September 24, 2006

Good day, team,

This week’s challenge comes from famous author and statesman Mark Twain, who wrote about life’s realities in a way many people could appreciate:

“A man may plan as much as he wants to, but nothing of consequence is likely to come of it until the magician circumstance steps in and takes the matter off his hands.”

This observation encourages us to pay attention to whatever is happening in the moment so we can respond to the opportunities it presents, even if they don’t fit our plan.

A friend of mine recently experienced the truth of Twain’s statement. About 12 years ago, he started a training business with a man he had worked with in the past. Because they had both been successful working for large companies that offered sales and marketing training to their clients, they decided to start their own company. They put together an extensive business plan that defined their core business as “a company that offers innovative, customized sales training to give our customer’s a competitive advantage.”

They contacted everyone who might be interested in their service, and they were off and running. Although they didn’t expect a profit in their first year, they actually made a little money, and in the second year, they doubled their revenues. The pattern fit their original business plan, and they were enjoying their success.

In the fifth year of the business, an unusual thing happened. More and more independent sales people asked to buy their training materials and the approach they used with customers. The partners realized that a brand new opportunity was emerging. If they could franchise their business model, they could expand their business far beyond anything either of them had ever expected.

However, when they went to their board of directors with this idea, some of the members argued that, since franchising wasn’t part of the original plan, the risk and investment it entailed might be unwise, especially since they were very successful operating just as they had originally planned. The dissenting board members logically asked, “Why change a good thing?”

In the end, the partners influenced the board members in favor of changing the plan to meet the circumstances. They franchised their business, and after seven years of being highly successful using the new plan, they recently sold the company for about $40 million. Their original plan was to become a $10 million company. But because they revised the plan to take advantage of new circumstances, they made four times as much money. Both my friend and his partner now spend most of their time on the golf course, looking for the right circumstances for improving their golf game.

This week, take a good look at your current circumstances. Are you ignoring an opportunity that’s right in front of you because it’s either not part of your plan or you haven’t seen it before? How often do you talk yourself out of maximizing something, just because it doesn’t fit your idea of the way it should be or the way it has always been?

Then consider whether your plan is limiting your ability to expand or improve. If the plan has gotten in the way of the opportunity, it no longer serves you. Don’t be afraid to try a new approach that better fits what’s right in front of you.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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