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In strategy games, macromoves are plays made with the end in mind. If you play video games, you are undoubtedly familiar with the concept. If not, you can ask any gamer how they approach making progress and winning the game. There are two philosophies: One is reactionary — making emotional decisions on the fly, looking only at the threats faced at that moment. The other is macromoves — playing the long game with a global perspective, anticipating threats and exercising patience.
Nearly half of all new businesses fail within the first five years. Whether a college graduate or a veteran entrepreneur, you will face real challenges launching a new business with plenty of legitimate threats. While it’s tempting to believe that you can walk right into the job of CEO, it’s important to take the time to make macromoves: patient moves made with purpose that help establish a healthy growth pattern, ensuring that your business will thrive despite challenges that prove catastrophic for the less prepared.
Envision your future role
Gaming requires you to put yourself in a role, taking a virtual tour through the new reality, “playing” as someone else. In business, a good place to start is projecting your ideological “self” into the future, using your imagination and your senses. Ask yourself, “What will I be wearing when I step into this position?” “Will I have a corner office with a view, or do I see myself working outside?”
How many of us have taken entry-level jobs and left because the environment was oppressive? It’s important to visualize the culture and workspace you want when developing your business concept. The right environment can give you a sense of purpose, camaraderie and support your creativity. If you want to work there, your staff will as well.
You can start “envisioning” by decorating the walls of your room or office with images that reflect your dreams, or you can create a vision board, cutting out photos, phrases, names of heroes or whatever motivates you. A vision board can help you get a sense of what inspires you and how your inspirations could be connected.
Immerse yourself in the field
When you begin to carve out a plan, make it a point to study the roles people fulfill in the business you want to start. For some newbies, it could mean interviewing people who do your desired job. Getting an entry-level job in your field of interest could be the answer for others. After I decided I wanted my own talk show, I sat in the audience of Dr. Phil, The Price is Right and Leeza, watching the host go through rehearsals, pre-production and filming.
Those who start from the bottom, gaining their experience from the ground up, make the best CEOs. As your knowledge and experience grow, you will develop your ideas about launching your enterprise and set realistic goals.
As you observe how business is done, keeping a journal can help you define what you want — and don’t want — in your corporate culture. Writing about your observations can help you determine the synergy you want in the workplace.
Make purposeful connections
In many strategy games, coordination with allies is key. The course of a career is not determined merely by classes and internships; we learn from people, from the connections we make and the experiences we take with us. This strategy requires teachability. You may not always recognize a teacher in your midst — we don’t usually think of a custodian, cashier or receptionist as a business coach. But the CEO often learns from the secretary. The manager learns from the customer service agent. If you’re dreaming of launching a business, talk to those on the front lines, ask questions and find out what they think about the company’s strengths and weaknesses.
It’s important to be open and accessible to learning. Be aware of when a person comes into your life, even as a friend, a coworker or a roommate. There’s an old saying, “Iron sharpens iron.” Your life can be enriched by someone who challenges you to think differently about situations, plans, and goals. One person can ask the right question — the one you’ve not had the guts to ask yourself — such as, “Why do you want to start this business?” or “Who is going to be your sounding board?” You need people, but you never know where you might encounter them. Keep your eyes and ears open whether you are at a burger stand or in the parking lot at Walmart.
Watch the competition
In strategy games, the phases in which you are most vulnerable are the most important parts of the game. There are two considerations: your ability to defend your security and expand your economy. In business, it’s vital to understand the situation and the environment you are navigating. Watching your competition teaches you what they are doing well and where they are weak. There you will find your advantage.
Many businesses falter at a particular breaking point; they fail to capitalize on their unique advantages while pressing on with their traditional strategy. In games and business, if you have an edge and do not press it, you give up something — perhaps something vital to growth. Growth trumps vision. Your vision can be based so much on tradition that it is difficult to embrace change, envision new ways of doing things or create new products; an old vision can keep you stuck in an obsolete business model. The competition may see you as predictable or irrelevant.
One way to gauge the competition is to study companies, looking up blogs, reviews and articles to uncover weaknesses and strengths. You will learn what people are complaining about, what companies do right, and where they stand to improve.
Launching a career is about planning out the moves, a long game in which you are setting yourself up for success, much like playing chess. Although you can’t control every aspect of your destiny, you can deploy a game-winning strategy so that, when opportunity comes, you are ready.