Carroll County Times

Carroll Business Path: Plan for moving forward

In hockey, the winner often is the team that better recognizes opportunities as they develop. One team's forwards will read the gaps better and jump into them. One team's goalie will better see how the play is developing and gain a split second that turns what would have been a goal against into a great save. The team that passes to where a teammate is, and not to where he is going, will be the loser. It's the same in business.
Most agree that Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player to have played the game. Outside of witnessing the results in actual game play, you would never have guessed he'd become known as "The Great One." He wasn't particularly fast. He certainly wasn't very big. His shot was never among the most intimidating. However, he holds virtually all records for scoring. Why? Gretzky had an extraordinary sense of anticipation on the ice.
In a real sense, hockey is played in the future. The team that performs best in the next few seconds based on what's happening right now is the team that will dominate.
The most inspirational and amazing stories of entrepreneurism generally involve superior anticipation and vision. They don't necessarily involve spectacular breakthroughs or game-changing innovation. Mostly, they are good examples of mastering the present in a way that allows the winner to more clearly see the near future.
Fred Smith, of FedEx, didn't invent overnight package delivery. He refined and improved the process for doing it cost efficiently. Kevin Plank, of Under Armour, didn't invent sportswear. He made it better and more versatile. The best small business owners consistently seek to similarly innovate incrementally. That requires taking the time to turn away from the day-to-day and turn one's attention instead to the near future. Some people are naturally given to this practice. Others may need to work harder to create the habit of dedicating time in their busy schedules for unencumbered thought about what's next.
Industry sector doesn't matter. Whether you're a restaurateur or tech firm or retailer or manufacturer, if you're not spending time thinking about and planning for the near future in terms of incremental innovation, you are putting your business and income at risk.
You probably wouldn't consider habitually skipping your meetings with your accountant or tax adviser, right? That's important to your business, so you make the time and you keep the appointments. But do you regularly schedule and keep appointments with yourself for brainstorming and creative thinking? If you don't, schedule those meetings today. Choose a time and place that takes you out of your everyday business environment. If you think better collaboratively, make a date with a friend or professional acquaintance to talk "possibilities." If you're playing your game in the near future like Gretzky did, you're on the right path.