Continuing our series on the comparison between the American War of Independence and today’s world of sales and commerce, let’s now take a look at what it really takes to engage in battle and war–and win.
To start with, no such conflict is won (or, for that matter, lost) overnight.
The American Revolution lasted 8 years, and was a long haul for both sides. The British were fighting on foreign soil alongside hired German (Hessian) mercenaries. The rebel colonies might have been fighting in home country, but they had drastically limited resources–food, supplies, munitions, even uniforms. For their part, keeping such an endeavor together for 8 very long years, through hunger, bitterly cold winters, enduring casualties and wounds, keeping morale at some kind of level so that the fight could continue, must have been a monumental undertaking to say the least.
I honestly don’t think a group, especially a fledgeling company, could persist that way today. Someone doesn’t get paid, they leave. They didn’t get the special t-shirts, they leave. They don’t have a super-fantastic working environment like Google, they leave. They don’t get the special blend of coffee…yes, it can get really ridiculous.
To get a business up and running, or to work at one, can be as tough as a war–perhaps not physically, but oftentimes emotionally and stress-wise. Why? Because there is competition, and competition can often fight unfairly, illegally, without integrity. They can stab you in the back, steal intellectual property. Companies badmouth each other in the press, just like they do in politics.
Just like it did in the American Revolution, today engagement takes endurance. You need staff that will hang in there and stick it out.
Leadership needs to be on the ball and know where to place people for the best advantage. There is a book I very much like entitled Good to Great by Jim Collins. There is an interesting analogy in this book: Sometimes when you engage in a project or aim for an objective as a company, you have to put the right people on the bus to get there. You have to make sure that the people on the bus are in the correct seats. you also have to, sometimes, put people off the bus, which of course can be rough. But if you don’t do it you will not succeed.
Bringing our analogy back to battle, then, you have to bring the right people into the army, because it’s a long fight. It needs endurance. And leadership needs to provide this.
We can look back and see how beautifully George Washington kept his team together, through impossible odds, and motivated them. He was truly leading them–he wasn’t sitting in at the back of the lines in a tent, or back at headquarters. He was right up there on the battle lines. Although he was never wounded, he did get shot at, and had horses shot out from underneath him.
Willingness to Get Back Up
Today, winning the war means successfully establishing a company. How much marketshare and profit you have is a different topic, which we’ll take up separately. But here, it’s about: do we win or do we lose? And it’s the willingness, the toughness to get up when you’ve lost, to fight again. And again. And again. Never giving up.
I have a recent example of how this works on a smaller scale, right from my own family. My almost-9-year-old son Sebastian has chosen fencing as a sport, and recently engaged in his first tournament. In the morning he was very excited as he got ready, and was eager. And it all started well–he won his first match!
But then he lost the next 5 matches in a row. And with each one he became more upset. By lunchtime he was devastated. He was crying. He was telling us he hated that we brought him him there. Why did we make him do it?
We quietly told him it was his choice. His mother and his excellent coach, during lunch, told him that he was actually quite good at fencing, but he was letting his emotions get to him.
The approach worked, and Sebastian made the decision to get back into the game. He did so…and not only won the next 5 matches, but won the tournament!
And that, I truly believe, is the story of long-term success: when you lose, how do you get back up and re-engage? To win requires the willingness to never give up. That is certainly what Washington, the Founding Fathers and the Continental Army had–they were not going to give up.
Neither should you–and that is my wish for everyone reading this!
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