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Life Health > Running Your Business

In business, you’ve got to play to win

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Some professionals report feeling overwhelmed trying to make their businesses successful. Some of these same professionals will also tell me about the great time they had playing a recreational sport.

“How about turning your business into a big game?” I asked Eric, the owner of a service business. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you play intensely and aggressively when you’re on the field.”

“But I don’t depend on softball to pay my bills,” he said. “My work is real life, and if I lose, I won’t be able to pay my bills.” I asked him to describe how he plays the game of softball. “When I’m at bat, I swing hard, aiming for the fences. I strike out more than some other players, but I have the most homeruns in our league. I run hard and I’m always looking to steal a base. When I’m in center field, I’m good at anticipating where the ball will land, so that it just falls right into my glove. Also, I keep track of my numbers (batting average, RBIs) — all the important stats. And I’m always looking to improve.”

“Suppose you ran your business the same way you played softball?” I asked. “You would aim for the fences and swing hard. You might strike out a lot, but you’d also have some homeruns, which you don’t seem to have now. You would look for opportunities as if they were bases to steal, and continually work to improve. And you would keep track of your stats.”

“But I’d be taking a risk with my family’s income,” he protested.

“Aren’t you risking it right now by not aggressively growing your business?” I asked. After a moment, Eric understood that the business problems he was facing came from playing his business “game” differently than his softball game — namely, too safely. In his business, he had been playing not to lose instead of playing to win.

We spent the rest of our session coming up with the following rules for upping his business game:

1. Get to bat often, keep your eye on the ball and swing hard. For Eric, this meant contacting more people and wooing larger clients. It also meant asking for the commitments he needs.

2. Stay on the lookout for business opportunities and anticipate market moves. This is like Eric staying alert for the chance to steal bases.

3. Leverage your strengths. In softball, Eric’s strengths include being able to run fast and anticipating where the ball will land. In business, his strengths include being able to make his best clients feel like his only clients.

4. Create a scorecard to keep track of your stats. Work at improving them. It was easy for Eric to improve his number of “at bats” with prospects and to keep track of homeruns and strikeouts.

In the few short weeks since implementing these changes, Eric has seen more and bigger sales and is well on his way to becoming his clients’ MVP.

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