Just over four years ago, I sold a company I had been involved in starting 25 years earlier.

Over the many years I ran that company, we considered mergers & acquisitions as a way to grow. I ended up not pursuing that avenue for growth because I had heard too many stories of M&A deals gone sour.

During 2012, I received many calls asking if I wanted to sell. The idea of selling gave me a lot of anxiety—too many unknowns for my liking.

Then, in early 2013, I heard that several of my friends in other parts of the country, but in the same kind of business as mine, had sold their businesses at the end 2012.

I called three of those friends and asked many questions. Why did you do it? What was the process like? What did your team think about it? What did your clients think about it?

If there were 20 things giving me anxiety before those calls, I had narrowed it to a handful of anxieties after the call. That gave me the confidence to explore the idea.

To make a long story short, we found a firm I liked a lot. I felt the deal would be good for our team, our clients, our company, and me. Four years later, things have gone as well as I hoped they would, or better—it’s been a success by every measure.

Right before the deal, I discussed it confidentially with the top managers at my company. After explaining the deal to one of the managers, and telling her I had done a lot of leg work to get to the point where I felt confident we had found a great company to partner with, she gave me a wonderful compliment.

She and I had worked together for 10 years and she said, “David, if you feel good about it, then I feel good about it.” She explained she knows how detail-oriented I am, that I don’t make important decisions quickly, and that I don’t take them lightly. That gave her the confidence to trust my decision-making.

I was reminded of that moment at a business conference I recently attended. One of the speakers shared this Dwight D. Eisenhower quote:

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”

Eisenhower was the 34th president of the United States. Before he was president, he made his name in the United States Army. From his Wikipedia entry, “During World War II, he was a five-star general in the army and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. He was responsible for planning and supervising…the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front.”

Eisenhower knew planning was essential to success. His quote is true in preparing not only for battle, but also in nearly all areas of our personal and professional lives.

To paraphrase what my colleague said to me, “I know this deal will work out well because while life rarely goes exactly as planned, I know you do the homework before acting because you know planning is indispensable.”

“Be Organized” is one of my Six Simple Rules and planning is part of being organized. At the same time, I know at some point one has to take the plunge and act—to avoid analysis paralysis.

While “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” planning helps give me the confidence to take leaps of faith—leaps into the unknown, which we all face at various times in our lives.

What is a success story of yours that, even if it didn’t go as planned, went well because of your planning? Please join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,

David

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