When it comes to running and growing a business, few things are certain except... uncertainty. Customers come and go, competitors can provide a sudden scare, funding often dries up more quickly than it comes. As I often say to entrepreneurs just starting out, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
There are also macro factors that can disrupt an otherwise flawless business plan on paper. We all have the natural economic cycle to contend with, and thankfully, the ship remains steady and continues to cruise at a swift clip for most. But the ongoing stalemates in Washington, a dynamic regulatory climate, the current trade war with China, and simmering hotspots around the globe have some business owners feeling skittish—and some directly impacted—regardless of their political stripes.
Things go wrong as frequently as they go right—but anticipating the unforeseen and embracing it merely as a problem that requires a solution ensures that your culture remains positive, regardless of what comes up.
—Tobin Ludwig, co-founder, Hella Cocktail Co.
Smart entrepreneurs, however, build this looming something into their business model. They may not know what is coming down the proverbial pipeline, but they know an event that could shake their business inevitably will—and they plan for it. We asked our experts how they prepare for the unpredictable.
Founder and CEO, TerraCycle
“To prepare for the unpredictable and minimize risk to the company, I meet regularly with my finance team and business leads to review budgets. We look at opportunities and risks and, as a company, operate off of a ‘worst-case’ budget so that we don’t get into a situation where we’ve overspent. We also have a committee that reviews new and incremental business opportunities from all angles before they are finalized, which keeps us from overlooking a detail that could be problematic later on.”
Founder and CEO, The Inside and Lemieux et Cie
“Uncertainty is the name of the game as an entrepreneur. It’s constantly unpredictable. I put one foot in front of the other and tackle tasks by relevancy and urgency, but I’m ready to constantly pivot. I don’t think you can prepare. I think you need to be fluid enough to deal with constant flux. It’s a necessary survival skill for all entrepreneurs.”
Founder and CEO, Shoptiques
“To prepare for the unpredictable, I am always prepared for the predictable. I assume that every single day, 5,000 new things can come up and an urgent issue can arise, so I always make sure that anything I know will need to be done is done ahead of time. This way, you aren’t overwhelmed or time-strapped if something comes up that you didn’t plan for. Also, after a while, the uncertainty and unpredictability becomes something you can plan for. If you know it’ll always be there... plan for it.”
Co-Founder, Hella Cocktail Co.
“At the core, this is really about practicing and propagating (among your team) a perspective that embraces the unpredictable as a ‘known unknown’ component of your everyday. In this, preparation is a mindset that you back up with process. That is to say, being prepared is more about having a cool, even head than knowing where your exits are.
“At Hella, we encounter ‘fires’ every day that require management and leadership. Of course, the vast majority of these day-to-day unpredictable events are minor, but they are also one of the elements that I think really fuel the entrepreneurial drive and spirit. Things go wrong as frequently as they go right—but anticipating the unforeseen and embracing it merely as a problem that requires a solution ensures that your culture remains positive, regardless of what comes up.
“Positive pragmatism is an acknowledgement that things go wrong, whether you’re a small company of five or a corporate behemoth. And what fun is predictability anyway? Not only is the unpredictable more interesting, but some of your best ideas and perhaps biggest business wins will come not out of what you know, but what you don’t.”
Photo: Getty Images