All You Need is … Luck

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    Over the years, I’ve reviewed books and articles about business planning, and written some myself, but I can’t remember one of them that said much about luck. Sure, risk – which is really bad luck – comes up often. Watch out for things like slow sales growth, unexpected competitors, new regulations, price drops, expensive labor costs, and so on. Prepare suitable contingency plans. And then, if a business goes under, one of the usual suspects that always shows up is, well, we were just plain unlucky.

    Yet I can’t recall ever hearing a successful business owner say: Gosh, we were just plain lucky. Somehow the stars were aligned, the market took off on its own, our competitors were asleep at the switch. Sure, we executed well, but without all that luck on our side, we’d have sunk before we left the harbor. Nope — mostly they talk about the things they did well.

    In contrast, I think luck is a significant unsung partner for most successful startups. Not the only factor, but a big one, one that does not get the credit it deserves.

    So are there things you can do to have better luck? First, position your business plan to take quick advantage of good fortune when it comes your way. Stay closely tuned to the marketplace, with multiple informal and formal sources of information. In business, who you know does matter, not just what you know. But you have to keep in touch with them or it doesn’t matter. Secondly, as with life, a positive attitude enables you to see opportunities — which are really a form of luck — more readily. I believe a positive attitude actually also helps attract better luck. There are no guarantees in business, but in my experience the optimists (with enough pragmatism to keep them honest) succeed more often than the pessimists.

    So be hard-nosed but also be optimistic about your business. Good luck!

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    For more resources, see our Library topic Business Planning.