Setting your primary business objective as failing as gently as possible sounds insane, but I see this everywhere I look. Who got taught at school that the best way to take a penalty was to aim for the middle of the goal to minimise the chances of the ball missing the post or going over the bar and to not kick the ball too hard in case you scuffed it?
There is failure to be proud of, because you tried and failure to avoid which is the pursuit of mediocrity.
In business, so the argument goes, there’s too much at stake. No, not “too much at stake” – “so much to play for”. As Robert F. Kennedy said “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.
I’m a proud Brit who’s had the good fortune to work in the creative industries across the globe on strategy and maximising shareholder return over the last two decades. I’m less proud to report that as a nation, us Brits have a view of success that is light years apart from those who are really transforming our global economy. Depressingly, our British mind-set can often be boiled down to aiming to fail as gently as possible, in the eventuality of it all going pear-shaped. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of blinkered and obstinate pursuit of victory when all the odds are stacked hopelessly against but to compete against the best out there, no matter where the competition is based – and I firmly believe that’s the entry requirement in business today – your objective has to be to make whatever business you’re in, as big and as profitable as humanly possible.
In business as in life, failure happens. When it happens you pick yourself up, and you go again. You gave it your 100% best shot but it didn’t work out. It’s not a sin. It can happen as a result of aiming too high, but anything else will guarantee eventual failure. To the East and West of us there are countless entrepreneurs who get this and they’re coming to get you.
In principle it’s easy:
- Have a plan for profitable growth. No kidding? You’d be amazed how few companies do.
- Commit to it. Set triggers and actions now so that remedial action is automatic and immediate. You cannot afford to dither or deviate from what you know is right because of the pressure of the moment.
- It’s all about the people. I don’t care what industry you’re in, you must always have the very best people you can afford.
- Share your plan with your team and make them a part of it. I cringe every time I walk into a company whose employees don’t know why they’re there or how much money the company is making.
- Reward. Capitalism is supposed to work by creating growth and wealth that flows to employees. Growth is a team endeavour and value should always be properly rewarded.
Putting it into practice may be challenging but that cyber security entrepreneur in Mumbai, who’s about to launch the killer SAAS product that’s going to put you out of business really is out there.
Aiming to win is the only strategy in the global economy of today.
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