Fighting to not lose

Do the work

I’ve had a number of conversations over the last couple of weeks during this pandemic about fighting to win versus fighting to not lose. They were spurred by the global shutdown but they are rooted in two very different business philosophies.

It is hard to talk about pushing for growth during a global crisis without sounding soulless but businesses need to grow to survive in the best of times. These certainly aren’t those. Fighting to win or to not lose is a mindset and sets a tone for the organization. It doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risk that puts everyone in jeopardy. It means focusing efforts in the right direction to build towards something other than getting by when the economy comes back to life.

Leaders focused on not losing tend to short their business. There is a growing voice that times like these are very entrepreneurial. This leads to much more competition in the market and many will look at rethinking established business practices. Plus, they have nothing to lose. They are thinking about growing, about taking. They will be aggressive. There have been massive layoffs in every industry and organizations that have let their people go just for survival won’t win. They won’t last. If a business is in peril and the layoffs are not to retool, refocus and come out in a better position for growth, then the leaders are focused on not losing.

Leaders focused on winning take the opportunities that are in front of them and make the hard calls to retool. They rethink their business and turn a terrible situation into a call to arms. They refocus the team on a greater goal which is to take from their competition or to find an entirely unique model to grow the business.

How do you know if your company is fighting to win or fighting to not lose? You know the answer to this already. If hunkering down to you means turning off all growth levers and conserving money without doing anything but that, you are fighting to not lose. Companies don’t exist to exist. They are here to grow or let the underbrush take hold.

Times like these also show holes in your current business model and may force you to rethink your offerings. Now is the time to do this. Once a company transitions from focusing on winning to focusing on not losing it is too late to think about recovery. This kind of thinking permeates the executive team and paralyzes the company because of it. It’s hard to shake the status quo when it is entrenched.

The common attribute in today’s successful leaders is always the fight to win. Jeff Bezos starts every single letter to his shareholders by reminding them this is day 1. It has been day 1 since 1996 because, as he says, day 2 means Amazon has lost its relevance. This is fighting to win.