Mourning the loss of a business plan

For the last two months or so, every day seemed to bring bad news. I got turned down for a loan, my sales manager quit, a customer canceled an order, I didn’t have enough money to pay the bills, the Internet went out, my mother-in-law died, on and on. Even things that seemed like good news (“We got a large order for spring!”) became bad news in my head (“But I have no money to make more bags!”).

"Winter in the City" Photo by Andrei Spirache
“Winter in the City” Photo by Andrei Spirache

I was pretty gloom and doom, could hardly pull myself out of bed in the morning and wanted to just lie on the couch and drink boxed wine every evening. The whole starting-a-business thing started to feel like too much of a struggle, like maybe I wasn’t up for the challenge after all. It’s possible that I could fail, right? Is this what failure looks like?

I’ve gone through rough patches before, and would lie around and feel sorry for myself for a few days before finding the strength to “get back at it”. This time, that drive was slow to reappear. Each time I felt a little positive, something discouraging would happen that would send me right back to the couch. This time, the weight of despair felt heavier. I felt like I was in bereavement, buried under a heavy weight of sorrow.

"Shadowy Room" by Arunas Klupsas
“Shadowy Room” by Arunas Klupsas

But what was I mourning, exactly? I realized I was mourning the loss of a business plan.

I find business plans (and plans in general) a great source of comfort because they give you a sort of map to success. If checking off items from a to-do list gives you a sense of accomplishment and progress (like they do for me), they are great. But, as I learned this year, they also give you false hope because you say, “If I do X, Y and Z, this and this will happen”, but that’s not always true.

In my 2012 business plan, at this point, I was supposed to be sitting on top of a nice little pile of money – not a crazy amount, like $25,000, that I could use to buy more bags. I would have paid off one of my loans. I would have a small, but livable, monthly income. I would have orders booked for Spring 2013 for my new, big customers, like REI and Title Nine.

None of those things came true. Instead, I am struggling to find additional capital, have no monthly income and have to find new customers for next spring.

It dawned on me that it wasn’t so much the pitfalls of the business that were dragging me down, but more the feeling of being betrayed by my business plan. I trusted it to work and it didn’t and now I have no plan, no map to success. I was mourning the loss of my compass, my talisman.

"Trees in the Mist" by Beate Waetzel
“Trees in the Mist” by Beate Waetzel

So, what’s next? On my to-do list for this weekend is to start a new business plan for next year. This time I’m going to consider it a guide rather than a promise, and stay more vigilant about watching the story unfold rather than hoping that it will just all work out in the end.

I’m still on the hunt for my talisman, though.


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