Business ownership requires a person to think several moves into the future, much like playing a game of chess. #000005
By Gary Shotton
Today we’re going to talk about business as a chess game. Most of the people around the world are familiar with the board game called chess, or some form of it. A good player of a board game has the ability to think several steps ahead to their next move. If you only think one step at a time and your competitor is thinking three, four, five steps ahead, you’re going to get beat.
The real champions in chess are capable of thinking through multiple steps and develop a plan for what they would do in different situations. So, owning a business is just a little bit like that, as the owner you don’t have the luxury of making one decision at a time and then slowly making the next decision in sequence. You’re going to be faced with thinking where is this situation heading three, four, or five steps past this? How does this next decision, this next move in business affect my future?
You always need to be analyzing available cash with future expenditures, it’s like a chess game. You cannot spend all of your cash reserves without thinking two, three, or four steps down the road. I’m very careful to reserve some cash for the inevitable downturns in business. In 2009, I actually had an abundance of cash,but the business cycle was at an all-time low.I chose to go ahead and pay my customers, my vendors early, I gained great credit with them, because they were needing cash and I had the cash. Cash opens up great opportunities when the economy is in a recession. I’m glad I held on to my extra cash in the economic downturn, it made all the difference. It allowed me to endure through the bottom of the cycle.
I own a manufacturing shop that does machining. I had a decision to make concerning a strategic move about expanding our business into something more than just machining. As we were coming out of the downturn, we wanted something that would allow us to expand our business by expanding our services. Welding is a natural service for us to expand into because it is similar to our machining business, but it’s certainly not the same. But, if we hadn’t taken on and learned the skill of adding a welding department, we would have lost a large book of business down the line. Part of my strategic thinking was to broaden our base of services so that it would give us some flexibility on production giving me some flexibility through the next eventual downturn.
Preparing for growth
We did some strategic thinking back when I first bought the business to prepare us for the future. The plan was developed to qualify ourselves with some of the highest standards of certification in our industry. We met new requirements of certification and increased our quality to the highest level we possibly could. That was a move that didn’t Manifest any benefits until much later. So that’s part of the chess game, that’s part of the move. We made higher quality our top priority. A new level of quality so that our customers rarely had complaints about our work. One of the great benefits was that we got business back that we lost for a while. We didn’t try matching the prices of other suppliers, so we lost some customers for a little while because of our increase pricing. However, they soon came back because they appreciated the new commitment to quality. It didn’t pay off immediately, but it was a preemptive strategic move that’s helping us win the game.
Strategic process improvement for future growth.
It was painful at first, but going from manual to a digital manufacturing company that was a very important strategic move that has paid many dividends in increase production, quality, and customer satisfaction. We had to be sure that our workers had all the information they needed at their fingertips to make good parts and make good decisions,I could produce the highest quality parts possible. So we had to invest just a little bit more in our computers and train our people to make sure that we stayed on the cutting edge of technology, so that our employees could operate at their highest level.
We also had to invest heavily in a backup system. It can be a difficult decision to spend a lot of money to back up everything that we’ve stored because you may never use it. One of the worst thing that could happen to a company is to lose all of your data. So if we don’t have a fail safe server, with an off-site backup system we could lose everything. Now we’re able to retrieve all of our data in record time. You know we’re playing a chess game. Who are we playing? We’re not an enemy, we don’t have an enemy. We’re just playing against the economy, against life, against our competitors, but we’re always trying to be one move, always trying to make preemptive strategic moves that will ensure us victory in the end.
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