Is running a business a bit like playing tetris?

You can learn quite a bit about how well a business is run by how well it copes with those inevitable bumps in the road. It may be something that is beyond our control:

  • a key supplier goes out of business or stops selling a critical component,
  • an important customer insists on new terms or switches to the competition,
  • a key member of staff leaves at short notice,
  • new legislation comes in which puts us at a disadvantage...

Or it may be that we messed up in some way - we got an order wrong or missed out something important  or failed to set appropriate expectations. All businesses face these types of problems. It is how they deal with them that differentiates between the successful and the unsuccessful.

How most businesses (don't) work

In many ways there are parallels to playing Tetris. I've taken a slightly artificial example to illustrate how many businesses operate.
You will notice that the bottom of the picture is partially obscured - in real life we often fail to capture or use the information we need to manage the business effectively. We can be so tied up managing the day to day and reacting to each challenge as it comes that we don't have the time to spot the opportunities and threats coming at us further down the line.

A block being out of place means we need to focus all our efforts on fixing that issue. In making up for the misplaced piece, we lose time, can not plan ahead so easily and thus make more mistakes. We simply don't have the spare capacity to do both at the same time. With any system close to full utilisation small problems can rapidly escalate into crises.

This is how many people manage their business. It is not all bad. It can be fun firefighting, sorting out problems. Don't we all enjoy the adrenalin buzz of being indispensable, of living life in the fast lane? Isn't this the one of the main attractions of computer games? But energy spent here is energy that cannot be spent developing the business.

A smarter way

The next example is much less fun, perhaps even boring. But this is what you need to be aiming for in the day to day operations of the business. What seems to make leading sportsmen better than the competition?It is time. It is almost as if time slows down for them. In business, it is you who have the information and the time you need. You are in control and like a top sportsman you make it look easy. There are fewer unpleasant surprises.

This allows you to focus your efforts on what is important to you, whether this is developing new products or services, improving existing offerings, attracting new customers, selling more to existing customers, working on operations or simply allowing you to relax knowing that the business continues to generate sales and profit with little day to day input from you.

So it's your choice. What kind of business do you want? If it is the second one then you should get in touch to see how we can help.


A big thank you to Narjas at iNKLINGS for coming up with the concept and creating the videos.

About Jonathan Nicholls

Passionate about improving business performance
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