Surprising processes: Capturing the opportunities

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It makes sense to build some risk/experimentation into your business/marketing plan.
It makes sense to build some risk/experimentation into your business/marketing plan.

As much as there is plenty of science and rational thinking/behaviour in business (including seemingly “irrational” stuff that can be explained by psychological research), I think the most interesting discoveries occur with the out-of-left-field surprises. These wrack havoc on business plans and marketing strategies.

Sometimes, I fear, the “surprise” aspect of business causes us to throw up our hands and think that business planning/budgeting is a waste of time. That is folly, of course, because you can’t really understand the consequence of surprise events unless you have a baseline budget/management system at hand and are prepared to live by the budget/priorities, while changing things as they need to be changed.

These points have extreme relevance as the year ends and one of our company’s contractors — a freelance writer, in fact — delivered the budget revisions/management and systems guidelines to lay the foundation for the business in 2015 and its ultimate transfer to employees and key contractors in future years. She has done the work generally provided by expensive accountants/auditors. We are implementing a whole new set of budget/financial management rules, not to stifle innovation and quick-decision-making, but to make sure that expenses and commitments either operate within the budget or are clearly justified and not just a fast cash-grab.

Of course, there are other surprises that we cannot yet know will happen (or they won’t be surprises, of course). Will a major client defect (or be discovered) or a great new sales representative appear out of left field? (Yes, we have a budget/system for recruitment and business development support, but can we know when the new representative will actually appear?) Can we anticipate technological changes or a political/social-economic shock? (I remember well, one year after establishing a local publication in Washington, D.C., and earning the best single monthly revenue from a publication in the business’s existence, the day everything changed: September 11, 2001.)

In conclusion, I think we cannot avoid surprises, but we can embrace them; and we can certainly prepare our business and marketing strategies using the best available knowledge and systems we have — without surprises. Then, when the unexpected happens, we will be ready to adapt, adjust and either resolve the surprising problem, or capture the surprising opportunity.

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