Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

This post is by Martin Broadhurst

This week was something of a landmark week for me and my business partner as it was the first week that we started delivering any of our services to clients. In this instance we were delivering 1-2-1 social media coaching sessions – a service that requires a lot of tailoring to each client’s needs. I spent a lot of time working out the right path to take with each client and designed session plans in advance so that I could deliver them successfully. I may be new to business and I may not know all the tricks of business ownership but if life has taught me anything it’s that if you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail.

Preparation is essential if you wish to succeed at anything. Whether you are crossing the road or marketing a new product, poor preparation will regularly lead to failure. Given that I am armed with this knowledge, I can’t help wondering why is it that I still failed to prepare for a meeting last week? I mean, I did my research on the potential client, made sure I knew what they were after and how our business could provide it but, despite this, I still didn’t prepare properly.

Let me explain in a little greater detail. Mark, my business partner, and I arrived at the client’s office where we were greeted with a handshake, accepted the offer of a cup of coffee, took a seat, exchanged a few pleasantries and then, well, it became a slightly less refined affair. Mark and I both knew our package inside out and we both knew the needs of the customer. The problem for us, it seemed, was knowing who was saying what and in what order we were saying it.

This was the first time we had gone to a meeting together and we hadn’t discussed our roles for the meeting in advance. This meant, when it came to presenting our package, we often sounded like were singing from the same hymn sheet but were starting at different verses. It took us ten minutes or more to settle in and naturally fall into the roles that we assumed for the rest of the meeting. This may not sound like a complete disaster, and in actual fact the meeting had a very positive conclusion, but rest assured those 10 minutes were clumsy and could have easily been avoided had we spent more time discussing our roles in advance.

As anyone who has ever ran their own business will know, the learning curve is steep and consequences of not learning from your mistakes can be dyer. That is why, for the subsequent meetings we had this week, we spent time discussing our roles and avoided any more clumsy introductions. We also now spend a short amount of time after the meeting giving feedback on how we did. This has helped us identify weak spots in our presentation style and improve our overall performance – improvements which paid dividends as the week went on.

I would be fascinated to read in the comments below about any occasions that you didn’t prepare properly and the lessons you learnt from the experience. Only through learning from life’s lessons can we expect to become successful business owners. By repeating best practice methods we can often expect to achieve regular success. I suppose, in a round about way, all I am really saying is “practise makes perfect.” Or, as one of my old managers used to say, “perfect planning prevents p*** poor performance”.

Martin Broadhurst works with Mark Saxby at Status Social Media Marketing providing 1-2-1 social media coaching sessions and social media management services. He also does a spot of stand-up comedy.

Written by Martin Broadhurst

6 Responses to “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”

  • Great blog post. Look forward to reading more. The exact same think happened to me in a meeting last week. By not establishing who should open the conversation we kept jumping in at the wrong time and talking over each other without meaning to. Even though I’d prepared, prepared, prepared, it sounded like I was winging it! Since then, we always have a practice run through at the office before.

  • Avatar IainMonty:

    Well done you two for getting it right at the end. Imagine it had happened the other way around!

    As was said above, the experience will help for the next time.

    Remember also that you are both working to the same plan and looking for the same outcomes.

    In my job I had a “loose cannon” Chair who would turn up at high-level meetings (Govt Ministers, the whole 9 yards) and proceed to make announcements that hadn’t been discussed, were against policy and frankly shouldn’t have been considered even in your worst hangover.

    One cracker proposed the complete disolution of our structures and the consequent loss of my job and 4 others! I’m told my body language was quite eloquent.

    You have set out and your first event finished well, which is what the client will recall and discuss with others. Take the positives and good luck for the next time(s).

  • Avatar Tim:

    It sounds like one of you should go. One of you must be a dead weight. Somebody here is the weakest link…

    …that’s my attempt at a joke. Great post BTW!

    It never fails to amaze me how many people who should know better go into situations “unarmed”. What you have emerged from your 1st session with is that priceless commodity experience. You should take real confidence out of the fact that you turned it around and made a success of things. It will get easier & better I’m sure.

    Good luck & I’m looking forward to the next instalment soon, followed by a multi-million pound flotation in a few years.

  • I still get the shakes when I think about that meeting! I kept looking at Martin hoping he would have the answers. And he kept looking at me for the same!

  • Avatar overhere:

    Good points made. I have to prepare 7 40 minute lessons a day and you soon get to realise is that you also have to be able to improvise. I am to be like a jazz musician- I know what I want to convey, I have the technique to play all the notes but I am also aware of my surroundings, what seems to be working/not working and adapt accordingly.
    As a duet, know what your strengths and weaknesses are, have an outline script but learn how to read each other,the client, the overall mood and adapt accordingly.
    It will come. Good luck.

  • Avatar Philippa:

    thank for this Martin. some great learning points for everyone. Really looking forward to the following you on your journey over the next weeks & months. Good luck!

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