Monday, April 21, 2008

Super Bowls are not won (or lost) on Super Sunday

Can this really be an essay about business? Certainly…just as ballgames are not actually won on the day of the game but in the countless hours of practice beforehand, successful businesses become successful through careful planning and preparation.

The late Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, the famous coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, said that to be successful the will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare. Enough said! Everyone wants to be a winner, but few take the time and put forth the effort to do what it takes to prepare to win.

In athletic events the variables are many, but in business the variables are innumerable. How can we prepare for every contingency? We can’t, but we can prepare for the most likely ones. We simply need to raise the “batting average” when batting in a business venue. A successful business associate informed me that he works on contingency planning during his most highly productive time of his day. He calls this working ON not IN his business. He knows that events seldom happen just as planned and by thinking through where the most likely problems will occur, he can devise plan B….and C, and D. He calls this “Chinese Fire Drill” avoidance! By conditioning his team to think in this manner, there are not many surprises to be faced. They know that if “this” happens then we do “that” and if “that” happens then we do “this”.

I have heard many not-so-successful business people lament about their more successful competition being lucky in one way, shape, or form. Sure sometimes the playing field is tipped in favor of another, but most of the time it is a matter of someone else working harder and preparing to be successful, rather than leaving it up to chance.

My older daughter has recently graduated from college and has begun her working career. In the weeks leading up to the actual graduation ceremony many friends and acquaintances asked me about her university experience and what she was on to next. I proudly informed them of her tennis accomplishments (Samford University freshman of the year, 2 time all conference, 2 time conference tournament champs, 2 NCAA appearances, and 1 regular season championship) they inevitably comment about how lucky she is.

Then I talk about her academic accomplishments (President’s scholar, Athletic commissioner’s Honor role, a degree in 4 years)… again the word luck comes up.

From there I talk about her nursing job she has accepted in the city she wants to live in, at the hospital that she wants to work in, on the floor that she wants to work on, and the very shift she requested.

We then talk about her renting a nice house from one of her professors that is close to her work and to other places of importance to her.

Lucky….they all say it. I myself have even said it. She is a lucky girl.

But then I started to think about that a little. What is luck and how does it come about?

In regard to tennis, I seem to recall hundreds of thousands of serves, forehands, backhands, and volleys, hours and hours of practice and strategy discussions with her coach, untold numbers of tournaments, and camps. And, my personal favorite, early mornings before school with Dad working on something she wasn’t happy with in her game. Yeah, she was lucky in tennis.

Academics… even though I wasn’t personally there, I heard about the classes, the library, the study groups, the visits with professors and advisors and the, back of the tennis van, study sessions. Yeah, she was lucky when it came to academics.

Beginning career and living arrangements….again, I wasn’t there but I got the calls about all the options, salary, benefits, retirement plans, future opportunities, stepping stones, budgets, house vs. apartments, her visits and relationship with Geri (her favorite professor and mentor), and about a thousand and one other issues she has been considering. She sought out advice from those who had done it before or had specific knowledge in an area…..Yeah, she is lucky with the job and house.

I think you get the picture….you make your own luck, most of the time. Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation. Luck is what happens when you are bold.

Preparation, a strong work ethic, and boldness…what a combination….almost unstoppable! Where are you in these areas? I can honestly say I have fallen short in all of them from time to time.

Please note that in none of the paragraphs above is intellect mentioned. It is not that I believe intellect to be not important or desirable. But I believe there is a very low ratio between success and intellect. The world is full of intellectuals who do not convert thought to action. Action brings results! Preparation makes taking action much easier. In most cases it is not “getting it right” that matters but “getting it started”. Until the rocket is launched it cannot adjust its course.
And it could not be even launched with out a vast amount of preparation.

Here’s to showing up, being ready for the game, studying the business plan, and launching rockets!

1 comment:

Brenda Richter, CPA said...

It is often said that Luck is when "opportunity meests preparation". Yet, so many people focus on the opportunity and forget about the hard work and preparation. thanks for the reminder to focus on the "preparation".