Don't crash the guardrails!Remember, as you’re zigzagging, to look for dangers or pitfalls that are in your way.  There have been lots of times when I’ve been skiing on a run I thought I knew well, only to spot a rock or bare spot that has reared its ugly head. By remaining agile and in control, you can avoid whatever obstacle is lurking. 

In the current business Curtis and I are working on, we began by setting our goal and then laying out our zigs and zags.  Our first two zigs were clear, but our third zag was way off in the distance.  As we hit profitability and then began working on adding resources, it became evident that our initial plan did not have as high a probability of success as several other opportunities we had uncovered as we were working through our first two zigs.  So, we adjusted, which you should always keep as an option.

What you do not want to change, however, is the present target you are shooting for.  Keeping control of your zigs will help you stay focused on that target, rather than turning hither and yon whenever the urge presents itself.  In my experience, if you begin thinking beyond three zigs, you will actually lose sight of the path you are on.  It will probably take you more than three zigs and zags to get to your final beacon in the fog, but only look out at three at one time.  As you complete each goal, take a minute to celebrate, but then climb a tree and look out above the fog toward your beacon, making certain you are still on course.  Then set another zig that will lead you in the direction you need to go.

A common question I hear is, “If I am making money, why do I want to make the next turn?  Wouldn’t it be better to just keep making money?”  I have seen many examples of people who just kept chasing cash.  Often, these are small, family-owned businesses where mom and dad are working day and night.  They make enough money to cover their expenses or maybe to live comfortably; but by not adding resources, they never seem to be able to enjoy life away from the shop.

I have a neighbor who owns a candy-making business.  He is the only one who knows how to make the candy.  His wife works in the front, taking orders and keeping the books.  This is a very labor-intensive business that requires this couple to work every day.  They’ve lamented to me on many occasions that they never dare take a day off to go on a vacation or to enjoy their life because they are afraid of what their absence will do to the business.  Just think what they could do if they would go to the next zig, document their processes, hire a few employees, and grow their company, even just a little.  When people won’t make the turn after hitting zig number 1, they get stuck—even though they may have a bunch of cash.

 Everyone’s situation is different in significant ways; but  as you create your own set of guardrails to control your zigs and zags, here are some common elements to include:

1. A Financial Number – How much money are you willing to spend on each zig?  If you do not hit your goal within this budget, you are not profitable and may have to check your idea off as a failure.  Do not throw good money after bad chasing losing bets.

2. An Allocation of Time – How much of your time are you willing to dedicate toward each individual zig?  I like to spend 65 percent of my working time on the current zig.  I then spend 25 percent and 10 percent planning out the next zigs and zags that I will take.  If I’m spending more than that, I reassess.

3.  Duration of Time – How long are you willing to work on this venture before hitting your financial target?  Are you going to chase cash for a month, a year, or ten years?

4. A Financial Target – How much profit do you want to make before heading toward the next zig?  How much will you need in order to pursue the next zag?