IBM is one of the most well-known technology companies the world over. Its success has been envied by many tech-startups. But it's success hasn’t been in a stroke of luck but a strategic method of business.
What did Tom Watson, the founder of IBM do, to make his company successful?
He built it with an end vision in mind. When speaking about the company Watson would say he had a clear picture in his mind. A picture of what the company would look like when he was done.
Once he had that picture, he asked ‘how would a company that looked like that, act?’
IBM acted like that company from the very beginning.
They continued to reflect on how they were doing with acting in line with their vision, on an ongoing basis.
When it’s broken down like this, we can see some clear strategy at play here. IBM had a vision of how they wanted their company to be. Then they thought about how they’d act if they were like that. Then they decided to act that way from day one.
IBM didn’t wait for 'one day' to start conducting themselves like the business they wanted to be. No, they acted as if they were already in that place already. They set up operations and business with their ultimate business ideals in mind. They kept reflecting, considering how they had done that day and how they could improve to be closer to their ideal.
So what can we learn for our own businesses?
These are all questions that are important to ask about your business. Particularly as you’re starting out. Know your answers to these and other vision questions. It will help you keep your focus as you build your business. If you don’t have direction, you can quickly lose that first spark of enthusiasm.
1. Be strategic in how your business operates.
Don’t just as ‘what work is there to do?’ but ask, ‘How must the business work?’. Think about how businesses you admire function. What elements of how they look, act and how they fulfill their function, would you want to adopt?
It can be easy at this stage to become disheartened by your level of resources. As a small business, your funds or people power might be much more limited than the companies you admire.
But that doesn’t mean you should write these things off. Your business attitude, culture and many other factors of operation can be shifted to be in line with your vision, for a low financial investment. It may take some creativity in the early days, but it’s possible.
2. Start as you mean to finish.
Waiting for ‘someday’ to act like this business you want to be, won’t get you far. You’ll likely never be ready 100% to act in line with your vision. But the desire to do so, and acting on it, is important.
Maybe you’re feeling like your business is too small to ask for referrals. Like you haven’t been around long enough to put yourself out there and ask for speaking opportunities or attend networking events. Worried about other more experienced, or younger practitioners dismissing you?
Don’t limit yourself unnecessarily. Stretch your comfort zone. There’s a reason ‘fake it until you make it’ is popular. Sometimes, the only one who limits yourself, is you. Imposter syndrome is real and frightening. But you don’t have to let it hamper the way your business acts. Be bold and act the way you know the business of your dreams would. You might not always make it, but you’ll be closer than if you didn’t try at all.
3. Business owners need to reflect.
Like we said above, you won’t always make it. But IBM considered how they could do better next time. You should to. What’s the difference between how your business is acting now, and how they’d act if you were in the place you’ve been dreaming of? What can you do to shorten the distance between the two.
A successful business is a process. It’s reflecting regularly and taking intentional steps toward your vision.
As Tom Watson puts it:
“Every day at IBM was a day devoted to business development, not doing business. We didn’t do business at IBM, we built one.”
What Our Users Are Saying