When Your Business Plan Derails

Train Late Derailed Business Plans

I was at the office a little late the other night. My plan was to catch the 9:00 p.m. train and head home, relax a bit, and then get a good sleep.

Sometimes plans get derailed.

I got to the train platform and heard the announcement, “Trains are not running in the downtown core. Shuttle buses will be available for passengers at the orange 201/202 stops.”

Crap! I had thought the earlier accident with a pedestrian was cleared. Great. Now what do I do?

Gather more information to make a better decision.

So I did the only reasonable thing, I checked Twitter for more information.

Unfortunately, the last tweet was that the normal call center was closed and the Twitter guy was off duty and only emergency tweets would be responded to. Ummm this IS an emergency people!

I needed to make a quick choice. 25 minute (I walk fast) walk across and out of the downtown core to the Stampede station, or catch a shuttle? It was dark, cold, and some of the walk is not through great parts of downtown so I elected for the shuttle.

But where was the shuttle?

I looked around the platform for a sign or something, but oddly enough, even though needing to switch to a shuttle from the train station is a fairly regular occurrence, there are no obvious signs on the platform saying where one could catch the shuttle. I also noticed that a lot of people were just standing on the platform not sure what to do. I suspected that a lot of the people were coming off of building cleaning shifts and English was not their first language.

But I can’t do anything about that, and I still don’t know where the shuttles are.

Sometimes you don’t have enough information and you just need to start moving.

So after checking Twitter again I saw that the Twitter guy had stuck around after all. This problem was due to a brand new incident. Something happened with a train and it was blocking the tracks. Thanks @CalgaryTransit *RP .

I still didn’t know where the shuttles were, and standing around was not helping, so I just started moving towards my goal. Home, and my mid-point goal, the Stampede station.

I passed a bus that was picking up passengers. I asked what was going on with the shuttles and he was surprised to hear there was another incident – it was the second or third that day. He directed me to a shuttle location.

So I went there.

Not a lot of people waiting, which seemed odd.

But more started showing up.

After about 10 minutes in the cold windy night air (thanking my choice for a parka) one of the guys tried the number for schedule updates. The code was invalid. Ominous, but guessing it was because shuttles are temporary beasts.

You can see down 9th avenue for a long ways. Eventually a bus came, but it was not the shuttle and not going where we needed. He didn’t know anything that would help.

Time invested in waiting. How long can it take for the shuttles to start running? Should I wait or walk? I started wondering how we would know if the trains started running again as the shuttles are several blocks from the lines and there are no public announcements.

Nothing on Twitter.

After 20 minutes of waiting I realized I could have been at the Stampede station by now.

Sometimes after investing resources into a plan, you get stubborn and stick to the plan even when you shouldn’t.

I decided to hedge my bet and walk to the next shuttle stop which would be closer, and if a bus came I would be able to see it (I hoped.)

As I was passing one of the streets where I could see the line for the LRT (train) I saw a train go by. What?

So that’s why no shuttles, the trains are running again and the people waiting for shuttles will be there all night; lost souls with chilling blood.

Revise the plan on a best guess.

But when I got to the LRT station, the announcement came on that trains were not running and shuttles would be available. I guess the train going by was a freak of nature.

I checked Twitter – nothing new. I decided to start walking again.

It took another 15 minutes to get to the Stampede station. As I was getting close, I realized the NHL hockey game had just finished and the streets were packed with fans trying to go home.

With messed up trains.

When things go wrong it’s often compound with other events to make the situation worse.

I got near the platform and checked Twitter. Still not running.

Then I saw a train on the northbound track pull up, load, and turn around to go south.

After fighting through the crowds (I was one of the few who wanted to go south) I got to the platform.

An announcement came on saying trains were not running in downtown and that trains would be heading back south.

So when a northbound train pulled up and I managed to get on I thought I had lucked out. All the passengers were looking at each other, trying to reassure ourselves the train was going south. Of course, it would be just like the prior one.

Then the doors locked and we sat for a few minutes.

I checked Twitter: “Listen for announcements from the driver as some trains are now heading north”.

Why is the driver not making any announcement? Why is it silent?

Sometimes you make wrong choices.

Then the train started heading north.

OMG!

Not all advice is good; sometimes it is better to trust your gut.

One passenger tried to reassure everyone that the train had to go toward downtown to turn around. I knew deep in the pit of my stomach he was wrong.

We switch sides on the track and the passenger who was reassuring said “see”. But we kept going. So the passenger said, “We have to go to downtown to turnaround.”

Well we did go back downtown, on the wrong side of the tracks. We switched back to the proper side after the first station.

But we didn’t turn around.

Sometimes progress is wiped out and you end up back where you started. This hurts.

So I did the only reasonable thing I could do after spending over an hour getting out of downtown only to be taken back downtown to almost where I had started.

I got upset.

Not raging mad, pick a fight upset – just really frustrated by the lack of information and the sense that nothing was in my control anymore and my goal was never going to be reached. Ranting upset.

Sometimes you will lose it. Sometimes you feel like quitting.

Why on earth was the train driver not telling us anything? The train PA was busted.

I focussed back on the goal again. I found out that some trains were running so I crossed the road and caught the next one.

Keeping your goal and purpose foremost in your mind can keep you focussed.

It took a long time to get out of downtown as they were down to a single track. I found out the next day that the train had hit a switch wrong and derailed.

But that came later, that night I was tired, foot sore and frustrated. I just wanted to get to the destination; the goal.

Home. Bed. Sleep.

I finally got to the end of the line, met my ride and made it home. Well over 2 hours for what is normally a 45 minute commute. It was late and I was tired.

Sometimes you forget to enjoy the journey.

So I didn’t appreciate achieving the goal. I knew I wasn’t going to get enough rest, and the frustrations I met along the way sucked the joy out of the journey.

Sometimes you forget that despite the struggle you won.

It wasn’t until later the next day that I realized that this experience held a powerful set of parallels to successfully running a business.

Things always come up to derail your business plans. It is important to keep the vision and goals in mind and be flexible on the details of the plan. There will be setbacks.

And remember to celebrate making it home alive; reaching your goal even if it wasn’t a huge thing and even if the journey was not like you expected.

Always remember to celebrate the wins, even if you forget to do it at the time.

By | 2017-04-03T11:18:42+00:00 November 23rd, 2014|Categories: Business Strategy, Current Events, Doug's Blog, Leadership|

About the Author:

Doug Wagner is an entrepreneur, President and Co-founder of Sunwapta Solutions. Sunwapta's mission is to help businesses transform from surviving to thriving, sustainable growth. From strategy to implementation, this means marketing, sales, managing your brand and delivering consistent value. Get more clients and keep them.