Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 7:01 pm | A Few Clouds 56º


Paul Burri: Always Be Prepared to Go with Plan B

Having more than one solution to a situation or problem helps ensure success

Last week I talked about the idea of “sure enough” — how your attitude about a particular problem or situation will affect its outcome. Have a positive attitude and the outcome will be positive. Have a negative attitude and, sure enough, it will not work out well.

Throughout my career, and still to this day, I always try to hold a positive attitude because I firmly believe that “sure enough” works. But having said that, I almost always have Plan B in mind when I tackle a new challenge.

What’s Plan B? That’s my backup plan if my original plan (including my positive attitude about it) somehow doesn’t work out like I expected. This may sound contradictory, but I know from long experience that in spite of the most diligent research, conferring with peers, asking for advice and planning for the unplanned that I have made over the years, there is often something that comes up that is completely unpredictable or unexpected in spite of my most careful plans. That’s when Plan B comes into effect.

Having a Plan B is simple wisdom. Paraphrasing an old expression, “Things happen.”

It’s also comforting to know you have a Plan B, and it takes a lot of the stress away from having only one solution to a given problem. Removing the stress of having an “all or nothing” solution helps improve the success of your Plan A.

As an employer, I always had my Plan B ready, although I rarely told my employees about it. Many times when it became obvious that Plan A had unforeseen flaws or simply wasn’t working for whatever reason, my people would come to me with fearful, panicked faces looking to me for a solution. Then I would turn it back to them and ask, “OK, what now?” Frequently they had not given any thought to what they would do if the original plan didn’t work. I think that was probably because many of them were unable or unwilling to accept any responsibility for the success or failure of the plan. “Just do what the boss says and don’t ask questions.”

I never wanted my people to think that way. I wanted them to “own” the plan so they would have a vested interest in its success. My asking them, “OK, what now?” gradually got them to rely less on me and more on their ownership of the plan. I got them to start thinking about Plan B even while working on Plan A. I believe it made them better employees for me and for future employers.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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