I’ve been traveling a lot lately – mostly Canada, but in the U.S. as well. By the end of this month I’ll have been to 12 cities over the previous 7 weeks.
Is it because the National Basketball Association has asked me to tag along during the playoffs, in the belief that having a witty E-Newsletter expert on hand would add a certain something to the postgame commentary? No, but I like how you’re thinking.
What happened was that I was hired by a travel industry trade group to deliver a series of half-day workshops to its members. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s not a series … it’s the same workshop, delivered a dozen times.
Now some people might find this kind of repetition tedious, but I couldn’t be more thrilled.
First, because the association and its members are terrific (I’ve learned that those who travel for a living are fun to be around). And second, because the repetition gives me a chance to keep making the workshop better.
If a joke falls flat, I don’t use it again. If a particular exercise works out well, I expand on it for the next time. Even my wardrobe has improved, as I’ve become more skilled at packing in a wrinkle-free manner.
Try it, fix it, try it, fix it … over and over again.
Delivering the same presentation many times in quick succession is a new experience for me and I have to admit that it caught me off guard. Going in, I assumed that all the work would be done beforehand, and that by the time I arrived in the first city I’d have everything set to go.
I realize now that wasn’t possible. I could be approximately correct in putting together the workshop and its elements, but I had to live through it a few times to understand what actually works in practice.
If you ask me, planning in business (and maybe in life in general) is overrated. It may feel comforting to try and map everything out ahead of time, but you can’t map what you don’t understand. And you don’t understand ‐ really understand ‐ until you wade in and get your feet wet.
Not only that, for many people (myself included), planning can also be a handy excuse for not taking real action.
It can keep businesses from trying social media (“We’re not sure how it fits in yet.”). It can postpone the launch of E-Newsletters (“We need to do more research to figure out what readers want.”). It can cause new solo professionals to postpone talking to real, live prospects in favor of fine-tuning their service descriptions and packages over and over and over again.
Having a deadline for the workshop forced me to be done. But had they called the week before and offered me two more to prepare, I would have taken it. (Had they called and offered me two more months to prepare, I would have taken it).
Am I saying that planning is inherently a bad thing? No, because it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
What I am saying though, is that more is not necessarily better ‐ there’s a limit to how much useful tweaking you can do from the outside looking in. And at some point, the planning itself takes on a life of its own and gets in the way of the real work.
So here’s my suggestion: do enough to get started … and then get started. One of the terrific things about 21st century marketing is that you have the flexibility to change it as you go. Stop waiting for perfection and, as they say in the NBA, just do it.