Business is game. And, like all games, it has winners and losers. How can you set up your business for success?
Here are 12 tips from Survivor, the television show that has been a staple on CBS since 2000.
1. Form Alliances
The idea of forming alliances on Survivor started in the first season when Richard Hatch realized that being a winner on the show meant surviving the votes, not the physical conditions. No matter your business, you can’t know it all. You may know your industry, but do you know marketing or accounting or tax law? Rather than trying to do it all by yourself, partner with others who are experts in their fields.
Even if you’re a one-person show, form strategic alliances that allow you to focus on what you do best.
2. Expect the Unexpected
Fans of Survivor love blindsides. At tribal council, players gather to vote off one member of their team. Usually, a handful of players thinks it has a rock-solid plan going into tribal council. Then the blindside happens. Sometime during the day, a different alliance forms and manages to swing the votes its way, voting off one of the players who thought he or she was completely safe.
In business, the unexpected happens regularly. A key employee quits. You lose a client. Computers go down. You can’t control the unexpected.
All you can control is your mindset.
Rather than getting upset or stressing out, focus on a solution to the problem, not the problem itself.
3. Find the Idol
In Survivor, immunity idols protect players from being voted out of the game. These idols are usually hidden around each teams’ camp (see below for what not to do when it comes to idols). Bottom line: immunity idols give players an edge and more power in the game.
What edge does your business have that you can use to your benefit?
For example, rather than being another plumber in town, be the plumber who shows up within 15 minutes of the scheduled time or the visit is free. If you’re a dentist, be the one who has Saturday appointments. Your edge can be anything that distinguishes you from the competition. Find your idol and make sure everyone knows that you have it.
4. Put Others First
Every season, one player sneaks away from camp to try to find a hidden immunity idol. The only problem is, everyone else back at camp notices. This selfish act instantly puts a target on that player’s back. In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek describes how great organizations are formed when leaders sacrifice their own comfort for the good of those in their care. This selflessness galvanizes teams and creates leaders that employees will follow anywhere.
5. Vote Out Weak Players
Winning challenges on Survivor keeps teams from attending tribal council where they have to vote off a tribe member. The more you win, they less likely you are to be voted off. Weak players who can’t help their teams win challenges bring down the entire team and increase everyone’s chances of being voted off.
Is there a weak player on your team?
“Weak” can mean poor performing or a negative attitude. If anyone in your organization is bringing down the rest of the team, vote them off immediately. Firing anyone is difficult. But making your team and your business suffer is worse.
6. Go Back to the Basics
Players in Survivor can sometimes go against each other in a fire-making challenge. The winner stays in the game. The loser goes home. This most basic skill can literally mean the difference of winning or losing a million dollars. In business, it’s easy to waste time by focusing on important, but not essential, issues:
- Should I be on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram … or all three? What about Snapchat?
- Should we change our logo?
- Should we switch our project management system?
The list of things you could focus on is endless. The list of what you should focus on is short:
- Provide great customer service.
- Deliver an amazing product or service.
- Support your employees.
7. Don’t Annoy People
Getting along with others helps players go farther in Survivor. Rude, disrespectful and annoying people typically get voted out – whether they’re strong players or not – simply because people can’t stand being around them.
As a business owner, being rude, disrespectful, or annoying (to customers, clients or employees) serves no one and only hurts your business game.
8. Take Care of Yourself
When a player wins a challenge, they get an immunity necklace which means they can’t be voted out at tribal council. Being in shape before the game increases a player’s odds of winning and staying in the game. Small business owners tend to put in long hours, which often leads to poor diet and lack of exercise. Just like in Survivor, this is a bad move.
You can’t serve your business if your body isn’t serving you.
Eat well. Exercise. Sleep. If you stay healthy, so will your business.
9. Make Others Feel Special
In 2018, a lawyer from Williamsburg, Kentucky, Nick Wilson, won Survivor. How did he do it? In part, his success came from nicknames. Rather than simply shaking hands with other players and saying that they were in an alliance, Nick created nicknames for his multiple alliances. “The Rock Stars,” “Mason-Dixon,” “Surf ‘n Turf.” These names strengthened the bonds Nick had with these other players because they made them feel special. What are you doing day in and day out to make your customers and employees feel special?
For customers, immediate responses to inquiries or complaints is essential.
For employees, handwritten notes of appreciation make them feel valued. Your actions don’t have to be huge. But making the extra effort can make a tremendous difference.
10. Get Personal
At the end of Survivor, players who have been voted out now have to vote for someone to win the game. They generally vote for the person who played the best game – but also for someone they like. Getting people to like you requires you to take an interest in them. Do you know what’s going on in your employees’ lives? Do you talk to your customers and show concern for them? Be a good listener and people will like you – resulting in loyalty from your employees and customers.
11. Play the Game
On Survivor, players who don’t have their head in the game, usually get voted off early. In business, the game is on. Now. Right now. Every minute of every day. What does this mean? It means trying to perfect everything first won’t work.
You need to move forward – and then course correct if something’s not working. For example, you may want to run Facebook ads. You could spend days, weeks and months preparing what you think is the perfect campaign. Or, you can get something going now and, if it’s not working, adjust. Then adjust again.
In business, there are no sidelines. You’re always in the game.
(Side note: Since business is always on, be sure to enjoy the ride. You will surely have ups and downs, but if you’re not enjoying the game, why are you playing it?)
12. Remember What’s Important
About three or four weeks into Survivor, the remaining players get visited by loved ones from back home. Whether it’s a spouse, parent or sibling, the players always break down crying. Watching on TV, it seems odd that the players would get so emotional after being away a relatively short time. However, at the end of the day, we see what matters.
Sure, winning a million dollars would be amazing. But, without anyone to share in the joy, the victory would not be as sweet.
Same with your business. If you spend all of your time on your business but neglect your family, will your success be worth it? With hard and smart work, you can win the business game.
By remembering what’s most important, you’ll be the biggest winner of all.