Originally written for the Tampa Bay Business Journal

Ideas and plans can work together or not at all. Have you ever failed?  Let’s be honest. We all have failed, and if you truly believe you have never failed, chances are you simply aren’t trying hard enough. Have you come across someone who claims to have never lost a customer? Maybe they never had an outage or have never been the cause of an escalation. Do they claim to live in a land full of rainbows and unicorns? Run.

We have all failed at some point in the past. This doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great idea or the very best of intentions. I have known exceptional individuals who meant very well and had great ideas. They had boundless amounts of energy whose ideas completely and utterly failed, myself included. The trouble is not often in the idea; the trouble more often lies in the lack of planning. An idea without a plan is simply a dream.

Planning and Your Why

Before launching into a new venture, take time to plan out and role-play how you see this wonderful new idea you have unfolding. Start off by defining why you are undertaking this new effort. Determine not only the why but what success would look like — define the endgame and ultimate goal. Once you understand why you are doing it and how success will be measured, work to understand who you need on your team. Do you have the skills and tools needed to be successful, or will you need others to help you on this new journey?

When we first launched our technology services firm, we outlined key team members within our industry who we wanted to be “on the bus” with us for this exciting new venture. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew that we would make mistakes, but with the right team members and skill sets, we felt much more confident in our capacity to deliver. Check out this article on the top 10 obstacles entrepreneurs commonly face.

Now that you know why you are doing it and understand what success will look like, start trying to better appreciate the likelihood of it. Sometimes, as entrepreneurs, we get really caught up in all that will go right. However, we don’t define the obstacles that we will face. What is likely to go wrong? Suppose you don’t break even on this new venture in six, 12 or 18 months? Perhaps you are having a hard time generating leads or building brand recognition? Who will you turn to, or what options will you pursue to buy yourself more runway? Map out the problems, and think through your ability and wiliness to work through them, day after day and month after month.

Conclusion

Lastly, come up with a way to track your progress. We all know you can’t measure what you don’t track. Remember, ideas without a plan are simply dreams, and plans without goals — well, they just aren’t plans. Define a way to track your success as you climb this new challenging mountain. Don’t overburden yourself with too much detail. Be sure to balance out the need to track something with ensuring you are tracking enough for it to be beneficial.

Entrepreneurship is exciting, challenging and very rewarding. As you focus on developing plans and measuring your success, you will find that, at times, your best decisions were the ideas you decided not to pursue. As you move forward in a well-organized and constructive way, you will find success crossing your path much more often.

Jared Knisley is Managing Partner at Fizen Technology, Legendary IT Support for Business.