The lock screen on my Samsung notebook PC shows a sole rider in a bright orange t-shirt riding a Harley along a lonely stretch of road in Death Valley, California. There is nothing else in view except waves of heat and distant hills in a moonlike and desolate landscape. It would be easy to imagine that nothing has changed in those hills for thousands and thousands of years.
It is one of my favourite photos (from thousands of photos) we took last month on an amazing road trip I took with my wife, my brother and sister. We covered four states, six national parks and some two thousand miles of magnificent remote roads in mid-western USA on Harley Davidson motorcycles. There is something in the rumble of the engine, the wide expanse with mind-numbing stunning scenery, the brightest of blue skies, and the endless black strip of road rising up in front of you, that soothes the soul in a way that is hard to explain. Needless to say, we are already planning our next trip (August next year, here we come).
Humans love to make plans. Pretty much about everything (children, paying bills, projects around the house, and so on). But particularly vacations (and probably our children). Half of the fun of a great vacation is planning it, and then watching unfold, sort of like the excitement of unwrapping a Christmas present even though you already know what’s inside. By planning vacations, we are already there, and we have escaped the day to day somehow. We can leave it all behind just for a while, and pretend that all that we have is here and now.
By planning our lives, it helps us feel like we have control over what we do. Just my opinion of course. By planning our businesses, we try to build wealth and hopefully try to control the endless challenges that are presented to us each day, whether we like it or not.
A friend of mine told me that ‘financial planning is planning to fail’. That the assumptions that we use to base our personal financial decisions on, are flawed because past performance is not an indication of future performance or success; or words to that effect. Does the same apply to planning our businesses?
Each and every day I help people set up and maintain their companies (and trusts). Each and every day is completely different. Yes, the fundamentals are the same, but the variables change and keep changing. For international business, compliance is the driver now. Followed closely and driven largely by tax concerns and matters. Banks are controlled by their compliance departments. And the small business person and entrepreneur must now be experts in the areas of cross-border taxation, international business structures, binding and defensible agreements across differing legal jurisdictions, patents and trademarks. Tough challenge for any small company – tough challenge even for larger companies.
So how does the SME or entrepreneur fight such change? Short answer, they can’t. But don’t give up all hope yet. The old saying of change creates opportunity still rings true. I have been living as an expat for almost 20 years, and helped set up maybe 2000 structures in that time - the horror stories and success stories I could tell of SMEs and entrepreneurs …
But the moral to the story is that SMEs and entrepreneurs have changed too. The greater the change, the greater chances of success (or failure). But planning is/was always, ALWAYS, part of the success. Planning for change as they arise or could reasonably be predicted, just enhances the chances of success. What I see now encourages me. Business owners are coming to me with more detailed questions than before, more knowledgeable questions, and an open mind to learn and plan for change.
So while we might all like to plan to run away on a Harley in the desert (where very little changes ☺), planning for international business success for the SME and entrepreneur will include and embrace changes. Not as an afterthought but right up front.