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Five Lessons Games Can Teach You About Running A Business

Serial entrepreneur. CEO&Founder of Mirai Flights, a service for instant booking of charter flights. Founder & Owner of Aim of Emperor Group

Gamification is everywhere. From business and education to productivity and advertising, we have fallen in love with the idea of adding a game element to our everyday lives. We even incorporate gaming terminology into our everyday speech (think “leveling up” and “unlocking achievements”). 

I embrace this idea. In fact, I’ve always treated creating any kind of business as a strategy game. Of course, the game I’m playing has higher stakes than Risk or Catan, but I think entrepreneurs can take some valuable pointers from the game world. 

So, let’s play business. 

1. Understand your game.

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Have you ever tried to play a complex game without knowing the rules? Even worse, have you ever been tasked with explaining the rules to a complicated strategy game when you don’t fully understand them yourself? Starting a business without a foundational understanding of your market and your strengths is like trying to teach someone to play Catan when you’ve only played once. You might be able to stumble your way through it, but it won’t be enjoyable, and you’ll almost certainly lose out on essential aspects of the game. 

Anyone building a business should understand the fundamentals of their field. If you’re not an expert in at least a few aspects of the company you’re creating, you can’t succeed. 

2. Look for ways to level up.

I turned my business into a multifunctional and diverse set of companies by realizing I had many more levels to “unlock” when it came to customer care. I started out selling charters and then realized I could level up my offerings if I had a fleet of aircraft at my disposal. From there, I saw that I could level up again by branching into refueling and other related areas.

Entrepreneurs can think of this as a tower defense game. In the beginning, you must start small and work hard to survive. As time progresses and you get a better idea of how you want your future setup to look, you can build upon those small, basic starting materials and begin to branch out more and more.

For instance, in your game (aka your business), maybe you’ve started with a basic wooden structure that can’t withstand much hardship. As you spend more time learning game mechanics (i.e., understanding your field better), you gain access to sturdier building materials, allies to help you grow your holdings and new ways to expand.

Once you have all of this knowledge, you gain the ability to build smaller companies or divisions within your core company. Now you can level up to something more profitable.

3. Always take the initiative.

I like to think of business like Pac-Man: You should always be hungry, but you should also be prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice. You never know what kind of changes will be thrown your way, so staying active and seeking out potential challenges before they arise can help you remain successful when hardships occur. 

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The pandemic taught us that we couldn’t prepare for everything. Still, I’ve learned that constantly analyzing and anticipating customer needs helps you stay agile even when something like a global pandemic throws a wrench in your plans. 

4. Know when you’ll say, ‘Game over.’

Entrepreneurship isn’t an endless game of Bejeweled where you just keep plugging along until everything busts. I give every business a lifespan of three years. By then, I believe the company should be breaking even at worst. If we’ve reached the three-year mark and there are projections that the company can break even or become profitable within the next quarter, I give it a “bonus life.” However, if it doesn’t turn around in that time, it’s game over, no exceptions. 

Having a set timeframe to “play your game” keeps you from dragging out a failed business idea. For me, I simply shutter the business, evaluate what went wrong and move on. Remember that you should never hold yourself hostage to a failing situation. Sometimes you just need to hit that reset button and start a new game. 

5. Upgrade your party to upgrade the game.

Anyone who knows me knows I believe you’re only as strong as your team. Games like Dungeons and Dragons rely on your ability to create a strong team that can fight together and fill the gaps of each other’s weaknesses. For instance, if you create a party of all healers, nobody has the skills needed to fight monsters or learn practical magic. Or, maybe you make a party with different skills, but you never give them the chance to level up because you’re racing to fulfill your main quest. 

The point here is that you need differently skilled people who share your passion and goals, and you need to help them grow to remain successful. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re not the best marketer or programmer. Don’t hesitate to add someone stronger than you to your team. Seek out party members to enhance the whole team and make the game that much more fun. 

One final strategy is to remember that it’s often best to share power. When you have other strong team members, keep them invested in the game by giving them the authority and autonomy to do the job in a way that plays to their strengths. 

People are often amazed to hear about how long I’ve collaborated with other team members. To me, it’s normal because they’re not working for me; they’re working with me. I support their growth, they support mine and we win our game together. 

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It’s all about the game.

Sometimes, the way to succeed in life is to look at your situation through a radically different lens. I suspect that likening your business to working your way through a game is a brand-new perspective for most entrepreneurs. Whether you’re currently building a company or in the thick of it, always remember your favorite games often hold valuable lessons for both business and life.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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