15 December 2013
At every level in business it’s important to take stock and evaluate your position. However far you may think you are on your journey, however well you think you are doing, there is always someone in front of you.
It’s when you sit back and enjoy the trappings of success that people tend to lose sight of what’s over the next hill.
Some of the greatest business people have been undone, one way or another when they are most relaxed, when their guard is down.
It’s so important to respect the game of business and the opponents you find yourself up against. There is no time to rest on your laurels, there’s no time to switch off. You must always have something in your sights.
Business is a marathon that never ends. It’s the ultimate challenge, chess with real life consequences. Managing people, products and innovation with surprises that appear from nowhere when you least expect them, often from the opposition, often when you really don’t need it.
But if you are someone who is extraordinarily goal focussed, then this should be music to your ears. It’s a path where you will automatically feel at home and rise to the occasion.
To put my business life in to perspective, I had a terrible experience whilst trying to host a website called TheGallery.com back in 1999, but the customer service was so bad, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life ensuring Britain had a hosting provider that put customers first, above all else. And so UKFast was born.
Bear in mind I had NO technical expertise or understanding of networks or the sophistication of hosting, but I was annoyed. Never underestimate a Brit with the bit between their teeth, especially a Welsh one!
The company we set out to beat quickly fell by the wayside and we set our sights on new targets and slowly but surely, we picked them off too, one by one. And whilst some of them are still trading, they are all shadows of their former selves, mostly swallowed up and diluted into larger organisations. Have we stopped? Never!
If you find that you have overtaken a business, it’s essential you refocus. It’s not a time to celebrate, it’s a time to recalibrate and look for the next target.
So how do you choose your target?
I don’t believe you should have one target. I don’t believe any business excels on all fronts. Businesses have some things that they do extraordinarily well, but even the Google’s, Facebook’s and Twitter’s have failings.
Our strategy is to focus on the areas you want to excel at, then go out and find out who is considered best in class. But it’s better to choose 4 or 5 businesses or people to compete with for a number of reasons.
1. chasing one business can be soul destroying and whilst you might beat them on some fronts, it will be impossible to beat them in every way.
2. if you chase multiple businesses you are more likely to see success in certain areas far quicker. This will help stimulate further motivation.
3. if you start to improve slightly on all fronts, you will experience a significant improvement across the business.
4. it puts your competitors into perspective. They don’t even have to be in your chosen list. Often it’s best if they are not. I have no competitors in my list. I am aiming at much higher targets.
So what should you be aiming at?
The obvious ones are financial, because it’s easy to measure and compare turnover and profit, but money never really motivated me, and if you are choosing someone in the best of their field, it’s highly likely that you will not be competing yet on turnover!
I prefer to take people on at what they consider they are best at. (eg. Google consider they are great at building friendly offices)
To put it another way, if you are a boxer, you don’t aim to be richer than the world heavy weight, you just want their title and belt. Riches come and go, but nothing beats the chase. If you enjoy the chase, success is inevitable.
I have a theory that I put to the test once, that when you die, on your deathbed you are not going to be congratulating yourself on how much money you made and if you are, it will be a very hollow victory. You will be smiling and musing over the amazing times, the emotions, the good things you have done, the times when you cried with laughter with a best friend, the times when you were there for your loved ones. If you do feel regret, it will be for all the magic moments that could have been.
You can doubt me or disagree with me on a lot of things, but you can’t on this one as I have had the privilege to experience one of the very worst and loneliest ways to die. Suffocation is an unpleasant and lonely experience, but like someone once told me, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Well, it has shaped every atom of my body and coordinated my resolve to make me who I am today.
So when you are aiming at becoming successful, pick out the people and businesses you admire and create your target list. But be careful, don’t aim at the here and now. If you are trying to beat a business at something they take very seriously, they will have their next stage in development, so you will have to outwit them and aim into the future. The quote in Steve Job’s book from Wayne Gretzky puts this most poetically. “Skate to where the puck is going to be and not to where it’s been.”