A few years ago, John Navin wrote an article on Forbes that described what he learned about risk-taking from Blackjack. While an interesting read, it felt that there was a lot more to learn about business from blackjack than the protocols for risk-taking. Like entrepreneurism, everyone thinks that it’s easy to be a good Blackjack player, but it’s not, and there is a lot you need to learn before you become successful in either Blackjack or business.
Risks are good, but they need to be calculated
If you have yet to realise that winning in Black takes more than just luck, then you should read Ladbrokes’s Blackjack guides and strategy tips. Their guide on how to play the game illustrates perfectly how much strategy is needed to play the game and how necessary it is to think over your options. In Blackjack, you take risks, but these are not baseless risks. These risks have logic and rationalisation behind them, which is exactly what you need to apply to the risks that you take in your business. You should never just go with your gut when you make a decision. You need to read around your options and have reliable data and logic backing up every decision. If there is no evidence supporting the benefits of your decision, then don’t take the risk.
Streaks are easily broken
Confidence is your best friend and your worst enemy. After experiencing a streak of losses or wins, many of us get into the mind set at the Blackjack tables that our luck has been set in stone. For winners, this leads to their confidence sky rocketing and bad decisions being made. For losers, this leads to confidence taking a steep downward turn and potential opportunities being passed up for the sake of avoiding more failure.
At the Blackjack table, you need to think about every round as though it’s the first. All of the losses and wins of the past don’t matter, and none of them will have any influence over your current cards. You need to have the same attitude when you run a business: just enough confidence to take beneficial risks, but enough humility to know when you’re risking too much.
Know when it’s time to quit
When you’re playing Blackjack, you can’t be too cocky. You need to know when it’s time to mix things up and when it’s time to quit. One thing that Blackjack and being an entrepreneur have in common is that once you’ve started playing, you can’t give up the game without losing something in the process. In Blackjack, you enter a wager and even if you surrender early, you’re stilling losing half of your wager. In business, you start up a project and before you have even started working on anything, you have already lost some of your budget, your resources and your time in the process of setting everything up. However, the threat of that loss doesn’t imply that you need to see things to the end all the time.
In Blackjack, you have two chances to surrender and as you pass each chance, the penalty of losing increases. Similarly, when you keep working on a project that’s just not working, you’re just pumping money into it without any guarantee of getting anything back from it. In which case, experiencing some loss by quitting before you’re in too deep is not always bad and in a lot of cases it’s a way better option that continually investing in a failing project just to see it through to the end.
Put your focus in the right place
A lot of businesses tend to find guidance in the wrong places. When companies run out of creative ideas, 9/10 times they’ll start their search with their competitors. They will look at what their competitors are doing and follow a similar formula. This is why there tends to be patterns and trends within industries and why many advertising campaigns within certain industries have begun to look eerily similar and repetitive. But, if you want to succeed, then you need to realise where your focus has more value, which is not with your competitors, but with your customers – which, in the case of Blackjack, would be the dealer as opposed to the people you sit next to. So, if you want to succeed in business, learn from your competitors but focus on the customer.
There are no guarantees
Sometimes, you can do everything right, follow your strategy to the letter, and still fail. Failing doesn’t always mean that you did something wrong and even if you feel that you have a guaranteed winner, you need to learn to hold back a little in case the unexpected happens. So, in business, you might have an idea that everyone believes will blow the market and all of the statistics will point to a success, but life doesn’t always follow statistics. Just know that while crunching numbers and researching will help you succeed, they won’t guarantee it.