Startup founders: How do you make plans in 2020?

Startup founders: How do you make plans in 2020?

While making effective plans for your startup has always been a challenge, it’s not a stretch to say that 2020 has thrown all of our plans out the window.

This year, it’s a special challenge for startup founders to make plans that people have real confidence in, especially if it’s a long-term plan.

If you’re a startup founder trying to make your business work in 2020, you might be wondering…

Should I plan in 2020? Or are my plans completely useless?

Today, we’re going to talk about whether or not startup planning is worth anything in 2020, as well as 5 ways to make plans that work in 2020.

Are plans useless in 2020?

Put simply, no. For a startup, sales planning is never useless. That said, the way we plan has definitely changed.

When the pandemic first started, we all had to adjust our plans. We may have taken things hour-by-hour, changing our attitude and our life as new information kept coming in.

As time went on, though, more businesses started to make sales plans for the week or the month. Some even went as far as planning for the next quarter.

Then the civil unrest and protests began.

Most people went back to planning by the hour.

As their plans were once again shattered, a lot of people wondered, is it worth it to plan anything in 2020?


Keep this in mind: We just can’t plan as far ahead as we normally would. More than ever, business owners need to expect the unexpected and work proactively to keep selling a crisis and beyond.

And in a world where circumstances are drastically changing, one way to stay on track is to focus on the fundamentals: The things that remain true no matter what happens.

Want an example of such a fundamental? Businesses that understand their customers the best win in the market. So use this opportunity to build customer intimacy. Get to know them better, and have them get to know you better. Find ways how you can add value to them beyond just what they're paying you for. Learn more about what else is useful for them. Sometimes you might find that many of your best customers are using a certain company of service, and valuable partnership opportunities might come out of that.

Now, we’re looking ahead to the rest of 2020. How do we make plans that won’t become obsolete with new developments?

5 ways to adjust your startup planning for 2020

I understand: you got burned by 2020. Your well-made plans were pretty much useless. You worked hard, and it turned out to be for nothing.

You don’t want the same thing to happen again, and I get it.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make plans.

Here are 5 ways you can continue to make plans that can be easily adapted as events unfold:

1. Shorten your planning timelines

During a crisis, your timelines need to be shorter. New information can shift our reality drastically, which means we need to be more flexible than ever.

I’ve always said that long-term plans are useful, and that’s true in a stable environment. But in an unstable environment, it’s an exercise in futility to plan ahead for the next six months.

Here at Close, we took things week-by-week and adjusted our plans as the situation developed. In the beginning, before patterns emerged and things were more clear, shorter timelines allowed for adjustments in the approach and angle our team took on certain tasks.

But while other businesses have started to make longer-term plans, we continue to plan things week-by-week.


Because things have not returned to normal: We’ve just gotten used to this atypical situation.

During times like this, you need to adjust and adapt fast. To have that flexibility, shorter timelines are necessary.

Not only is making long-term plans a useless exercise as things change, but you can fall into the trap of wanting to believe in your plan so badly that you ignore world events to hold onto that plan.

Shorter planning timelines means you can adjust quickly to changes.

2. Keep moving forward

Many businesses and startups had long-term projects in the works before the pandemic started. Maybe you wanted to do a rebrand, redo your website, or start working on some new innovation on the product side.

These large, complex projects were all put on hold at the beginning of the pandemic. But now, time has passed. More companies are feeling the internal pressure to restart these big projects.

So, should you resume these large projects when the future is so uncertain?

Many founders are stuck between the internal pressure to keep moving and the fear of what might happen in the rest of 2020. But while it’s reasonable to expect that things will continue to change, it’s impossible to plan for events that haven’t happened yet.

Your business can’t stand still. While keeping your planning timelines shorter, you still need to keep moving forward.

So, look for ways to start these projects while still allowing space for adjustment as needed. For example, can a larger project be broken down into smaller steps that don’t require such a long-term commitment? Breaking larger projects into smaller pieces and working at them step-by-step can help you maintain shorter timelines while still moving forward.

3. Embrace uncertainty

There is already a certain level of uncertainty in startups. These events have extended that uncertainty into our personal lives and the lives of many others.

Anyone who has some experience in the world of startup sales knows how to pivot at a moment’s notice. Although this is quite different and on a global scale, this isn’t our first rodeo with making changes on short notice.

It’s time to embrace the uncertainty.

These events, although, negative, have taught the world to deal with uncertainty in the way that you typically learn when you start something new.

Now, those who don’t have the experience of a startup founder are learning to develop that startup mindset of changing and adjusting quickly to new events.

By embracing the uncertainty, you can more easily adapt to what’s happening around you.

4. Make decisions that can be adapted later

Another skill that most startup founders learn is the ability to make decisions with very little data.

In the startup world, you can’t wait until you’re 100% sure to make a decision.

While founders need to be thoughtful, insightful, and data-driven, there comes a moment when you need to just dive in and make a quick decision.

The same is true for all planning in 2020.

To make plans and forecast successfully in such an uncertain situation, you need to be prepared to make quick decisions and measure the results as you move forward.

These kinds of decisions are not rigid and unyielding: They are made quickly with the information that’s available but are easily adjusted down the road.

When you make a decision and see that the results aren’t there, you must be prepared to adapt quickly. This is how most startups plan, and it’s a skill that most businesses could use in a year like 2020.

5. Avoid excessive worry

Let’s be clear: Worry isn’t helpful.

At the moment, it’s easy to worry excessively about world events and what might happen in the rest of 2020 or beyond. Most startups and salespeople feel like they’re fighting an emotional war.

But that kind of worry could paralyze you and stop you from making any plans for your startup.

So, when you feel the worry creeping up on you, look at the situation practically. If there’s something you can do about it, stop worrying and take action. If there’s nothing you can do, then worrying is only a waste of energy.

Live your life for today, and if something crazy happens tomorrow, you’ll just have to figure it out then. Don’t let an uncertain tomorrow ruin a perfectly acceptable today.

Check out an episode of The Startup Chat podcast I recorded with my friend Hiten Shah on How to worry in business.

Keep making plans for 2020 and beyond

Nobody likes changing their plans drastically, but that’s part of life. And it’s especially part of startup life.

Develop the kind of mental flexibility that allows you to adjust your plans as the world changes instead of holding onto plans that quickly become outdated in such a volatile world.

Then, you’ll be able to make plans, move forward, and reach your sales goals, even in a year like 2020.

The teams that survive and thrive are those that adapt faster to the new realities. We've curated the best advice on navigating through tumultuous times in our latest book, Leading Sales Team Through Crisis.