Think Planning a Business is Hard?

Epcot's spaceship earth with text reading "think planning a business is hard? try planning a trip to disney world!"

Thinking of planning a business? Well, as an avid theme park junkie I’ve travelled across the world visiting lots of different parks. Now any trip like this takes a lot of planning, thought and consideration. 

Last year I started working for Brixx and suddenly found myself thrust into a world of financial jargon and modelling! 

I felt like I was a world away from writing about theme parks. But then I realised that actually, financial forecasting and planning a trip to Disney World (or any large holiday for that matter) are not actually so different.

Here’s why learning from the comparisons can make you a better entrepreneur.

Why planning a Disney trip is like planning a business

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, Disney World is a huge resort complex based in Orlando, Florida. 

It’s owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company and consists of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, over 30 hotels, 100s of restaurants, golf courses and much, much more – basically a lot to do!

Millions of people flock there every year from all over the globe making the theme parks amongst the top 10 visited annually.

My girlfriend and I have visited Disney World on a few occasions and we realised a couple of things:

  1. When your attraction is this popular, everything comes at a cost, and quite a large one. 
  2. The sheer amount of planning that goes into a trip is undeniable.
  3. There is so much to do, how do you decide what is worth doing?

It was this that got me thinking about the comparisons to planning a business.

When I visited, I had an entire folder of brochures, timetables, costs, calendars and plans prepared. It took weeks of planning and preparation to get ready, to ensure we got the most out of our holiday.

The research and decision making felt like I was planning a business at times! The process is similar in many ways. So if you’ve planned any lengthy holiday, you are actually already in a great place to start planning your own business.

The early stages – market research

You’ve decided you’re going to take a trip away to Disney! Great, but where do you start? 

So many options for travel, hotels and tickets – and only one that will suit your budget, capacity and time frame. 

Like planning a business you’ve got to plan a holiday well in advance. You’ve got to research flights, hotels, restaurants, entertainment and much more.

All this can seem overwhelming, and to make it worse, Disney vary their promotions throughout the year, making it hard to decide when the right time to book actually is.

These factors can make even the initial steps of planning a trip difficult, that’s before you even start planning what you want to do whilst you’re there!  

You need to thoroughly investigate your options to create a schedule that fits your budget and the vision for your holiday.

Any avid holidaymaker is used to this process. Weeks of planning, pouring over websites and searching for the right options and deals.

If you are the kind of person who brings an entire folder of meticulously researched itineraries then you have already been practicing the skills behind planning a business!

The early stages of planning a business are very similar, it’s all about market research. You need to scope the landscape you are venturing into by researching your potential customers and competitors. 

If you want to take your planning skills to the next level, we’ve written exactly how you should go about this for starting a business:

Allocating your budget

So you’ve researched hundreds of activities you could do but you’ve got limited time and a limited budget. The next steps in planning a holiday is where to allocate your money, what does your budget allow and what luxuries can you afford? 

You want to spend your money on the things that will give you the most return in pleasure and entertainment. In business, you’ve got to spend your money on what gives you the best return in profit.

You’ll have so many options and only some will suit your budget. You need to whittle the feasible options down to the ones that’ll get you the most bang for your buck.

This doesn’t always mean going for the cheaper option. 

Staying at the cheapest Disney hotel instead of the most expensive one isn’t going to get you the same perks and experience of staying at the most expensive one.

Similarly, hiring a graduate instead of someone with 5 years’ experience is likely to net you less output.

On the flip side, it might be nice to stay in the most expensive hotel but in reality, can you afford it? 

Just like in business, it would be great to start out with a 30 person strong team, but in reality, to start with it might have to be just you!

It’s important to weigh up all your options against each other and work out what will make the most difference against what you spend. 

The same skills you’ve used to decide the best use of money on your holiday, are exactly what you need in a startup. For a new business, you’ve got to keep an incredibly keen eye on your cash flow and burn rate

Budgeting and planning spending is essential to success and you may have been practicing these key entrepreneurial skills already! 

