I learned how to play draughts when I was 7 years old and I’ve been fascinated with the game ever since. Draughts is a board game for two players. It involves diagonal moves of uniform game pieces and compulsory captures by jumping over opponent pieces. It is a strategic game – luck does not affect the way it is played.
The rules are simple: Players alternate turns. Each player moves their pieces diagonally to an adjacent, unoccupied square. If the adjacent squares contains an opponent piece and the square immediately beyond it is vacant, the piece may be captured and removed from the game by jumping over it. In most official rules, capturing is mandatory. A player without no pieces remaining, or who cannot make any legal moves, loses the game. If a piece makes it to the end of the board, it is promoted to a king, and can now move diagonally backwards, as well as forwards. As a player, you can win, lose or draw.
So how can the game of draughts teach us better business management?
If you want to take, be ready to give
Draughts and business management are both interaction games. In draughts, a common strategy is to give up one or more of your pieces in order capture others from the other player, and that’s where I find the biggest business lesson: if you wanna take, be ready to give. That’s the headline. In business, a perfect game ends with a win-win situation, rather than a winner and a loser. In every business relationship I face, and I try to apply the same give-and-take strategy.
Yet we’re often taught that we need win outright in order to be successful. At school, teachers taught us that life would always be a competition, and that the students with the best grades will be the successful ones, working for the best companies with the best salaries. As adults, we are often taught that we need to compete against other work colleagues in order to succeed.
This is bad advice. It’s sometimes okay to give away a bit ourselves in order to achieve something greater. Sometimes we win; sometimes we learn.
Business relationships, like a draught match, are not made of one person. There’s always someone on the other side, and not everyone is willing to play the give-and-take game. Most people are only willing to take, and don’t really care about giving, or the win-win situation – as long as they win, that’s all that matters. That could work in a literal draughts match, but can get really unhealthy when it comes to business affairs.
It is not easy to find people who are both givers and takers – and when we do business with exclusively takers, we get frustrated because there is no fairness. The only way to succeed in business is to find give-and-takers.
There’s no way around it. As soon as you notice that you are doing business with a taker you need to leave the game and minimize your losses. Don’t try to teach a taker how to be a giver because you will only waste your time. Takers are takers, givers are givers. Make sure you only do business with givers-and-takers. And when money is involved in the game, the lesson you will learn can be very expensive. In some cases, the lesson can even ruin your life.
We can use the same analogy in a business environment where the players are business partners and associates, members of your team, suppliers, clients, the bank and the Government. We must improve our business skills to always play fairly with others. Let me describe briefly about a few ways you need to ‘play’ as a business owner:
Trust your partner
There are some players that we might choose to play only a few games of draughts with. Others, who we enjoy playing with, we might play hundreds of matches against over a lifetime. So it is with business partners.
You and your business partners need to trust one another. You both need to contribute together to manage and grow the business, be honest and transparent with each other. Having a good business partners increases the chances of business growth and success. You also need to understand that in some circumstances one partner may earn more than the other.
Problems arise when a partner wants only to take and not to give back to the business. Playing with a “taker” partner can mean a short term relationship, as the partner will always try to take advantage. The “giver” partner often ends up empty handed and frustrated. But if all business partners contribute to the company fairly, they can all reap financial and non-financial rewards.
Nurture your team
Not every draughts piece can become a king. As a business owner, you will learn that each individual in your team has a different goal and a different set of skills. They also have different needs. You need to be careful when you push employees who aren’t ready to go up a level. As the business grows, collaborators must be ready to take more responsibility. As business owners, we often assume that all the people working for us are fully committed to their careers. Sometimes we’re wrong. Some people want to learn and grow, some of them don’t. Some people are quick learners, some are not. We need to respect their time and not push them over the limit. Learn to ask first before you invite employees into a new role, for example.
We need to be able to give our team the right support tools if we want them to grow in our organization. We need to teach and give them enough training and orientation to undertake their responsibilities. It’s necessary give them good remuneration. In return, as an employer we expect our employees to do a good job. And finally we expect the support of our team and to always be respected.
The best individuals in your team are the ones who are always motivated. Obviously, you don’t need to give them orders to what to do because they are also happy to train and teach others. They don’t think only about themselves but they look after each other and they always think about the company first. They understand clearly that they are handling company’s clients and not their own clients.
Pick the right supplier
You need to select good suppliers. A good supplier is one which will help you to resolve a problem within a certain deadline at a reasonable price. They need to be ready to give you a certain level of support, advice and training when necessary. I recently changed the supplier of one of our departments and we are now far better than before. They were actually recommended by one of our best clients.
As your company grows, you realize that certain departments of your company which you do not give much attention to are often the most crucial ones. In my case, the IT department has been one. Another department has being marketing. Make sure you do an analysis of your company suppliers to make sure they are delivering a good service for you.
Sometimes, some of us are so busy on a day-to-day basis that we forget about analyzing our company’s suppliers closer. Good suppliers can make a huge difference to the success of your company. You need to make sure that you treated your suppliers fairly. As a client, you should understand your suppliers’ rules and procedures and always respect them. You need to be ready to exchange information and knowledge with them.
Ask them if they are happy with you as a client. Just paying them will not guarantee that they are always ready to help you, or pick up on your sense of urgency. That said, you should always pay them on time and pay them fairly. Each supplier has a different set of skills. Don’t expect to pay a professional player the same you’d pay an amateur player. And understand that you are paying a supplier to resolve an issue for you, not for the time you expect them to spend on you.
Be picky about who you take on as a client
Your company should always have satisfied clients – because when your clients are satisfied they recommend other people they know. Think about your clients carefully. Just like draughts players, there are good ones and bad ones. Good clients understand your business and always respect the give-and-take game. Good clients are likely to bring in other good clients.
On the other hand, there are some clients who only want to take advantage from you. They hardly ever agree to pay a fair price, and always complain about how expensive services are or how there are cheaper companies out there. Then, once they pay, they get demanding to the point that it drains all your business resources. You’ve probably already heard many times that clients have different wishes and needs. I think that’s correct but sometimes the way they try to get their needs met.
Find fresh faces in finance
It’s not easy to find good give-and-take players in finance. Usually, there are only a few big players on the high street. The happy news is there are new financial service providers coming into the market who offer different solutions than banks, and who genuinely care about and appreciate their clients. These new financial players know how to play the game very well, and companies are starting to notice them more and more. I have noticed good ones, especially in the lending segment, offering secured and non-secured loans, invoice discounting, working capital and asset finance.
Once you select a financial institution, you need to understand the give and take. The financial players must give you the right kind of support and help you with your financial needs and services required. You must treat them fairly and be ready to pay them well. You need to let them know as soon as possible should your company happen to face difficulty. Keeping them up to date is the best way to play a reasonable game.
Should you need financial solutions for your business, we can help through our Vertice Loan Programme.
Size matters not
As business owners our expectations are that we and our companies pay taxes and the government will supply to all citizens a good public service system.
Similarly, a game should be also played impartially, no matter the size of the companies. As business owners, we need to understand that we are contributing not only for ourselves but for society as a whole. As authentic business owners, we should behave fairly – but also accept the way the economy works and stop complaining when we think some contribute more than others.
Now, let’s make sure that we work hard to always give and take.