This week I was talking to a new and inspiring small business client that I’m coaching. The two business owners brought up a mantra and concept that I’ve always been a big proponent of: Trust The Process.
Talking about the concept reemphasised for me how important it truly is to have faith in a plan for your business and your life. To be so inherently secure in how you have mapped out your journey that even when the tough times hit - and they will, frequently - that you remain calm in the face of adversity.
It makes sense, on the face of it. Trust The Process. Have a plan.
However it is not as simple as that.
As I work with businesses of all shapes and flavours, and talk to business owners at varying stages of their development, I’m seeing problems in trusting the process at two ends of the spectrum.
#1 Failing to Trust The Process
Take Michael^, he co-owns a startup legal firm. He and his business partner developed a solid marketing plan when they formed the business. They were very clear on where they wanted to get to, and in what timeframe.
Then things happened. A key potential client, that seemed a certainty, dropped off at the last minute. A competitor in the same legal niche came on the scene and started to make some noise.
His knee-jerk reaction was to devote a large amount of his week to marketing efforts, including socking huge amounts of money into Facebook ads. Now, there is nothing wrong with focusing on marketing - it’s important.
However, making rushed, ill-considered marketing decisions, which totally fly contrary to your well-thought out marketing plan makes for poor business outcomes.
In this instance, not only did Michael waste money on Facebook ads which gained no traction, he also risked damage to the firm’s brand by going off brand and creating unprofessional copy and graphics. Perhaps most worrying of all, Michael’s time spent focused on marketing meant that he neglected important client work, causing tensions with a client and his business partner.
In short, he didn’t Trust The Process.
Carefully conceived business plans are there for a reason. They guide you in your business decisions and provide a north star to aim for when times get stressful. They help to avoid brain explosions.
Of course, a plan does not have to form a rigid, set-in-stone path which can not be deviated from no matter what. The demands of business dictate that you must remain fluid. However your plan will set certain best practices in place - things like your brand guidelines, to avoid unnecessary damage.
Your plan and projections also outline where you expect your business to be at a particular point in time. In this case, the firm was right on target. There was no need to panic, despite a couple of apparent setbacks.
#2 Blindly Trusting The Process to do Everything
At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen Anja^, the founder of a business creating a product for the women’s beauty industry.
Anja dutifully went through the process of creating a business plan, marketing plan and financial projections. All of the things you’re advised to do when you startup a business.
She had huge trust in those plans.
Unfortunately where she fell over was a belief that the very act of producing the planning documents was enough. They could then be shelved away and never referred to again.
I’ve seen this far too often.
In so many cases, business founders find it all too hard to keep referring to and using their plans and vision statements. They lose sight of their goals and think that the mere act of putting them down on paper is enough.
They Trust The Process too much, as if the process in itself is an employee of the business, watching over things.
The Process is a tool. You need to use it to your best advantage. It won’t in itself ensure you achieve your business goals.
Having a diet plan won’t get help you lose weight in of itself. You have to follow the plan.
Buying access to an online marketing course won’t turn you into a marketing whiz. You have to study the course and follow it up with practice.
Equally, trusting the process to magically make for a successful business without your dutiful engagement won’t lead to deluxe yachts and Swiss chalets.
Trust The Process. Use it to its full value. Business is hard enough without failing to embrace the fundamental tools available to us.
^ not his/her real name.