July 8, 2009

Sounds Like a Plan

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Almost every phone call I get from agency chiefs these days centers on how they’re just barely keeping their heads above water. Most say they’ll be happy to make it through ‘09 breaking even; almost all have suffered severe AGI shrinkage and deep staff and operating cuts.

Agency principals tell me they’re treading water until things get better next year. So no big decisions now, only the most essential hiring going on – it’s all wait & see.

Well, I’m a little concerned about how these CEOs talk. It’s like they’re paralyzed, waiting for things to go back the way they were. To return to normal.

If you’re in a holding pattern either as a company or on a personal level, you’re kidding yourself. Instead you should be dreaming and planning for what you want your future to be. . and taking the steps to realize it, i.e. to bring those dreams into reality.

Because now is the perfect time – while there’s a lull in the battle – to figure out what you’ll need to do to excel in your next episode. Go on a planning retreat, visit some other agencies to see how they’re doing, put the actionable elements of an operating plan together. But don’t sit on your hands!

I hear ya’: you say there’s no flippin’ way you can possibly plan because who can know with any certainty what tomorrow (or next year) will bring.

If you think our business is tough, how about the unpredictability of war. General Eisenhower is credited with orchestrating the largest and most complex movement of humans and materiel in history when he organized the D-Day invasion of Europe in World War Two. A few days later, a reporter commented, “General, you must have had one hell of a plan.”

“It wasn’t the plan that worked; it was the planning,” Eisenhower said. Meaning that walking through all the possible scenarios – what might work, what might fail, what had to be taken into account – was what made the mission successful.

Don’t believe it’s foolish to plan because of how uncertain things appear at the moment. There isn’t a firehouse anywhere where they don’t drill and prepare daily even though there’s no way whatsoever to predict where or how ferocious the next blaze will be.

Remember that what draws us forward are our dreams. . . and then creating plans to make them a reality.

And there’s never an excuse not to dream, is there.


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