Repairing or Preparing – How to prepare for the future

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Preparing for the Future
Many years ago, I wrote a book about my business failure. I had purchased a franchise and through a series of misadventures, had lost it and all my money. I shared the story in a book called “I’m Not Afraid of the F Word. 50 Lessons Learned on the Way to Business Failure”.

I sold many copies of the book and spoke frequently about it at events, and one Friday someone heard about it, tracked me down and phoned me. She wanted the book, immediately. She needed it that day.

So we met in a parking lot outside of a KFC where we exchanged the book and the money.

Late Monday afternoon, I get another phone call from her. She started with “I’m very disappointed” and my heart plummeted. No author wants to hear that from a reader. I know it was my first book, but that was a little harsh. But then she carried on …

“I wanted to buy a franchise business. It is a going concern and Friday morning I met with the current owners and the business broker. I was so keen to buy it, but something was worrying me, and then I remember a friend mentioning your book. I read it over the weekend, saw all the mistakes you mentioned and made a list of new questions to ask the owners. I have just come from that meeting where I asked those questions - and their answers left me feeling more concerned. So I decided not to buy it. And I am both relieved and so disappointed.”

So my emotions went from disappointment to relief as well. I knew the bullet she had just dodged. Not just the one where she might have bought a business that wouldn’t do as well as she hoped and lose her lots of money, but also the situation where she would have to question her motives, decisions, plans and abilities every morning until the day where she could not longer put off getting rid of a business that was draining her financially and emotionally.

In the F Word book, I share almost everything I learned during the tumultuous 2 years that I owned that business. There were some great lessons, positive, encouraging and profitable. And there were other lessons that I only uncovered because I was brutal enough to discover the honest kernel of truth about what I had done wrong.

Far from an academic strategic foresight exercise, this book was a practical, real world example of what goes wrong when we plan for the future from a foundation of day dreams and wishes instead of data and strategy.

I lost everything - my house, car, investments and possessions. I retrenched friends and my parents. I ended up under debt review and severely curtailed the opportunities for my daughters and for myself. Nine years out I am still paying off debts from that venture.

My lack of strategic foresight caused me long term harm and any positive benefit that I have achieved, is from intention rather than design.

As a case study, it serves to warn others of potential danger but it is also an inspiration to do some initial work in preparation to avoid this disaster. 

To quote a lesson in the book, any moment in time you are either preparing for the future or repairing the past. Strategic foresight and futures thinking can help you do that planning for a successful future that you can benefit from instead of paying the price of preparing your past mistakes.

 

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