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What Is Plan B?

Updated on November 8, 2017
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Stephen Bush is a consulting and career training expert. He is the CEO and Founder of AEX Commercial Financing Group.

What Is Your Plan B?
What Is Your Plan B?

Always Have a Plan B

Advice to "Always have a Plan B" appears in many settings, but what is Plan B? Under the prevailing wisdom that what you are really trying to do can be referred to as "Plan A," then Plan B refers to an alternative strategy or goal if something prevents you from accomplishing Plan A.

The enduring value of this simple but practical strategy ("Always have a Plan B") has become more clear during the past ten years because so many unexpected changes have occurred. Whether we look at real estate or banking or career plans (to choose just three examples), the importance of having a Plan B has been dramatically illustrated.

The best way to predict your future is to plan it.

— Peter Drucker

Contingency Business Plans

An Effective Planning Strategy When Faced With Possible Change

What should I do if something goes wrong? This question usually causes stress and uncertainty because it involves looking at possible failure before it happens. However, this kind of thinking is exactly what contingency business planning was designed to feature as a key element in coping with uncertain changes. But contingency plans have practical applications that extend far beyond business planning. One of the best examples is using a Plan B mentality to examine career planning alternatives. What is your career Plan B?

It is worth repeating: Always have a Plan B.

Planning Is Not the Same Thing as Predicting

As noted by Peter Drucker and others, a prudent plan can be a viable strategy for predicting the future. However, Plan B is not a prediction of the future — but it can be used as a practical tool for achieving a desired future outcome.

"Plan B" is a simple and straightforward use of contingency planning. This does not mean that a Plan B approach is widely used in actual practice. The failure to use contingency business plans and Plan B on a regular basis is probably similar to the initial slow acceptance of using seat belts in cars even when seat belts were present and took very little time or effort to fasten. It (using seat belts) was simply not an established habit and it was not always clear how seat belts saved lives. That required time and personal adaptation to drive the point home.

Just like fastening your seat belt, using a Plan B approach can and should become habit-forming!

Plan B Can Help Prepare for Uncertainties - A Few Examples

  1. Personal Career Plans
  2. Investing in Stocks, Real Estate and Precious Metals
  3. Small Business Financing
  4. Business Career Training
  5. Business Plans

Plan B Poll

Have you used any variations of Plan B for personal or business planning?

See results

What is your Plan B for career planning?

Always Have a Plan B for Your Career

One More Thing - Plan C and Plan D Are the New Plan B

  1. It is time to update "Always have a Plan B" to reflect the fact that Plan B might not be enough. Because changes are occurring more rapidly (and unpredictably), additional contingency planning beyond Plan B is prudent. When exploring what to do if Plan A falls through, be prepared to consider not only a Plan B but also Plan C, Plan D, etc. (because something can always go wrong with Plan B).

Improving Risk Management by Contingency Planning

The usual rationale for planning of any kind is to reduce the risk of undesirable outcomes. While it might be more "normal" to have a contingency plan for catastrophic disasters such as hurricanes, personal planning for your career and business can also reduce undesired risks.

Changing Strategies

The importance of having goals and strategies seems to be well-known and accepted. What is much less common is an awareness that each individual goal and strategy needs to be regularly monitored and revised as necessary.

Steve Jobs, George Lucas and Pixar are truly "household names" in the best sense of the phrase. These two individuals and one company represent many of the good things that have happened in entertainment and technology during the past 30 years or so.

But what frequently gets lost in talking about success of any kind is a clear realization and acknowledgment that the positive outcome required change, flexibility and mistakes along the path to eventual success. Just as the Pixar of today (now owned by Disney) is not the company it was when Steve Jobs purchased it from George Lucas, Apple has evolved into one of the best and most valuable companies in the world today because their strategies were regularly updated and changed.

Revising, Updating, Improving, Learning, Changing. Sounds like a plan to me.

A Plan B for Business Writing

Some Planning Is a Waste of Time

First, let me reassure you that having an effective Plan B is definitely not a waste of time.

The key, however, is effectiveness. I prefer to focus on a specialized version known as cost effectiveness. This decision-making tool is useful for distinguishing between "waste of time" planning and the stuff you should be doing with your time.

Time management skills are always helpful to get things done. But what I'm talking about are skills that Peter Drucker referred to as those for "getting the right things done" — and you might need some help to get on the path needed to get there.

It is often difficult for small business owners to ask for help. In many cases there is simply not a clear realization that help is needed. But if an activity involves something that a small business owner literally hates, then we should all assume that task won't get much serious attention unless some expert help is brought into the picture. Two of the most common examples of important business tasks that many small business owners really do hate are planning and negotiating.

Suzy Toronto: Life is All About How You Handle Plan B

Plan A is always my first choice.

You know, the one where

Everything works out to be

Happily ever-after.

But more often than not,

I find myself dealing with

The upside-down, inside-out version --

Where nothing goes as it should.

It's at this point that the real

Test of my character comes in..

Do I sink, or do I swim?

Do I wallow in self pity and play the victim,

Or simply shift gears

And make the best of the situation?

The choice is all mine...

Life is all about how you handle Plan B.

© 2012 Stephen Bush

And now, your thoughts on the subject...

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My Plan B is ongoing right now. It involves getting my Master's Degree to give me more flexibility in the job market.

    • Elaine Chen profile image

      Elaine Chen 5 years ago

      Plan B is important. Past year I had no Plan B and it usually lead to unhappy ending in case any accident happen.

      Now, I am practicing to come out Plan B on top of my original plan.

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

      Thinking ahead for contingency is important. Something I need to personally do more of.

    • RetroMom profile image

      RetroMom 5 years ago

      Having a contingency plan hurts nobody. It is good to be always prepared.

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 5 years ago

      I always try to have a Plan B. If A doesn't work out, I won't waste time casting about for alternatives because I have it ready.

    • belinda342 profile image

      belinda342 5 years ago

      Everyone should always have a Plan B...and maybe a C too. Life happens.

    • DIY Mary profile image

      DIY Mary 5 years ago

      I agree completely with the importance of having a Plan B (and maybe even a Plan C, D, etc.). If I don't have one in whatever project I'm trying to pursue, whether in business or in life, I feel lost and unprepared to move forward with my Plan A.