In my work as a business consultant, and as an Integration Coach for Actionable, I often see two types of coaches and consultants: those who embrace strategic planning, and those who rely on hope, or what I call “fingers crossed business planning,” to grow their practice.

Those in the first group (myself included) commit to a plan for how to move their business forward. That may mean using a new tool for forecasting revenue, tracking current clients and prospects, improving self-management techniques, and creating new marketing campaigns. They may map all of these elements in one place, creating a benchmark for progress or a warning system for tactics that aren’t producing results. This strategic planning allows for pivots when required, and repeatable successes in the future.

Those in the second group hold on to the notion that they can simply repeat what they did last year, and cross-their-fingers-hope-it-works. Without a clear understanding of what’s driving success in your business, there are no assurances you will repeat those results again this year.

Wishful thinking won’t grow your business, and hope is not a strategy. You cannot take hope to the bank and pay your bills with it, or count on it for any tangible, achievable outcomes. Now is the time to become intentional about the planning you do for your business.

Here is a list of the reasons why coaches and consultants fear business planning, based on recent and ongoing discussions I’ve had:

  • If I create a business plan, I won’t have any flexibility for great opportunities that may come up (isn’t that just hope in disguise?)
  • If I have a plan, then I have to stick with it (yes, or you can flex it, but at least you will know where you’re going)
  • I have no idea if I will get new business, it usually just happens (hope again)
  • I’m not good with numbers (you need to practice)
  • It’s not about the money (ok, I will believe that for a moment, and also ask you what numbers are important—the number of people you impact, the number of businesses that grow, the increase in sales of your product. I am pretty sure that your accountant would appreciate you focusing on some kind of number.)

This is one of those moments of deep consideration. As a coach or consultant, if you had a client describe their lack of a business plan as a result of any of those reasons, what would you say to them?

I know, in my private practice, when I begin to work with organizations and consultants with no business plan or forecast, my first questions are always: How do you know you are doing what you need to do? Where you will end up for the year? Followed by: How much money are you leaving on the table? How many clients are missing out on what you deliver?

To answer these questions in a meaningful way, organizations have to move past the fingers-crossed-hope-is-my-strategy approach, and create a business plan that reflects their upcoming goals.

It sounds fundamental, but I can’t count the number of discussions I’ve had about this resistance to business planning. Those conversations inevitably end up with some sort of frustration: if you rely on hope as a strategy, it’s impossible to plan for repeatable success. You might have a hit or two, but without a plan in place, figuring out what influenced those successes, and then replicating them, will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. In an increasingly complex world, what works one day may be obsolete the next. With the new year swiftly approaching, isn’t it time to commit to a real strategy?

I am calling you out, coaches and consultants. Time to treat your business as you expect your clients to treat theirs—with intentional thought, and with focus and clarity about what will drive the results you want to deliver. Time to uncross your fingers and build a strategy that works.

hope is not a strategy