Startups and Combat? Wow that’s a strange mix wouldn’t you say? I mean, how could you possibly compare starting up a business venture and going to war? Well, that’s what I am going to explain in the following article.
Firstly, my experience in both combat and business have generated this idea for me which I will explain shortly. Secondly, I served in the British Army which is far different to say, the US military. Combat in the US military would be more comparable to a large multi-national setting up a new venture. They’d have all the resources, the best minds and loads of money to smooth over problems.
So let’s start with a famous maxim in the British Army, ‘Hurry Up and Wait’!! We’ll keep coming back to that statement throughout the article but to put it in context, it refers to the fact that warfare, much like building a business, is a combination of periods of intense activity mixed with longer periods of nothing.
However, that’s where patience comes in. You know you’ve done all the planning, you know your mission, you’re ready to go, but you have to wait. Wait for others to catch up with your innovative thinking. Wait for investors to provide funding. Wait for customers to appear. However, like a sniper waiting to take a shot, that’s part of the process. To be poised, ready to strike the moment a fleeting opportunity presents itself.
So let’s break this down a little more then. In the military, every operation starts with a mission. Information is gathered and analysed to identify an issue which needs to be solved. That could be an enemy threat or a gap in the market. So you begin to develop a plan of how to exploit this situation using the intelligence you hold, and hope the enemy (or competition) does not.
You develop a plan so you can create a mission, you identify what resources you’ll need, where you’ll operate and who the competition is. You’ll seek answers to questions you need clarifying, seek allies and begin to understand the battle (or market) space as best as possible.
However, good commanders, like good entrepreneurs, will take calculated risks at certain points for if you were to wait for the perfect conditions to start the mission, it’d never happen.
This is where the comparison with the British Army comes in. Military personnel accept that they’d never have every bit of kit and equipment they need. They know they won’t have enough but they get on with it anyway. In this context, you don’t need a brand new i-Mac to launch your business from. An old laptop with missing keys will suffice.
So you get cracking, you know you’ve come up with the best plan based on the available intelligence but that its likely to change any number of times before success is achieved.
This is summed up by the adage, ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’. No business plan will remain unchanged. Yes the essence is there still but if you are to become agile enough to win, you need to react to unseen developments, drop things that aren’t working, stay abreast of current events. Flexibility is vital.
So you start out on the mission, moving forwards, being prepared to go without, to live in arduous conditions and absorb challenges, never giving up.
However there is a big difference between displaying grit and tenacity, and stubbornly refusing to let go of things which are holding you back. Only one thing matters and that is to achieve the mission. So you keep going. It’s a lonely journey, fraught with dangers. Many people won’t understand why you do it, why you don’t take the easy and safe alternative. But they don’t understand that it’s in your DNA to do this. You must succeed.
However, you keep going, you remain positive, keep yourself and your team motivated, lead from the front and know when to attack and when to withdraw. There will be times when you must ruthlessly exploit an opportunity, and there’ll be others where you need to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
This is where you need patience. To sit and wait. You know your plan is sound and know you will succeed. But the time isn’t right. If you go now, you may fail. Many times you’ll only have one shot at the final assault so you hold back. Not failing to act but waiting to strike.
But then finally, the moment will come. You’ll be ready and see the opening you need. At that point, you’ll go. You’ll seize the initiative and remove all threats so that you can achieve your mission and win the glory.
With greater risk comes greater reward and the knowledge that you can achieve anything.
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