Startups · Entrepreneurship

Does it mean you have admitted failure if you have a Plan B?

Richard Tan Internet Marketer, Social Media Manager, and Freelance Writer

September 20th, 2016

Currently working on a venture but have a Plan B in case things don‘t work out. Is this the wrong approach?

Joseph Wang Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories

September 20th, 2016

Yes. It is. You should have plans C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J, and it's likely that something will still go wrong that you didn't expect.

Things will *never* go according to plan. The important thing is that when everything goes wrong, that you have multiple strategies to deal with it so that you keep moving forward. Also the mantra for this sort of thing is fail early and fail often. You want to make sure you have your fire extinguishers ready so that when things start burning, you end up with a funny story rather than a disaster.

Malle Adama Étudiant(e) (Akademia Finansów i Biznesu Vistula)

September 21st, 2016

have a plan B does not necessarily mean failing but one can glimpse a kind of plan that will allow you not to lose any undertaking , as this remains a very unstable world where both AC can work as the opposite may occur.

Hamzah Kattan

September 21st, 2016

Hi Richard,

Is your Plan B is there for risk mitigation purposes?

That's how I read it... just in case this venture didn't work out. I encourage and support your approach if it is helping you focus and reduces anxiety. As long as you give your venture a fair attempt.

Validate/Invalidate your Plan A thoroughly; I hope that you Plan A is to tackle a certain issue/problem instead of implementing a certain solution, because your Plan A solution is bound to fail, as it's aught to. It is far more dangerous to count on your Plan A, than to worry aboutfailure itself.

Of course there are good reasons to fold a project; Timing, the problemdoesn'treally exist,feasibility, customers are not willing to pay (it's avitaminnot a painkiller), the market is not there (too narrowly defined), etc... You can recover from some of these issues as long as you are committed to the problem instead of the solution. In the words of Ash Maurya "a pivot not grounded in learning is a disguised see-what-sticks strategy", so fail fast, fail cheap, pivot or move on to alternative plans.

Best of luck and let me know how I can help @HamzahKattan

PS have a look attheStartup De-Risk toolkit, a free toolthatI have developed at for similar cases. There's no panacea here, a one-size-fits-all approach for all projects can be misleading but I tried my best to consolidate a broad yet critical thought process.

david heslop Founder PurpleAcorns/P3 Ventures

September 20th, 2016

Begs the question ....What is wrong with plan A? Sent from my iPhone

Rachel Kaberon Market Insights and Business Transformation Strategist: FinTech, Collaboration, Process Automation

September 21st, 2016

Adam grant busted this myth in his book the originals. The pair who started warby Parker always had a plan B. One of the toughest questions startups face is gauging the market demand and the maturity of codependent suppliers or technology. Yes cutover is the right idea, especially if you are bootstrapping! 

Stephan Bals (BBA (Specialization: Proj. Mngmnt)) Program Manager/Managing Consultant at Tata Consultancy Services

September 20th, 2016

In project based thinking and doing in many situations there is something called a "cut over".  It's when you switch over e.g. from an old system to a new system.  Many see this as a point of no return, which in my line of thinking is not correct.  In critical situations you always make sure to have a fallback plan.  It's simple too big of a risk not to have such a plan.  
So having a fallback plan - with clearly set criteria when to activate that plan does not sound like a wrong approach.  Just as long as you don't get caught  in a situation of paralysis by analysis.  PDCA is a continuous cycle.  

Tong Xu Co-founder & CEO, Narvalous Inc.

September 20th, 2016

I think it depends on what the plan B is.  Is it a plan B for the company?  Or is it a plan B for you personally?  

Ema Chuku Product Developer. Founder.

September 21st, 2016

Psychologically, you have accepted failure. You are currently working on a new venture, sounds like you just started it and no goals have been achieved or set yet, but you are already thinking about plan B.. That's sets a tone for failure. One for sure you are going to have distractions in your mindset. 

There are 2 sayings: 

1: Diversify your portfolio for maximum gains and results.

2: One can not serve two masters at same time.

In your case, I think you fall into the second saying.

Sam McAfee Building better technology leaders and teams

September 21st, 2016

I agree with Joseph. Plan B is far from the last one you'll need.

Let's put it this way.

Plan to be wrong most of the time.

Everything you set out to do has a few components: 1. An expected outcome (this is a goal value, either monetary, traction, etc.), 2. a probability of success, and 3. the effort required to resolve the probability (achieving either success or failure, but having some answer either way).

You don't know any of these with perfect clarity in advance.

So, my approach is to understand the outcome value as well as possible (do your homework), and make the effort to test it as small as possible. Expect to repeatedly test more based on the outcome. The probability of success is difficult (not impossible to measure), but will get clearer over time, the more tests or trials your run.

This is the iterative approach (aka "lean", "agile", "set based design", etc.). Having a Plan B is not "admitting" failure, as much as preparing for the inevitability of setbacks and the need to pivot.

Sudhakar Atmakuru CTO, Director (Business & Marketing) at JT TechnoSoft

September 21st, 2016

Having a 'plan-b' is not a failure.

No, absolutely not. Rather I would call you "prepared" with a backup, and you have a 'what-if' plan handy, a smart move. It is kinda 'mitigating a risk'.

Say, for example, you are going to meet a VC with plan-a to project-A, but you are ready with 'plan-b' to attract capital (the core objective of the meeting) after your best attempt (with plan-a) fails to draw enough capital attention. So, you are not stepping out until you see the fruitful results out of the dragon's den or shark's tank or such.

Another example, you are meeting a client with plan-a offer, but not impressed with your offer the client is about to walk out, and then you put out the plan-b offer on the table . Since you do not want to lose that highly potential client, you are ready to offer plan-b (which may give you a lower return on short run). Meaning, you are prepared with a plan-b to make or break the deal anyway before you get out of that meeting. (Remember, your competitors are always waiting to catch the fish off your hook as soon as possible). Your plan-b worked for you not let the client go off your hook immediately :)

You can take any example. Even in many VC meetings, they could ask you for a backup plan. Do you think they want to see you a 'failure'??? They want to make money as more as possible out of their investment but at least not to let their initial investment money disappear without any return.

In simple terms, your business endeavors would give you many surprises, unexpected turns and detours, or a whole u-turn. There is no highway or freeway to success. Once in a while you may have to take a detour, (anticipated or unanticipated) which could take little longer but leads you to final destination. If you are thinking, taking that 'detour' is a 'failure' and not attempting to move ahead, then better 'NOT START' first of all.

'Plan-B" is what I call 'preparation' or 'backup'. A smart business mind should have such kind of 'what-if' plan-b as much as possible always.

Finally, coming to the point, 'plan-b' venture. I would not call you a 'failure', rather title you as 'determined' to not give up. As explained above, one does not work, try another. There are many serial entrepreneurs (of some failed projects) and they are not "failures" or "losers" . Meaning a failed project does not title the owner as a 'failure'. There is a difference.

Good luck :)