Business is a [Big] Game

The same professionals who tell me they are “struggling” or “overwhelmed” will often talk about the great time they had playing some recreational sport.

On the field, they can be intense and aggressive.  They might be elated when they win or angry when they lose, but they go home and eventually let it go.  After all, it’s just a game.

“How about making your business a big game?” I asked Eric a few weeks ago.  Eric is  a service business owner in LA. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” I continued,”but you play intensely and aggressively.

“But I don’t depend on softball to pay my bills,” Eric objected. “That’s a game.  My work is real life.  And when I lose, I worry that I won’t be able to pay my bills.”

What kind of softball player are you?” I asked him.  He was confused by the question for a moment, but then he replied:

“When I’m at bat, I swing hard, aiming for the fence.  I strike out more than some other players, so I don’t have a great batting average, but I have the most home runs in our league.  I run hard and am 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 work on my long throw so I can get the ball to home plate quickly from anywhere.  And, I keep track of my numbers–my batting average, RBIs–all of the important stats.  I’m always looking for ways to improve them.”

“Suppose you ran your business the same way you played softball?” I asked.  “You would aim for the fence and swing hard.  You might strike out a lot, but you’d also have some Home Runs that you don’t seem to have now.  You would look for opportunities as if they were bases to steal, and leverage and work on your strengths. And you would keep track of anything you can turn into a statistic for the game.”

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

“Aren’t you taking a risk right now by being in your own business and not growing it aggressively?” I asked him.

Eric thought about my question and after a few seconds, his eyes lit up.  He suddenly understood that the business problems he consulted me about arose out of “playing” his business “game” differently than he played softball–too safely.  He had been playing not to lose instead of playing to win.

We spent the rest of our session coming up with rules for his Business “Game”:

1. Get up to bat often, keep your eye on the ball and swing hard. For Eric this meant contacting more people and looking for larger clients, and being more committed to asking for the sale and obtaining commitments from them.

2. Watch closely for business opportunities and anticipate the moves of your market. This was like Eric’s stolen bases and his commitment to anticipate where the ball will land when he is fielding.

3. Work on and leverage your strengths.  In his softball games, Eric’s strengths included a powerful throw to Home when needed.  In his business, his strengths included how he nurtured his relationships with clients.  Eric developed a system to ensure that his best clients felt 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”–his times in front of clients–and to keep track of his home runs and strikeouts.

In the few weeks since implementing these changes, Eric is seeing more and bigger sales.  Interestingly, his rate of strikeouts has not increased significantly.

Keep swinging that bat, and keep REACHING…