I was reading a book by Reid Hoffman – all about the similarities between building a business and building a career. Reid’s an entrepreneur and most notably co-founder of LinkedIn, but was first successful as part of PayPal.

In the book, Reid discussed entrepreneurs having three plans Plan A, Plan B and Plan Z.

A = what you want to do. A is constantly changing, Adjusting. But only in small ways.

B = what you might do next. B is different to A. But similar enough that it’s still an opportunity.

For entrepreneurs, Plan A is the original idea. For example, Netflix was originally a movie hire service delivered through post. The small adjustments would be the addition of other video content such as miniseries etc. Plan B is the idea adjusted. In the case of Netflix – a movie and video content hire service delivered via the internet.

For a researcher, Plan A would be research. The small adjustments might be who you work with, where you work and perhaps the major research theme or topic. Plan B might be working in the research office and/or adding teaching to the mix. Particularly if research no-longer lights you up or if the funding environment changes for you.

Plan Z – however – got me most intrigued. It’s the lifeboat. The thing you’ll do if A and B fail. Your fall-back position. And its Z ‘cos it really is a fall-back. Like I’ll live with my parents again. Or I’ll sell my house. Or both! And it allows you to reconsider what your new Plan A will be or how to re-engage with your Plan A.

It is important because knowing what you will do and how you will respond allows you to take risks. Allows you to undertake a new venture not knowing the outcome, but knowing you are comfortable with Plan Z.

For me – starting Raven Consulting Group: 

Plan A: Establish a boutique management consulting firm focused on the higher education sector.

Plan B: Work with people to build outstanding careers post PhD or major training/education.

Plan Z: 4 months’ salary – 3 months to get more work; one month to look for a job. I knew I was employable. But I was also happy to take on anything (including customer service, retail or fast food). I still maintain that same Plan Z to this day.

What’s your Plan Z? How does it allow you to take risks knowing how you’ll respond to Plan A and B failing? 


Raven Consulting Group specialises in delivering high quality strategic advice to the education, research and government sectors. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart. His strategic approach to collaboration and research translation has been making the impossible possible for more than seven years. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality. To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or subscribe to our newsletter.