No Plan B

Sitting with Hajj Flemings at WordCamp US, I heard a phrase from Hajj that stuck with me. He was describing the entrepreneurs he’s working with as folks who weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth. So they had no backup plan. No plan B.

They HAD to succeed. Failure wasn’t an option because they were out of other options.

Hajj then shared some wisdom from Mike Tyson,

“Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.”

It was a way to describe how someone who has already lost all their chances for success simply needs to get … back … up …. And doesn’t have the luxury to “design thinking” themselves with a slick 7-page PPT slide deck back to victory.

I’ve heard this moment described as the “oops moment” by a small business expert in Philadelphia. It is the moment that a miscalculation has been made — like having too much inventory on hand that isn’t selling, or trusting the wrong vendor to deliver on time — and the business goes bankrupt, immediately.

Because there is no Plan B available to these small business owners the way you can more often see in tech circles where some of the entrepreneurs are lucky to come from wealth circles where there is always access to more cash for them. They get to have the luxury of a good Plan B, Plan C, etc. Mind you, this isn’t all tech entrepreneurs of course.

The “no Plan B” mindset is also evident in the JUGAAD mentality in India — because extreme conditions can lead to unexpected innovations. So abundance of cash may not be the only way to see innovation occur — and for that reason you see a lot of innovation in the small businesses out there because they have no other recourse but to outrun their competition with everything they’ve got, and having nothing in reserve to draw upon if they fail.

Small businesses owners give me similar inspiration to what I took in from Silicon Valley startups while at Kleiner Perkins — I am so excited to get to learn from these “No Plan B” entrepreneurs. —JM