The fear of success is not an uncommon fear. You may or may not have this fear by nature or nurture, but in planning your business it is a fear you need to cultivate.

Perhaps in your creative visualization of your business future you ultimately picture yourself sipping large and tasty beverages decorated with small and colorful umbrellas while sitting in a lounge chair at a seaside resort while a bevy of executives and managers run your company for you. (Of course this comes after years of hard work and long hours on your part and so you have earned this privilege.) That’s a great goal and keep working towards it.

In the meantime, you must address what success really means and why you need to be afraid of it. Success requires the two things that are most precious to any business owner: time and money. Success can happen as planned, but will more often happen at a speed that is outside of the control of a business owner. Anything that uses precious assets and resources and can be relatively unpredictable should cause a business owner to lose sleep. A business plan addresses the issue of success so that you can lose your sleep now rather than later.

Take out a piece of paper and plot out a monthly or annual plan for your business success. Things to think about and write down are progressive stages of an increase in customers, business expansion and increased productivity. Depending on the nature of your business this may be a long or a short list. Build a pattern of gradual increases in supply and demand covering a period of several years. At each point indicate the total number of customers, goods or services needed, and the total number of employees required to obtain these goals. Jot down (or at least think of) the amount of money needed to operate at each of these levels. When you are done, you should have a clear path that will take you well on your way to that beach resort you’ve been dreaming about.

Now that your perfect-case scenario has been mapped out, cross out half of the stages at random. Take a quarter of the remaining stages and reduce them to show a decline in customers and/or production from the previous remaining period. Now cross out a few more at random (leaving most of your declining points). If it hasn’t happened already, squeeze the dates for some of the events to be close together and some to be very far apart. Try to be as random as possible about declines and increases (even if you know your business will have seasonal highs and lows). Ultimately this will give you a somewhat more realistic idea of what your business operations will look like: It will show the upward and downward trends of the business cycle combined with the unpredictable nature of the consumer.

Perhaps in looking at this you think that the bad times will be bad, but the good times will be good and you’ll deal with the turns as they come. If you save money from the good times to cover the expenses of the bad times, everything will be fine, right? In a word, wrong. If you save up enough money during the good times to only pay for the bad times, how will you pay for the  good times that come later? In other words, how will you produce enough goods or hire enough employees to meet future customer demand if you only have enough money to operate at the current level? You need to cover clearly in your business plan the methods you intend to use to expand your business.

That isn’t really enough to cause you to fear success, but there are some scenarios that need to be thought about that should make you you cringe at the idea of success. Most potential business owners have a fear that they will open their doors (literal or figurative) and no one will show up. What should be equally as terrifying is the case where you open your doors and everyone shows up. You will simply not have the merchandise or services to meet the consumer demand. This isn’t actually that uncommon of a scenario in online businesses: a trickle of customers, a few orders, a larger and more steady flow of traffic and a gradual increase in orders, and then a link to the site or a review brings a deluge of potential customers to a site that can neither handle the site traffic nor supply the quantity of goods or services demanded. If you are not prepared for the scenario of bursts of success, you will lose customers. Once lost, you will not be able to get a majority of your customers back and the ones that you do get back will cost you a lot more to win back then they cost you to obtain to begin with.

So, take your plot from before and imagine that any of those points can happen at any point at any given day. You may go from a handful of customers to a thousand customers overnight and stay at that level before dropping off to a couple hundred customers for a few months and suddenly having 10,000 customers show up in a single week. This is all happening out of nowhere and with no marketing efforts on your part and you would be the happiest business owner in the world if you only hadn’t had to turn away 9,125 of the customers because you are out of stock and/or understaffed. And all the customers you turned away complained about your poor service and stated that they will not only not be coming back, but will make sure that everyone they know is aware of how bad your company is.

That is the nightmare of success and the reason you must learn to fear it. Then you must learn to plan for it so that there is nothing to fear.

Now, get out a fresh piece of paper and jot down the ways that success could hit you like a rock. Follow that up by addressing each issue. How will you deal with a lack of merchandise? Will you buy it from a competitor? Will you take advanced orders or offer rain checks? How fast can purchase or produce new inventory? Where will you get the funds to pay for the additional inventory? How much inventory do you think you will need to have on hand to cover expansion (the big crystal ball question)? For internet and catalog orders: Will you limit order to merchandise in stock and lose sales? Will you go ahead and take orders even though you can’t ship right away? Is it legal to take orders without merchandise in stock? Does it meet with your payment processing agreement to take orders on merchandise you don’t have? For service businesses: Do you have enough employees to cover your needs? How fast can you obtain new employees? Can you outsource the work? Do you want to outsource the work? Do you have enough hours in the day/week/month to complete the work? If you have a “day job” at what point will you need to quit it in order to meet demand? Are you really willing to do so?

There is no real and solid way to plan for success. In your business plan, you are only required to explain the best ways that you have planned to handle situations in which demand exceeds supply. Be sure to keep an eye towards customer service and retention in your growth statements. Basically, you need to address these issues only to prove that you have put effort into thinking about the path to success and acknowledge the reality that it can be more frightening than failure. Ultimately, we can inspire demand, but we cannot control it.

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