Today's Kallum with a K blog: In business (and in life!) there are things we know and things we don’t know.
There are some things we just can't predict that can completely derail us.
Or you could say, “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know”.
This was an answer which Donald Rumsfeld, then US Secretary of Defence, gave on February 12th 2002, when questioned about the Iraq war, by the Department of Defence (DoD). Forgive the morbid context, however, the concept in this response is applicable to running a company.
And it is the “unknown unknowns” which can be particularly dangerous for business owners.
How can you possibly prepare for things that you don’t know about...? How do you de-risk situations which you can’t forsee...? Is it even possible to prepare for these...?
You can’t fully brace yourself for these circumstances, however, that doesn't mean you should do nothing about them!
One way to better prepare yourself is by speaking to other business owners or a business mentor. You can gain insights into what to expect, and learn from their mistakes and how they overcame challenges.
You don’t run a business for very long without gaining some battle scars!
Another suggestion is to consume, consume, consume!
Read blogs, articles and books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, attend workshops and events. Educate yourself and become a geek about business!
I love autobiographies, there’s something fascinating about reading how someone else overcame the odds. It doesn’t need to be just business based! I’ve read autobiographies about: wrestlers (Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels), musicians (Billy Idol, Metallica, Guns n Roses), and chefs (Gordon Ramsay). There are lessons that are transferable and applicable to what I’m doing.
Finally, with good systems and pro-actively planning, you can better prepare yourself for the worst, should it happen. Training manual, handbooks and processes for everything. A system that runs without you is the dream for many.
It can take years to pull this off properly, however, by starting this you can take steps towards this and make your whole operation much stronger.
Ensure you really stress test your business systems and get others to try and break them!
A final thought (ok, I lied earlier!), which I thought would be a nice way to round this blog off. I heard this statement during a podcast the other day (and I’m very annoyed I can’t remember which one!): “Business doesn't get easier, however, you become a better business person”.
You grow in confidence, skills and intuition. Much like driving, you should get better over time. You can just “sense” when things are not quite right - you can anticipate other motorists and react to unforeseen weather or incidents on the road.
Business is the same, and you learn to rely more on your gut than anything else at times.
What unknown unknowns have you encountered in business?
What strategies have you developed for preparing or overcoming these?
Are you really ready for unknown unknowns?
Kallum with a K