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.
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.