March 11, 2014

5 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Take From D-Day

Here are a few things today’s entrepreneurs and leaders can take away to improve their chances of success in business (and life).

There is no such thing as perfect conditions. D-Day was delayed because of foul weather, and was ultimately launched under still-foul conditions. The takeaway? You can wait all you want, but that doesn’t mean things will improve. You have to trust that the things you can control (the quality of your training and planning, for example) will trump those that you cannot (the weather).
No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Airborne troops missed their drop zone. Ground forces landed on the wrong beaches. The naval and aerial bombardment did little to disrupt Nazi defensive positions. Writing a business plan is a good exercise in strategy and theory—but don’t count on it being the key to your success. Your key to success will lie in your ability to improvise, adapt and overcome the conditions you have no way of foreseeing.
Massed force, narrowly and violently applied, will overcome nearly any obstacle. It’s the old ‘elbow grease’ phenomenon. Problems, no matter how challenging, often only require the will to apply repeated, dogged effort. That sale you can’t close? Put on the full court press. That product flaw you simply cannot figure out? Time to pull in the team for an all-nighter.
Only with great risk comes great reward. Launching the world’s largest sea invasion against a fortified enemy in sub-par weather? Sounds risky. It was. But, if ever the fate of the modern world hung in the balance, it was at that moment. You don’t save the world with timid maneuvers. In the case of entrepreneurs and Supreme Allied Commanders, fortune favors the bold.
Know, and accept, what you’re willing to lose. General Eisenhower knew that he was sending tens of thousands of men to their deaths. He also knew that failure could mean the defeat of the Allies in Europe. That’s a tough burden to carry. But, had he not accepted the reality of his course, he may not have had the fortitude to carry the battle through when his men were dying on the beaches of Normandy. As entrepreneurs, you have to know what you have on the table and accept that you may never get it back—whether your reputation, your retirement, or your relationship with your spouse and kids. Not accepting the risk of that loss may cause you to falter at your endeavor’s critical moment, and avoid the tough, but necessary, decision that puts it all on the line. You can only have unwavering commitment to the cause when you’ve assumed it’s already gone.