What can TF2 teach you about business?
I got into a conversation this morning with a friend of mine about online multiplayer games – he’s a big fan of Halo 3, we both liked Call of Duty 4, but he had never played Team Fortress 2! (currently the best 1st person multiplayer game out there in my opinion).
So that got me to thinking what Team Fortress 2 could teach us about running a small business. If you’re not familiar with the game, here’s a quick overview from the publisher’s website:
Unlike other “class-based” games that offer a variety of combat classes only, Team Fortress 2 packs a wild variety of classes which provide a broad range of tactical abilities and personalities, and lend themselves to a variety of player skills.
Play as the flame-throwing Pyro, the room clearing Heavy, or the Spy, a master of disguises. Other classes include: Scout, Sniper, Medic, Engineer, Demoman, or Soldier.
Basically you play several variations of Capture the Flag types of games online with friends and strangers potentially anywhere in the world.
Here are a few key lessons that I came up with:
It’s important to have friends watching your back!
If you haven’t played, the picture above is a medic in the background making sure that the ‘Heavy’ is staying healthy (using the handy health ray).
You take a lot of shots as a business owner – whether it’s getting shot down by a potential client, getting hammered by rising prices from your vendors or just facing your fears (of bankers, networking, selling, marketing, whatever it might be).
Those are the times when you need a friend or two that can help pick you up and keep you healthy or sane.
(As a side note – Peer Group Advisory Boards are great for this, a dedicated support group of other business owners and a business coach that will tell you like it is, but also give you great ideas and encouragement. Check out this PAGE if you’d like more information on the idea!!!)
It’s critical to build up your infrastructure
These engineers are building defensive structures to protect their base from being overrun by the competition.
That’s really similar to the systems, plans and processes the business owner needs to be building to stay out in front of the competition. Way too often you see business owners that are making everything work just by working really hard.
Hard work and skill will take you a long way, but eventually you will wear down and if you don’t have some systems in place that allow you to take a break, a vacation, or just some time to focus on the big picture, you will have problems.
Sometimes you need to stay above the fray!
Let’s face it, business can be hard and it’s even harder when you are trying to slog it out down in the mud with everyone else.
Just like this soldier is doing, sometimes you need to take the road less traveled and find another, better way to get your message or product out the door.
If everyone in your industry is using Yellow Page ads as the primary source of visibility, you either need to make your ad stand out, or consider trying something different.
If everyone else is charging hourly rates for what you do, maybe you should consider charging some sort of flat rate or bundling together common services – something that will make you stand out.
Bottom line, if you hang out in the crowd and follow everyone else’s lead, it’s really difficult to get ahead.
Don’t get too focused on the day to day stuff
Just like this sniper is about to learn the hard way, if you don’t keep your head up and look around, bad things can come up and give you a nasty surprise!
A lot of people I know are what I would call ‘crisis junkies’. They thrive on finding fires and do a great job of managing those fires and putting them out…then they move on to the next fire. Sometimes, when there’s not a fire, they’ll start one just so they can put it out.
It’s a great skill set to have, but if you can’t pull yourself away from the details on a regular basis and look around you, you are going to have problems. It’s not easy to do, but it’s the single best thing I know of that will help you consciously grow your business. (another side note, this is what coaches are really good at helping you do…) 😉
The last point
If you were looking for ways to rationalize why it’s okay to play Team Fortress 2 more often (not that I know of anyone like that), now you’ve got plenty of reasons to consider it ‘research’ for the real world of small business.
It’s a great game, I would highly recommend it – and remember it is important to stop and smell the roses (or fire the rocket launcher) every now and then!
Tell me about your favorite game – I’d love to hear your lessons learned!
Shawn Kinkade www.aspirekc.com