Strategic Planning for the Present.

Some Eastern schools of thought maintain that the present and the future are the same—if we take this to heart, how should it affect our methods for developing a strategic plan for our business? Should businesses and Marketing Companies in Orange County Plan for what makes sense at the moment, or plan for some abstract future?

When I was a very young child, I can remember a time when my parents had promised to take me to a toy store to buy a toy airplane, the kind that has a rubber band-operated propeller. My parents had got me so pumped about the toy the night before, and I had such a shaky grasp of the concept of time that, after my mom put me to bed in my pajamas and turned out the light, I instantly got back up, put my day clothes on, complete with socks and shoes, and proceeded to lay on top of the covers all night, waiting until the morning. When my mother found me the next morning, she was, more than anything, confused at my little kid logic, and the only consequence was that she had a harder time waking me up because I hadn’t slept as well all night.

Planning is a funny thing. It’s easy to look at planning as something we do to make the future come, as if we can somehow cheat the clock and get a little future out of the way now, to free us up for other things. I wouldn’t say this is wrong, necessarily. When we’re developing a strategic plan, however, the emphasis should be different. The best strategic planning will make your company sturdy now, and adaptable now, for a future that really just a consequence of a supremely flexible present. In this sense, we don’t plan for the future. Far more useful to say, we plan to extend our present. St Francis of Assisi tells us to “Start by doing what’s necessary. Then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” This manner of thinking can guard us from putting on our shoes and then going to bed, so to speak, with our business decisions.

A client of mine was recently dealing with a frustrating problem, which kind of comically details the consequences of planning for the future (instead of the present). They had been trying with all their might to secure a web address that had been bought by a company long ago, but had since been rendered useless by the company’s going defunct. When they started digging to see if they could track the person down, they couldn’t, and to make matters worse, the now-defunct company had paid for the site in advance for a full 20 years! With decisions like that, it’s no wonder why the company went out of business. It’s easy to imagine them making this or that decision to bolster themselves for a long future, while the ground they built on was changing right under their feet. Lao Tze says in his Tao Te Ching, “He who stands on tiptoe is not in a steady place,” and I think we can’t get any better than that for a concept of how not to develop a strategic plan.

Emphasizing this approach to strategic planning makes us a little different from other marketing companies in Orange County—but we like to think we’re just putting on our shoes in the morning, not before bed.

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