Entre­pre­neurs are born with a “Fire Now” gene. The Ready and Aim of it all is lost on us.

The good news is we are wired for action.  The bad news is we often fail to think through the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of our action or take the time to gain con­sen­sus with our team.

Some of us nev­er learn to do it any dif­fer­ent­ly.  We go through life cre­at­ing chaos and putting out fires. Some of us find a new path.

My new path, the one that allowed me to har­ness my “fire now” gene, was strate­gic finan­cial plan­ning. It allowed me to keep the pos­i­tives and bal­ances the neg­a­tives through planning.

Orig­i­nal­ly, I thought it was all about the plan.  As an out­come junky, I loved the part of the plan with the 1, 3 and 5‑year goals.  Some­thing to work on. Some­thing to use my “fire now” gene on.

The plan was impor­tant, but the plan­ning process was crit­i­cal. It was the delib­er­ate unfold­ing of the what I con­sid­ered to be the “soft” parts of the plan, like:

  • the Why of the business
  • the Who we serve
  • What we do
  • How we do it

It was the process of gain­ing con­sen­sus around the why, who, what and how that mat­tered most because they become the North Star for deci­sion making.

One of my worst “fire now” moments came when my firm first began explod­ing. Our growth was in the high dou­ble dig­its. I was strug­gling to keep up and grow myself fast enough to be the leader we need­ed.  We had a cri­sis in tal­ent reten­tion, so I sprang into action. With no input, no strate­gic plan, no human resources plan, I jumped to the con­clu­sion that I need­ed an incen­tive plan for my team.

I was in the “fire now” mode and noth­ing was going to keep me from tak­ing action. I spent about two sec­onds research­ing incen­tive plans.  Then I mod­i­fied my favorite and announced its implementation.

The result?

Instead of reten­tion, I got turnover.  I lost my best and most pro­duc­tive employee.

This was a hard les­son.  One that cost me dear­ly.   I shut down the incen­tive plan, hired a strate­gic plan­ner and start­ed over.

With my north star of why, who, what and how clar­i­fied, I start­ed over. Yes, an incen­tive plan was a good idea.  But this time, before announc­ing the plan, we did exten­sive finan­cial mod­el­ing. We thought through all the pos­si­ble unin­tend­ed con­se­quences.  We care­ful­ly con­sid­ered if the plan fit our cul­ture and fit into our human resource strat­e­gy.  With all our ducks in a row, we care­ful­ly rolled out the new plan.

Tak­ing the time to ready our­selves and aim real­ly paid off. This time we suc­ceed­ed in boost­ing engage­ment and increas­ing retention.

Ready Aim. Fire.

Oth­er exam­ples I have seen over the years of a dom­i­nant “fire now” gene are:

  • Buy­ing or build­ing a facil­i­ty for your busi­ness with­out suf­fi­cient con­sid­er­a­tion of the impact of the increased cost.
  • Engag­ing a mar­ket­ing firm to devel­op a mar­ket­ing cam­paign before tak­ing the time to ana­lyze the busi­ness unit to deter­mine its poten­tial and ulti­mate profitability.
  • Because you need tal­ent now, hir­ing a fam­i­ly mem­ber or friend, with­out dis­cussing what hap­pens if it doesn’t work out.
  • Mak­ing a large com­mit­ment to a new idea, when a small one would have been eas­i­er and allowed you to test out your hypoth­e­sis with less risk.
  • Build­ing a prod­uct or ser­vice plan mix that isn’t aligned with your why.

My innate instinct hasn’t changed, my impulse is to act now.  How­ev­er, instead of rolling out a new ini­tia­tive, what I choose to do now is to act with my com­put­er.  I type my thoughts up and just let them sit.  I do noth­ing, at least for a few days.  If I still feel com­pelled to act, I dis­cuss it with the per­son in charge of that busi­ness unit and we devel­op a solu­tion that com­ple­ments our why.

Most of my “fire now” thoughts are left undone.  After a few days, I can see they were not need­ed.  I save myself lots of ener­gy and my team is much hap­pi­er & more pro­duc­tive too.

Ready Aim (ie. plan) It seems like such a qui­et, unpro­duc­tive use of time.  But when we take the time to do it, it is the most pro­duc­tive time of all.

In joy,