Looking back is not a good habit to cultivate but we can all learn from our mistakes. The same thing with past glories, they are just that - past. Again, we can learn from these because they show us what is possible.
I’ve not given it much thought to it but a recent old school reunion brought it back to mind. My parents sent me off to boarding school at the ripe old age of eleven. I surprised myself to discover being quite good at chess. We used to play in our dormitories before ‘lights out’ when, like all good obedient school children we were supposed to be in bed. Of course that rarely was the case but that’s another story.
At this reunion I remembered one term winning a series of all those who could play the game. They numbered twelve in the year and I won all these contests, save the very last one, where I was taken to a draw. Unfortunately for me all these games were unofficial, as there was no chess club at the school at that time, and so there was no prize at the end of this reign.
Fast forward a decade, and I found myself playing a colleague in a bank tournament in the City of London. This was a game to see if I was good enough to enter an international banking competition of fellow chess enthusiasts. The game was held after the bank was closed. My opponent’s claim to fame was that he had earlier been in a tournament with the Chess Grand Master and Tenth World Champion Boris Spassky. (Spassky played the famous Bobby Fischer in a headline ‘illegal’ match some years back.)
Obviously there was not much chance of me winning this game. For a start I had not played for several years, and was frankly no match for an opponent in this league. We played the game surrounded by a handful of colleagues watching, as we made out moves against the clock. Everyone knew the game wouldn’t last long (me included) and I would capitulate quite soon, and everyone could go home. But as with a good David and Goliath story, you have to give it your best shot. I didn’t disappoint.
Whilst my opponent was running with his pieces full tilt towards me, he left his left flank exposed for a very short, but critical moment. Realising this, I didn’t hesitate and swiftly moved to take advantage. When he saw his mistake it was too late, and I moved to execute the final move to check mate. After moving my piece, I remained silent because I didn’t believe I could have actually won. I let my colleagues blink in disbelief first, and then let the opponent fall and concede defeat.
So what happened next? Well, I did not go on to win more games and playing chess has been a very infrequent pass time.
The parallel’s chess has with business are interesting. It is a game where anything is possible. My story proves this. Business is just the same, if you make the right moves everything can come your way. The one who wins in the long term though, is the one with a better strategy. I won this game on a short term tactic. In fact I was just about to be beaten when I saw my chance to stem the tidal wave about to hit me. This wasn’t plain luck because I had to see the opportunity to take advantage of the situation, but long term I was ‘a gonna’ that was certain.
So with business, it is better knowledge and superior application of it, that gives your business success over the long haul. You may win short term contracts and business, but unless you bring to bear a consistently better service for your customers, you will lose in the end. This isn’t accomplished by quick fix marketing solutions, because frankly they are like sticking plasters - they wash off and you are back to square one. So to bring about lasting results and profits, you simply cannot avoid making plans to implement a superior strategy for your business. This isn’t an optional ‘extra’, it is essential to your survival as a business owner.
So get a better strategy in place soon. Make contact before the tidal wave knocks your business for six.
Look forward with a critical eye on the past.
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