Success in the business world is not about who is the smartest; research shows that IQ is largely unrelated to status in the corporate food chain. Success is not about who has the best education; only 14% of Fortune 500 companies are led by Ivy Leaguers. And success is not about who has the best funding or resources; many successful businesses started in garages, dining rooms, and the back of cars.
The single greatest influence on who achieves success in the business is preparation. The more prepared you are to confront the many challenges of corporate life, the more successful you will be.
As I noted in my January, 2008 post, Prime Business Alert! newsletter, your goal as a business person is to achieve Prime Business which I define as: "Performing at a consistently high level under the most challenging conditions."
To attain that lofty goal, you must engage in Prime Preparation which involves: "Maintaining consistently high quality efforts resulting in optimal preparation for maximum business success."
The purpose of all of your preparations is to perform your best in Prime Time which is: "Professional experiences that place you and your team under the most demanding conditions, faced with the most critical decisions, with the greatest rewards/risks on the line, in the most important business situation of your life" (think of Prime Time as your Super Bowl or Olympics).
With this understanding, I want to present to you my Ten Laws of Prime Preparation:
First Law: Preparation is the foundation of all business success. This preparation involves six important areas: 1) Essential information (e.g., goals, plans, strategies) ; 2) Task-specific knowledge and skills (e.g., R&D, finance, sales); 3) Crucial resources and tools (e.g., experts, computer programs, data systems); 4) Psychological and emotional capabilities (e.g., determination, confidence, resilience); 5) Interpersonal skills (e.g., leadership, empathy, assertiveness, communication, inspiration, decisiveness); 6) Physical health (e.g., illness free, rested, well nourished, fit).
Second Law: Success comes from the days, weeks, and months of preparation leading up to the culmination of those efforts. Many businesspeople believe that it's what happens on a key day (e.g., strategic-planning meeting, investor presentation) that matters. But I have found that success is determined more by what you do in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the crucial day. If you've put in the time and effort to develop yourself and your team in the six areas I described in the first law, then you will know that you have done everything you can to achieve your goals and you will perform your best on that important day.
Third Law: Three essential qualities necessary for business preparation and success are patience, persistence, and perseverance. Preparation takes time and you will experience many bumps along the road to Prime Business. Patience ensures that you realize that there are no shortcuts or easy roads to success. Persistence will get you to keep grinding away when you are tired, stressed, and bored. Perseverance will enable you to stay motivated and positive in the face of the inevitable obstacles and setbacks you will experience.
Fourth Law: You must take responsibility for everything that can impact your preparation and performance. Success is not a simple goal; there are usually many components that must be considered and steps that must be taken. You can not leave anything important to chance. To ensure that you are doing everything you can to achieve your goals, you must take responsibility for everything that might influence your efforts. Can you say with confidence that you have complete command over everything that might impact how you perform in Prime Time?
Fifth Law: The purpose of preparation is to develop effective skills and habits. When you have identified those six key areas from my First Law, you have a road map showing you what you need to do to achieve your goals. Education, training, experience, and teamwork that helps you fully develop all of those areas will ensure your complete preparation. These experiences will ingrain in you the essential skills you can then access when you arrive at Prime Time.
Sixth Law: Prime preparation requires a defined purpose, clear focus, and high energy every day. It's impossible to engage in quality preparation unless three things are present. You must have a clear purpose that tells you precisely what you're working on. With that purpose, you will make at best haphazard progress toward your goals. When you identify your purpose every day, you ensure that you put directed effort into that purpose. You must have a clear focus on that purpose which involves consistently concentrating on the task at hand and avoiding distractions that will interfere with that focus. You must have high energy to achieve prime preparation. All of your efforts will come to naught if you are not physically prepared (e.g., rested, relaxed, well nourished) to execute the purpose you have identified. When you have awareness and control of your energy, you enable your mind and body to direct all of its efforts toward your defined purpose.
Seventh Law: However you perform in your day-to-day work is how you will perform in Prime Time. When most people think of the best athletes (e.g., Peyton Manning, Serena Williams, Michael Phelps), they often believe that what makes them great is their ability to rise to the occasion in Prime Time. But what really makes them so successful is that what they do in Prime Time is really no different than what they do every day in their training. The same holds true in the business world. Your daily work efforts should be imbued with the same drive, intensity, and focus that you will need to tap into in Prime Time.
Eighth Law: Preparation is about the Grind. To be your best, you have to put a lot of time and effort into your preparations. I call this the Grind, which involves having to put hours upon hours of time into your work, well beyond the point that it is fun and engaging. If you let these immediate negative aspects of your work override your long-term goals of performing your best and achieving your goals, your motivation is going to suffer and you're not going to be as prepared as you can be and you won't perform at your highest level in Prime Time. Most businesspeople when they experience the Grind, that is, they get tired, frustrated, or bored, they either ease up or give up, all of which will hurt their preparations. What makes the great ones great is that they understand it is what happens when they arrive at the Grind that separates them from everyone else. When they hit the Grind, they push harder.
Ninth Law: Prime Preparation comes from "one more thing, one more time." You can assume that most of your competitors are working hard to become the best they can be. If you want to prevail over them, you must ask yourself, "What can I do to get the edge over them?" Here is a simple rule I learned from Bernhard Russi, the 1972 Olympic downhill skiing champion: "One more thing, one more time." When you feel you have done enough, do just a little bit more. By doing one more thing, one more time, you are doing that little bit extra that will prepare you for Prime Time and separate you from your competitors.
Tenth Law: All preparation is directed toward preparing you to perform your best in Prime Time. Anyone can perform well in unimportant situations, under ideal conditions, when they are totally "on their game." What makes the great ones great is their ability to perform their best when it really counts. Prime preparation will allow you to achieve Prime Business in Prime Time, your equivalent of the Super Bowl, Olympics, or soccer World Cup.