Are you winning YOUR game?
One of our Maxims here is:
Play to Win. Don’t Play NOT to Lose.
The concept is simple, but for a business is fundamental to their success. This precise, strategic view is a game changer if applied correctly.
We recently watched Aardman’s film: Early Man. And it’s this I want to share with you (strategy should never be stuffy or boring). Please read on because I REVEAL the 5 STEPS you need to take to get a WINNING STRATEGY.
Anyway, back to the film…
It was set at the dawn of time and Early Man tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob (a wart hog) as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City to save their home. The twist is that to win their home back, Dug and his friends have to beat the Bronze age equivalent of Real Madrid in the winner takes all prize at a single football match.
As any good plot dictates, Dug and his Stone Age friends have no idea what a football is, let alone how to play the game. However, in a few weeks, they have to win so as to not end their days in the bronze mines.
So how do they set up to Play to Win, knowing that their counterparts are far superior in every department than they are?
Most small businesses are more focused on survival and getting the sale in. Until this becomes a routine in the business, this is the sole focus. Like our Dug – it was all about learning the basic skills and just doing them over and over again.
At some point in the business journey, they realise that they are achieving the basics and are losing the odd sale to their nearest competitor. As time goes on and the company gets bigger, this becomes the number one threat. Every move that the company does, one or more of their competitors respond with their own move, and suddenly a new business paradigm is apparent.
In most businesses, the obvious stuff like pricing, advertising, customer service, sales, marketing etc. all become much of a muchness, and survival gets harder and harder.
Like Dug, the playing field is the same; the players have the same knowledge and it just comes down to the individual skills of the main players on who wins the game.
Or does it…?
It does if you are playing NOT to lose. But if you are playing to win then you adopt a different strategy.
Step 1: what is your winning aspiration?
Normally a business is focused on short-term financial gains like increase the business by 10%. This is not a sustainable competitive advantage, as it is just an internal measure.
For Dug, it transpired that, Yes, the Bronze age team had individual superstars, but that was the key – they were individuals. Dug and his friends were playing for their lives, whilst the enemy was playing for pride and a bit complacent at that.
Step 2: where will you play?
In business, we can decide where we play – in what market, what geography, what type of customer do we want to focus on.
This for Dug was not so much a choice as it was going to be at the Bronze age football stadium, where the grass was very lush and flat. So, Dug practised on stone floors, where the ball ran fast, difficult to control and needed close control.
Step 3: how will you win?
Once you have chosen your business playing field, how to win on it becomes the ultimate next step. In business, we can focus on two areas:
1). To differentiate or
2). To supply at the lowest cost.
These are generally the two key areas of focus. In my first business, a computer supplier, the market went from no computers to early adopters, to the early majority. With this came huge competition and, of course, the inevitable attack on pricing and margins. It was at this point that there were only three options:
Get Specialised or
Of course, the last was not a competitive suggestion, just an inevitability.
For Dug to win on this playing field he had to have a different plan as the opposition were far superior. So, their game plan was to hit them quick, fast and score an early goal. This would surprise them and also start the ego’s going and bring out their individualist nature.
Step 4: which capabilities must be in place?
Depending on what business game we are looking to play in, and how, depends massively on what capabilities we need to be able to achieve this. If your business is going to focus on a very narrow sector and be seen as the standout expert in that area, then the capabilities must really focus on everything to do with this area.
It does amaze me how many business owners I speak to claim to be experts in something but have no ideas on their market size or competitors. Meaning I could set up against them and steal their advantage.
For Dug, this was the key that drove the outcomes of the previous steps as they were a great TEAM and worked hard for each other. They knew that a team dynamic would beat a group of individuals every day.
And finally, our last step…
Step 5: what management systems are required?
This is all about the reinforcement of the above four steps and includes all the steps that build, support and measure the strategy. This is absolutely key as its really the execution to achieve the above.
Lastly, for Dug to get the right result, they had to focus on positions, type of plays, how they would line up, who would do what, what they would do.
The key to all of this is to play the game you want, in the area you chose, the way you want to, how you want to, and with what you want to.
Then – and only then – have you a great chance of keeping the competitive advantage, as your opposition has no idea what game you are playing. It’s your rules.
“If you don’t try to win, your chances of accidentally doing so are very low.”
It’s the same for business as in sport.
So, what happened to Dug and his team? Well, you will have to watch the film for yourself to find out.
Of course, it was just a film. A bunch of outsiders, with no chance of winning, could ever do the same…could they.
Well, not unless you are Leicester City FC and it was 2015-16. They Played to Win and set their rules and pulled off the miracle.
So, do you want to play to win or play to play? It’s your choice?