first appeared. 

One thought on “Are You Planning for Success?

  1. Also consider whether you really WANT a huge breakthrough. A couple of our relatives are multi-millionaires. One has his own business and traveled 270 nights out of the year. The other worked crazy long hours and has now cut back because his wife has terminal cancer. If you have small children, be aware of the cost to your family life. That’s why so many of us limit our ambitions- because we understand trade-offs and don’t necessarily want that level of success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *