The Resilient Maverick – Not Just for the Brave or Courageous
Part Two – Create Your Own Float Plan
… So, there I was alone as the most powerful storm ever to strike the Atlantic Basin was headed my way. I was feeling confident, complacent really. I’ve been a professional rescuer, a navigator of businesses, boats and people, guiding them to safely reach their destinations for a couple of decades. I had done all I could to prepare and it would soon be over … famous last words …
The following is the second in a series on leadership and resilience strategies developed from weathering nature, life and business’ most catastrophic “storms.”
How many times have you thought in a situation, “I’ve done all that I can, and it will be enough?”
Each time we are challenged in business, life, even by the weather, it is important to remember, in the calm of the aftermath, that there will be another storm. What did we do to prepare for the last one? Did it turn out to be enough or did we get slammed by events beyond our control? What could we learn from the experience so that the next one won’t have the same or worse impact?
So much is unpredictable in nature, in competitive markets, with human beings, but there are things that we can do every time we want to make a quantum leap forward or when disaster is looming. There are certain reliable steps and actions that will shore up our capabilities, help us to become better leaders for our teams and those who count on us, and provision our lives and our businesses to create successful growth, or before the inevitable next one hits.
When we set out to achieve a new goal, start a business, implement a growth initiative for our current business, we have a responsibility to those counting on us such as our employees, clients, suppliers, investors, partners, families, to successfully reach our destination. We need to let these stakeholders know what we have done to prepare and provision ourselves, our businesses and our teams, and we have to help them be able to measure our progress along the way and when or whether we have reached the distant shore.
How many times have you started something without a plan, but just a feeling and a passion? Did it work out? I can honestly say that I have worked with clients and partners where we have done it both ways – with a full-fledged business plan and without. Even when we’ve done them, I’ve seen the plans wind up in the back of the drawer, never to be looked at again. I run into entrepreneurs all the time who, when they think of doing a business plan, their eyes glaze over and, if they aren’t stopped in their tracks, will start to look for cheap templates online. A business plan was perceived as a mandatory yet tedious exercise and seemingly of little usefulness.
Whenever you are taking that next leap forward, you can create something actionable, rather than just what looks good on paper. It’s called a “Float Plan.” While we may be heading into the unknown, we can do our best to anticipate the obstacles that are “out there,” and prepare for the things we can’t predict.
In boating, responsible mariners know that they should never leave shore for anything other than a local day sail without creating and filing a float plan, and even then … anyone remember Gilligan’s Island? It was only a “three-hour tour”… The float plan is like a one-page strategic business plan. It’s short, contains only what is actionable and relevant. A float plan describes:
- the destination,
- the equipment needed,
- the crew on board the vessel,
- the course chosen,
- current weather predictions,
- potential stops along the way,
- backup systems,
- an outline of who is responsible for what,
- and the destination, including the planned departure and arrival time to that point, if everything goes according to available information at the time of the departure.
A float plan can be filed and left with the onshore personnel at the departure point – marina personnel, the coast guard, key stakeholders, family members.
Once these details have been communicated to all relevant parties, they (and the skipper!) can continue to assess how the vessel is doing, whether it is making way according to plan, monitor potential upcoming hazards, changes in weather and other predictions to see whether available resources will last for the duration, or if unexpected events, breakages, marine life encounters etc., will inhibit the journey, causing an unplanned stop, detour or delay.
Imagine running into dead calm seas or a powerful storm and not moving at the planned pace or direction that causes such a delay that the journey could outlast the food and water supplies – or, in business terms, your cash flow? Crew lives can be put in danger if there is no contingency plan. Without a float plan, your onshore support won’t know that there is something amiss.
It’s no different when running a business. There are people whose livelihoods are at stake, who count on the leaders of the enterprise to know where the company is heading and to prepare for all possibilities. I can’t tell you how many times I have laid awake at night wondering how to make a $1m payroll or to pay rent for a fast-growing company when incoming cash didn’t match outgoing needs. And that was just on an ordinary day.
When what I call a “Category 5”- level event strikes, it may be even worse. In one startup company that I helped found, we were served with a lawsuit by a billion-dollar company one month after launch. That was a bad day. But that one event led to the aftermath – seen or unforeseen consequences that aren’t fully resolved for some time to come. Our litigation lasted 2 ½ years before it was resolved. The leader’s available skills, capabilities, preparation and planning become all the more important in the aftermath of a Category 5 situation.
This rule of creating, filing and keeping a float plan forces you to think through key decisions. What am I going to need to provision my business? What team do I have to bring on board? How do I keep them safe? What skills and competencies does the team need to have to function properly? Where are we headed and how do we keep moving in that direction? Have I communicated our destination to the stakeholders? What the conditions and potential hazards lie ahead? How well-provisioned are we for the unforeseen situations that will inevitably arise?
Before the Cat 5 event strikes and circumstances get out of control, with a float plan, we shore up our resilience to weather the storm and come through thriving.
In this continuing series, I share with you some key strategies to weather any Category 5 event, both during and in the aftermath, to not only lessen the impact, but to come through thriving. These are the “7 Barometers of Resilience” that I introduce in my upcoming book, The Resilient Leader: Life-Changing Strategies to Overcome Today’s Turmoil and Tomorrow’s Uncertainty.
More to come …