Jun 30, 2009

How Many Opportunites Should You Date Before Committing to One?

I dated a lot of girls before I met and married my wife Carly. 863 to be exact.

And of course, Carly is the best thing that ever happened to me.

For the 863 girls that didn't work out, perhaps -- I'm sure all 863 would probably agree -- I was the variable that needed refinement, adjustment and a greater dose of humility, preparation, and selflessness. Perhaps it just took time for me to qualify to be with someone in a marriage relationship - after all, it takes two or more independent people to make an interdependent relationship work.

One theory: I simply wasn't "marriage-worthy material" before meeting Carly. Dating lots of different girls helped me better understand who I am and what I needed to work on.

And so it is with business.

We sometimes jump wholeheartedly into businesses or investments without dating enough prospective deals, courting enough opportunities, and considering our own strengths, weaknesses, abilities and needs.

When Marriott got into security systems, theme parks, and cruise lines back in the 70's, it committed itself to businesses with little synergistic value, where there was no former experience or knowledge base from which to cross over. Sort of like marrying before really knowing the person you're courting. Marriott abandoned its own strengths, disciplines, and mind sets in an effort to diversify.

In marriage everything you have in common is an asset. Everything that you don't have in common is a liability. All too often, companies learn the same lessons apply to good business: the things you have in common with your acquisitions, new ventures and investments are more likely to be developed into assets. Conversely, the ventures that take you outside your circle of knowledge, expertise, and talent base are more likely to become liabilities.

So the 5 tid-bit lesson for today:

1) It's a numbers game. Date a lot of different opportunities, court a select few, marry wholeheartedly one (or at least one at a time).

2) Be selective. Commit only to those people or opportunities that you truly love, respect, and enjoy working with.

3) Work harder on you than the job itself. Prepare yourself and/or your company for "the marriage". Become the type of person or company you hope to attract - for teammates, customers, and investors.

4) Be willing to take risks. Opportunities come and go. The best ones may slip through our hands if we're not prepared for them, or willing to engage them.

5) Remember no one opportunity or person is perfect. Be willing to take an imperfect and awkward team member or a rehab business venture. Some of the best investments are the ones that need the most work.