Is business an art or science or a combination? Is it exact or precise? Can outcomes based on given inputs or variables be accurately predicted? Anyone who has been in business long enough would agree with one thing, business is largely unpredictable.
If business were predictable, then six out of ten businesses should not go out of business in the first five years. All businesses should simply follow the rulebook and they should arrive at destination success after a few years.
Statistics show that the success probability for an entrepreneur who has had previous success is 48% versus 23% for the first-time entrepreneur. This shows that previous success is not a guarantee for future success.
Seeing that business isn’t a science, as science thrives on exactness and predictability, how then does one get the art of business right? How does one skew the odds of success in one’s favour? How does one really do business? From observations, interactions and personal experience, I have identified certain practices that tend towards success. These practices do not always guarantee success in business but they increase the odds.
Let’s call these practices the ready-fire-aim approach. The ready-fire-aim approach rides on premise that you can’t wait for the perfect conditions to take action. It rides on the premise that your ship won’t come into the harbour and you would have to swim out to your ship.
The approach assumes that you won’t have time to perfect your aim but that in shooting, you perfect the aim. I will talk about three mindsets or behavioural tendencies you need to adopt and other three tendencies you need to do away with to get better results. The following are tendencies you need to do away with.
How to avoid failing in business
Half of business is about showing up. Showing up at the office, showing up at the point of transaction, sending the email, calling the supplier, buying the production materials, keeping the books, etc.
What kills showing up? Procrastination – I will send the email tomorrow, I will make the call tomorrow, I will draw up the marketing plan tomorrow, etc.
Do all today that can be done today as tomorrow has enough unseen tasks of its own. Adopt NIKE’s slogan – JUST DO IT. Do it and do it now.
Many times this mindset or practice among entrepreneurs is personality driven. Most introverted people are highly gifted and want things and plans to be perfect. A 90% success or readiness rate is not good for them.
Business is never perfect as too many things are out of your control – regulators, customers, competitors, even internal operations. Circumstances will rarely be right and conditions many times will never be perfect. So, do you go home? No.
Go ahead and do that which you originally planned as though all conditions were perfect. In doing this, conditions align. They don’t become perfect, they simply align.
Some people seem to prefer talking about things they want to do to actually doing those things. Everything is rationalised, the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed, the plans are reviewed and tweaks made. Then more tweaks till it becomes a cycle of wanting to start but never really starting.
Stop analysing and start acting now. In my opinion, in business, a hundred days of planning is equivalent to a day of executing.
How to succeed in business
Here are practices that positively reinforce the ready-fire-aim approach to business
Rarely will you have all your ducks lined in a row when it comes to business. You have to learn to wing it, to “freestyle” it, and to go with your guts and instincts.
This does not negate the need for proper business planning. All businesses need a plan but that plan should constantly be updated to adapt with reality.
The power of movement
All objects, opportunities, plans, and possibilities remain in a state of rest until acted upon by an external force. That is Newton paraphrased. Many times, that external force is simply movement. It is doing something, moving from where one is, a determination to make daily progress, to end the day an inch or mile from where one started it.
Ever heard the line “Fortune favours the bold?” The bold never consider themselves bold. They are simply committed to progress via movement. Newton is right, nothing happens until you start moving.
Education for many happens within the four walls of a school. In business, education is a daily occurrence. In getting the ready-fire-aim approach right, one must embrace the education of the road. By this, one learns from all experiences, challenges, uptimes and downtimes.
You perfect the aim by learning from the dynamics of the firing. At month 17, you should not make the hiring mistakes that you made at month 7. That is not to say you won’t make mistakes in month 17, it should just not be the same ones you made in the 7th month.
Business is a war
A general who had fought several wars once said that no amount of planning ever survives the first contact of battle. In business, as in war, when it is all stripped bare, when the cash flow dries up, or the customer numbers reduce, when operations go awry and the bills are mounting, when the days come and you wonder what demon possessed you to start the business in the first place, remember that it comes down to guts, grit and keeping your eyes trained on the prize.