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Are you 'Playing to Win' or 'Playing Not to Lose'?

In any competitive endeavor there are two prevailing mindsets – there are those who are playing to win the ‘game’ and there are those who are playing not to lose. Business owners are playing the game of business. Each player in this game has quite a bit at stake. Statistics reveal that the majority of most business owner’s wealth is tied to their business and those same owners are reliant upon the income from their businesses for their livelihood. With so much on the line and with an ailing economy, one needs to ask themselves whether they are playing this game of business to win or not to lose – the answer can make all of the difference towards your exit.

What Does Playing to Win Mean?
Owners who play to win are those who are looking at the opportunities within their business the same way that they did when they first got into business – they look out ‘over the horizon’ and see that they have chosen an industry – and perhaps a niche within that industry – which holds great promise for future profits. They survey the structure of their organization and see that there are opportunities for continual improvement to the efficiencies. They seek out partners and investors who believe in what they are doing and convince them to further invest in their business.

By contrast, owners who are playing not to lose see things quite differently. These owners look upon the past as the most prosperous times and that the present is merely here to assist them in transitioning out of the business. These owners cannot see a path to returning to the profitability of the ‘old’ days. They look at the speed at which business moves in today’s global economy and are bewildered instead of inspired to participate. In this regard, these owners feel fortunate to continue to have what is left of their businesses after this Great Recession and are simply looking not to lose anymore.

Your Mindset and Your Exit
These competing mindsets will impact the effectiveness of your business exit.
If you consider that someone other than you will be running your business in the future, what type of future owner will you attract with each of these mindsets? In stock market investing, it is statistically more profitable to purchase a stock that is steadily rising in price rather than trying to buy ‘on the cheap’, or when a stock has dropped so low that you feel you can purchase it ‘at the bottom’. Only the rare few investors can profit from this ‘buy at the bottom’ strategy. Rather, the majority of investors recognize that a company that continues to perform well is worth investing in – not one that loses a large amount of value and then recovers sharply.

This analogy is used to raise two important points.

First, business owners should treat their businesses likes investments and not like jobs. In this regard, owners should focus on ‘winning’ the game – holding themselves to the same standards that they hold their expectations for their other investments. Unfortunately, too many owners let emotions get in the way and they consciously and/or subconsciously quit because they are not living the lifestyle that they desired. This is particularly true in difficult times.

Next, it stands to reason that your future owner will judge the viability of owning your business primarily upon how you perceive the current opportunities within your business. A projection of a positive mindset towards growth and increase resonates with human nature. A negative mindset towards protecting what one has and is trying not to further lose repels those future owners who want to be a part of something positive. It is therefore your mindset that has always, and will continue until the time of your exit, impact your ultimate success.

Always remember that your future owner has choices that you may not have – they have not invested as much time, effort, energy and resources into the business as you have. Therefore, they have choices as to where they will commit their future. Remembering that the market giveth and taketh away, as well as understanding that the marketplace does not owe your business anything, are two key reasons to keep competing and playing the game to win.

And, always remember that it is your job to illustrate the potential of your businesses’ future to your new owner. Too many exiting owners mistake that burden to belong to their future owner. This is a mistake that can cost one deeply.

When you ‘play to win’, you build a new mindset into your company and can expect that a future owner will see and respect that. Moreover, they will be in a position to pay you for the future potential of your business. For all of these reasons, you need to find the necessary sources of inspiration to look past this difficult economic time and reignite the spark of interest that you had when you set out to originally ‘win’ in business. This, more than any other single thing that you do, will impact the success of your business exit.

Always remember that just as chance favors the prepared mind, so does success favor those owners who have the right mindset for their exit.

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