Backup plans and scenarios

You need insurance and backup plans for when things go wrong. Exactly like in business. 

In business backup plans are informed by running ‘what if’ scenarios. This might be an unlikely event but it could feasibly happen. In business and holidays these scenarios can be in or out of your control. 

Picture this:

You’ve got every day of your holiday planned out, you wake up on your third day and it’s pouring with rain. 

You were meant to spend the entire day out at the parks but now you can’t – what do you do?

This is one of those scenarios that you need to have a contingency plan for.

It can’t be helped but having a backup ready will help your holiday go more smoothly, if you planned for the fact this could happen it definitely helps curb some of the disappointment!

‘What if’ scenarios are equally, if not more important in business

Like being on holiday, planning for a rainy day in business is important.

A rainy day can put you out of business if you’re not prepared!

When you’re planning a business, you need to think through all the ‘what-if’ scenarios that can arise.  

For example:

  • What if I hire a new staff member in month 3?
  • What if there’s a global pandemic and I have to shut my doors for three or more months?
  • What if there’s an increase in demand for my product/service, can I meet that demand?

These are all questions that you as a business owner should be asking yourself, all the time. 

This way if one of these scenarios comes true, you are prepared and can maximise the opportunity or minimise the damage.

Modelling the answers to these questions in a spreadsheet or an app like Brixx will help you prepare for every eventuality.

Planning too many activities can actually be detrimental

There’s so much to do at Disney, that it becomes all too easy to plan too much for a single day (I’ve made this mistake on multiple occasions!) in an attempt to squeeze as much in as possible.

On paper you might think you can get up at 7 am for park opening, head to 2 other parks then make it back to your original park for fireworks at 10 pm. You’ve spent all this money, why not make the most of it?

In reality, though, you’ll have walked 20k steps in 30-degree heat and you’ll be absolutely exhausted by 10 pm, so much so that you won’t really enjoy it. All to do the same the next day.

It’s absolutely essential that on any busy holiday you plan in some downtime to rest and recuperate. You don’t want to come back from holiday feeling like you need another holiday to get over it!

In business, especially early on, you’ll be pulled in several different directions and have many aspects to focus on.

Getting the balance right is important. When you launch your business, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin and you can focus on the things that matter without getting distracted by the things that have less impact.

There’s a common mantra in business known as the 80/20 rule. Where you focus on the 20% of activities that bring in 80% of your customers, it also works for focussing your time. Do the 20% of activities that bring you 80% of efficiency.

Using this rule for prioritising your workload and the investments you make in your business will help avoid you spending too much time/money on the things that don’t matter as much.

Final thoughts

Planning your holiday and your business are so strangely similar that you can learn much from drawing from past holiday planning experiences.

You might find the idea of starting a business intimidating.

But, like planning a big holiday, you start well in advance, you research carefully and you gradually make decisions.  

You’re not always going to be on the right path as soon as you start planning – it takes time and careful analysis of all your options to come out with the right options for you and your business.

Working out what gets you the most bang for your buck is crucial for giving your business the best chance at success.

Planning for every eventuality through ‘what if’ scenarios is crucial for maximum fun on holiday and protecting your business

We used the rainy day example earlier to highlight how having a backup plan on holiday is good for not wasting a day if you can’t do what you had originally planned.

The same goes for businesses, a metaphorical rainy day can be catastrophic, so going through and modelling your ‘what if’ scenarios will help you circumvent some of the negatives.

We also spoke about the importance of not overdoing it on holiday, planning to do too much can make you tired and frustrated. 

The same goes for business. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin and spend too much time and money on the things that don’t matter as much. 

Using the 80/20 rule described above is a good way to ensure that the activities you’re spending time and money on are actually going to have the biggest impact.

Some of you may think these comparisons are a bit of a stretch. But in reality, if you apply all the practices that you’d usually use to plan a holiday to planning a business you can put yourself in a much better position than a business owner who doesn’t!

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