the power of the plan in business

Call me slow to catch on but I have just worked out why my trip last year to exhibit at the Milan furniture fair wasn’t deemed a ‘success’! (Success… if thought of in economic terms anyway. It turned out to be a massive success in terms of persistence, team work and shear determination, but you can read about that in a previous post). Are you ready for it! The reason I believe the exhibition wasn’t completely successful for me, is….I didn’t have a plan!
Well I did have a plan but it was completely focused on the wrong thing. It was written from the view of a designer and not a business person. I had an extremely detailed plan about:
1) The products I was going to take.
2) What was needed to complete each product in time for shipping.
3) What the stand was going to look like.
4) The design of the literature.
5) Where I was going to stay
6) How I was going to transport my furniture.
The list goes on, as you can see I had most of the bases covered except for a couple of major questions…
A) How was I going to sell my ideas?
B) Who was I targeting and how would I get them on my stand?
C) What were my goals for exhibiting at the show?
D) What are my customers needs?
E) Do I have the right products to meet those needs?

Without this plan, it ended up being a case of ‘shooting an arrow in the air without a target’, or to put it even more bluntly ‘pissing in the wind!’
Eighteen months on from this experience (yes 18months… I did take a bit of a knock, but I’m ok now!) and I’m revisiting my business plan before I jump back into designing the next range of products. Planning first, product second now makes sense to me, if I’m to stretch my budget allocated for product development I need to be sure Im developing the right products.

I’m big enough to admit the main ingredient behind the decision to exhibit in Milan was a lot of ego! It was the last year I could exhibit in the Salone Satellite as a ‘young designer’ (now I’m 36, I’m way passed it), so I just jumped into it as a way to launch my new little business on the biggest global stage! In hindsight this was a big mistake, I had a great time in Milan (eventually) and the experience, although not what I was expecting still taught me a hell of a lot about myself and the people around me and their support. It was however an extremely expensive lesson!

I would not discourage anyone from following their dream or a desire to show their creativity on a large stage, but what I would advise is to make sure you have planned thoroughly and asked yourself the question “what is my purpose for doing this?”

If you are thinking of making the trip to Milan or any other far off destination, don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions I may be able to help with.

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