Never Play Defense

I like experiencing a sporting event live, in the home town venue. But when I was sitting on the “classic” wooden seats of Fenway Park, watching a long drawn out pitchers’ dual was not quite as satisfying as cheering  through a slugfest.  Likewise, a cold hockey rink is a whole lot colder when there’s no scoring going on.  Face it.  Defense is boring.  Defense is draining.  But defense is part of the game.  That’s because, in sports. you take turns.  Your turn for offense, then your turn for defense.

Business is different.  First off, there’s no limit to the number of teams in the game at one time.  Second, and most importantly, no one is taking turns.

The Urge To Defend

We all have an innate urge to defend.  Look at any techie fanboy blog about simple product feature comparisons and see how long it takes for the comment postings to degrade into a cavalcade of emotional diatribes.  Companies are no different.  When faced with an unhappy customer/employee/investor, the instinctive reaction is to “circle the wagons and protect the company”.  Newsflash: you can’t make much progress heading west with your wagon train wrapped into a circle.

Conservation Of Energy

Just as in sports, defense takes a lot of energy from your business. Unlike sports, however, you don’t automatically get another turn at offense.  Neither are your competitors likely to take a turn at defense of their own volition.  That means, the more energy you put into defense, the less energy you have for offense.  And your competition, unencumbered by that drama, has a instant resource advantage.

To “D” Or Not To “D”

Let’s look at a few classic examples.  Do you spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to counter offer and retain a departing employee?  Or do you spend  time, energy, and money building an environment that everyone wants to be a part of?  Instead of retaining a, now un/marginally motivated, worker (who will in all likelihood leave within a year) you could have a steady stream of top players clamoring to be a part of the team, both inside and outside the company.

If a customer is upset about how a feature works (or doesn’t) do you counter with the product spec and show, in tedious detail, how things are supposed to work that way?  Or do you confirm that’s how things work for now, shower them with praise for being such a devoted member of the user base and send a discount on some popular item (actually asking them to buy more stuff from you)?

When your investors or market analysts bemoan a drop in earnings, do you painstakingly explain the specifics and impact of an upcoming product transition? Or, do you launch a PR campaign around a teaser announcement for the upcoming launch?

The Best Defense Is A Strong Offense

By driving the offense of the business, you create an infectious energy, mass and momentum that smoothes out the bumps in the road.  You focus on positive solutions to negative events.  Your energies are directed where they yield the greatest upside.

…and you don’t have to wait your turn.


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