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Two Rules for Every Game (Business)

When my youngest son, Carter, was young he used to love to play board games. Monopoly, Risk, Clue, Don’t Wake Daddy (one of my favorites), Mousetrap, and the list goes on. I also used to enjoy playing these games with Carter. The rules were simple and occasionally I would win. This fed my somewhat compulsive competitive spirit.
As Carter grew older, he began creating his own board games. He would construct his own playing board, find a spinner, a pair of dice, some moving pieces, and some form of timer. He would than make up the rules to the game… sometimes while we were playing. If I was not careful, I would get invited to play these innovative new board games with Carter.While I enjoyed playing these new games and certainly enjoyed spending time with Carter, I would also find myself getting very frustrated for two reasons. First, the games made little sense to me. I am sure they made perfect sense to my eight year-old son. One turn we would move right. The next turn it was left. One turn I would toss the dice. The next turn I would spin the spinner. There was no logic to the game. It made no sense to a rationally minded adult. I was now looking for reasons to quit the game. 

Second, it was never clear how I was going to win the game. We would play for a while and I would ask Carter,”How does one win this game?” His response was usually a confused look and a response of “don’t know”. Well this was even more frustrating for me than the fact that this silly game made no sense. Why play if I couldn’t win? Whoops…somehow I must have knocked the board off the table. “Crap!”. Let’s play again later.” Game over. 

Do either one of these scenarios sound familiar to you in your business? 

Michael Gerber in his best-selling book “The E Myth” suggests that we should think of our business as a game. He suggests several “rules” for this game. First, the game must make sense. Your employees are like me playing Carter’s board game. They sit and wonder why we play the game the way we do. They question the intent of your policies and procedures, your systems, and the overall design of the business model.

  • Why do I have to be here at 8a every day?
  • Why do I need three signed forms to take a day off?
  • Why are we spending so much money trying to attract new customers and still abusing the existing ones?
Your employees also are very interested in what winning looks like in your company. Maybe it’s a sale goal, a growth plan, a strategic acquisition, or maybe it’s just being the best at what we do.  Is there a vision of success in your organization that has been clearly defined for all of your “players”? Your best employees, the “A” players, are already winners. They want to be on a winning team surrounded by like-minded colleagues. They rely upon you to design the game, define winning, and keep accurate score of the game. Carter is now almost twenty-one. Still loves playing games. Maybe one day he will design games or businesses as a career. Dad still likes playing games and likes to win on occasion.

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink 

I have suggested to both of my sons that they should pursue a career in sales. There will always be a need for salespeople and in general it pays well. Both boys scoffed at the idea. They were above going into sales. How could I suggest such a “lame” thought?

The reality is that they are both already in sales. They have been selling my wife and I since they could both speak. Quite effectively I might add. Likewise, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately one of nine of Americans work in sales. The reality is that all of us are in sales. If we are not selling products or services, we are selling ideas. We are selling ourselves. We are selling our vision, our values, and our strategies.

Best-selling author Daniel Pink has written a great book on sales, “To Sell Is Human, and the underlying assumption is that we are all in sales. Like his previous best-sellers, “Drive” and “A Whole New Mind”, Pink has done enormous research on the subject and shares his findings in a simple format with lots of rich examples and powerful tools.

Here are just a few of my favorite takeaways from the book:

  • According to the Gallop organization we spend on average about 40% of our time at work in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others that don’t involve making a purchase.
  • Extraverts are not the best salespeople
  • The most effective self-talk is not positive declarative statements
  • Success is sales today is not about problem-solving or accessing information
  • The best salespeople are master improvisers

This is a great book whether you are in sales or not. I highly recommend it.


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