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Coach’s Diary: Get a Plan


Olivia Stefanino's client is reminded of the old adage 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail'.

Robert had clearly had enough of his father’s demands – and judging by the vein that was pulsating on his forehead, he wasn’t in the mood for listening to reason.

Having trained as a carpenter – and worked his apprenticeship, Robert was convinced that he was ideally suited to running his own business. He had chatted over his ideas with his father – but had become furious when his father suggested that Robert didn’t have enough commercial experience.

I pointed out that Robert’s father obviously cared about him – and presumably wanted to make sure that he didn’t get into financial trouble. Robert gave me a withering look, and told me that his father had never had confidence in him.

“All my life he has referred to me as the scatterbrained one in the family – and whatever I do, he just won’t shake his opinion of me. It used to really upset me but now I have given up caring,” he said, although his clenched fists belied his comments.

“Maybe,” I replied, “we need to do something dramatic to shake his opinion once and for all. After all, if you don’t like the results you are getting, then you are going to have to change what you are doing.”

Robert looked at me quizzically, so I took this as my cue to continue. “If your father thinks that you are really scatty, let’s find a way to prove that you’re not. Why don’t we spend our session together working on a business plan – that way your father will be able to see that you really are serious about your future.”

I had expected Robert to look pleased at the suggestion, but instead he frowned – saying that his father had already told him to write a business plan, indeed that had been the cause of the latest argument.

I could understand Robert’s frustration – and I told him that I too had always preferred to “get on with things” rather than spend my time planning, until a business colleague had told me that failing to plan was tantamount to planning to fail.

Robert nodded vigorously in agreement when I said that I had used to think that business plans were pointless - because they were based on guesswork rather than facts. “But then I began to see the light when my colleague said that the real purpose of writing a business plan is to make you think – and that everyone knew that it was highly unlikely that real life would actually match the plan.

I again suggested that Robert and I spent the rest of the session working on his business plan – but this time I made it clear that our purpose was to look at all eventualities and opportunities, explaining that in reality it would be a very creative process.

Robert’s rather stern face suddenly broke into a smile as he began to see planning from this new perspective. I knew he understood the point completely when he said, “I guess making a business plan is like putting the foundations in place when you build a house – without the structure, the building won’t last very long!”

As our session drew to a close, we had already achieved a lot – and Robert promised that he would spend the next week completing the project. “What I’m really looking forward to,” he said, “is seeing my father’s face when I present him with my business plan. I’m looking forward to him taking me seriously – and to making my new business work too!”

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power” at


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