Five great ways to fail in business

Today’s blog comes Ingar Grev, a Growth Coach franchise owner from Annapolis, MD.  Ingar played football for four years at Annapolis and graduated with a BS in Systems Engineering and a commission as an Ensign in the US Navy.  He is a guest blogger for the BizBeat feature of The Washington Business Journal and a regular speaker for business, government, and service organizations throughout the nation. Ingar created a methodology for aligning systems engineering principles to designing organizations – an approach that he has used successfully throughout his career to help organizations work better.

You can learn more about Ingar at his website here

Five Great Ways to Fail in Business

In remembrance of the War of 1812, I wear a special 2-flag lapel pin. On the left-hand side is the U.S. flag and on the right is Oliver Hazard Perry’s iconic battle flag: “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” It holds place of honor at the Naval Academy. A replica of the flag hangs on the wall in Memorial Hall, over the list of our alumni who were killed in action. The original is in our museum. Perry had the flag made for his friend Captain James Lawrence, who said the words after he was mortally wounded in battle on board the USS Chesapeake in 1813.

Victory at all costs may be critical in war, but taking a “win at all costs” attitude into sports or business can be a dangerous maneuver (sports — we can be disqualified, kicked out of the game, banned for life, etc.; business — we can get convicted, go bankrupt, make our families destitute, etc.). Understanding that we must follow the rules, act ethically, and be men and women of honor, here are a few of the rules for winning that I picked up from playing and coaching football at Navy:

1. Don’t give up the ship! In you’re lifetime you’ve witnessed astonishing, come-from-behind, impossible victories. I was in the stands for this one in 2008, getting ready to walk out of the stadium when Navy was behind 27-7. The only time you are guaranteed a loss is when you give up, lose sight of the end goal, consider the price of victory too high, or don’t even bother showing up. You’ll never win if you give up. Don’t give up the ship!

2. Don’t let someone take your ticket.We called the guys who didn’t play full speed until the play was over “spectators.” If you’re a spectator, someone’s going to take your ticket. That means that you are going to get knocked down and embarrassed in front of thousands (or millions if the game is on TV). If you’re holding the ball, someone’s going to take it from you. It’s the same in business. In business, you need to be on your game until the whistle blows. There’s no time to be a spectator. That means you need to perform your best for that customer for as long as you are in business. Period. If you do that well, they’ll always be your customer — or at least your advocate. If you don’t bring your “A-game” every day, someone’s going to take your ticket.

3. Don’t accept unacceptable performance. When you mess up, learn from it, fix it, and don’t repeat the mistake. We make mistakes so we can learn from them. As a leader, don’t accept unacceptable performance from your people. Don’t set the standards low because you feel that no one can do it like you can; set the standards where they need to be. Then, don’t accept performance that is below your standards. If they blow it, train them. If they keep blowing it after training, replace them. If you don’t have anyone else, re-think your organization so you can live without that person. Yes, I do mean that. When your team feels no repercussions for not meeting the standards, guess what? Your standards are not the true standards; the lower, “unofficial” standards are.

4. Don’t lose your feet. A football player lying on the ground during the play is useless. Diving in to make a play is  an all-or-nothing gamble. When you’re on your feet, you have power and the ability to react. When you fall down or dive, you don’t. In business, you need to think really, really hard before making all-or-nothing gambles or by pursuing business not in line with your core competency. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking big risks (like diving to make the game winning catch), just be sure that the risk is really the best and only way you can achieve your objectives.

5. This is a football. As the story goes, legendary football coach Vince Lombardi would start each new season of practice by holding a football and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The idea was to keep a relentless focus on BASICS. Know the basics of a good business (there are thousands of books and articles out there on the subject — I recommend “Becoming a Strategic Business Owner” by Dan Murphy), and get awesome at blocking and tackling.

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4 Responses to Five great ways to fail in business

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