“Over Prepare, then Go With The Flow.” I read these words in a recent inspirational article written by Regina Brett, a 90-year old lady from Cleveland, Ohio. She said “To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written.” What does this have to do with business? Everything.
Arthur Rock is an American venture capitalist of Silicon Valley, California. He was an early investor in major firms including Intel and Apple Computer. I was CEO for a company funded by his firm, Venrock Associates. At an exclusive conference he said, The “going in” proposition is never the “exit proposition.” When he invests in a company they must have a great product, a solid business plan, a huge market opportunity, and an exceptional management team. However, as prepared as this new venture may be, Mr. Rock believes their success will not be what their initial plan states. Rather, once in the market, they will make major changes and adjustments in order to succeed. Given Mr. Rock’s experience in seeing thousands of successful and even more unsuccessful companies, I take his beliefs as the rule.
A few years ago I was asked to organize a group handcart trek involving 90 families—including babies, children, and grandparents. This was a trek to commemorate a reenactment of the true story of the Martin and Willie Handcart companies who pulled handcarts across the United States plains to help settle the Utah territory. The Willie and Martin companies were surprised by an early winter and many of them died. From this historical event are many stories of heroic deeds as well as forlorn loss.
In my preparations for organizing the reenactment trek, I spent an enormous amount of time forming companies made up of several families with a leader over each company. I also trained the leaders to meet the needs of each member of their companies. We spent hours scrolling over the three day itinerary and ensuring detail in every event. Food had to be arranged, special speakers were scheduled, musical numbers were planned, and other logistics including medical help were organized. All of these details were critical to the success of the event. I went through every detail of the trip with the other leaders over and over again rooting out minor problems and addressing each one in great detail.
At one point, one week or so before we were to leave on the trek, the individual who inspired the trek came to speak with me privately. He was worried that we were so structured that we would not have any fun. I told him not to worry. I explained to him because we were so over prepared, when the trek started, the only thing we will have to worry about is having fun. The trek was a great success. Even with all the preparation, several activities did not go as planned, but we went with the flow and had a great time.
Regina really knows what she is talking about and business greats like Arthur Rock agree. Over preparation provides a lot of options for success once you begin your journey. Lack of preparation really only leaves one option: failure. As I get into the day to day of executing a business plan of any scale and begin to go with the flow I always find that my preparation pays off in expected and unexpected ways. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
Dano Ybarra is a leader, global executive, corporate warrior, serial entrepreneur, husband, father, and Internet pioneer. To learn more about Dano please visit www.danoybarra.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information visit his Beyond.com profile.