A Navy SEAL's Advice: 3 Strategies to Boost Your Chances of a Business/Battlefield Win

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Earlier in my career, I was a Navy SEAL. And I remember how, when we planned a mission, there were certain criteria we looked to, to tip the balance of power on the battlefield in our favor. If we hadn't followed those criteria, we would have placed ourselves at a disadvantage and given the enemy the upper hand.

Related: 5 Project-Planning Tips to Help You Meet Your Goals

That's not so different from what happens in the startup world: There are certain considerations to integrate when planning for success, and there are also key factors to avoid: no-nos that are an inevitable means toward failure.

After all, the only differences between planning a mission on the battlefield vs. a mission in business -- at least in my experience -- are semantics and the end state.

Sure, the results on the battlefield have more at stake than those with a startup, but your goal of applying human applications like performance, adaptability and leadership in order to win are exactly the same. So, to increase your own chances of success amidst a constantly changing environment and keep your business alive, keep the following three strategies in mind as you outline your next plan:

1. Identify what 'winning' looks like.

Is it market share? Revenue? Customer satisfaction? Employee engagement? If you have more than one business unit in your company, it’s imperative -- critical, even -- to get everybody on the same page. If your product team thinks winning means selling 100 widgets to gain product feedback, but your sales team thinks winning is selling only the highest-priced widgets, you have a discrepancy between each team’s goals.

When you scale that confusion across the whole organization, random states of chaos occur throughout the company that impact its performance. The takeaway here is this: You can either over-communicate, or you can under-deliver. Which side would you rather be on?

2. Plan, but be ready to adapt.

One of my favorite Mike Tyson quotes is, “Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face.” Don’t get me wrong; planning is necessary for a couple of reasons:

  • To identify where you are, versus where you want to go
  • To identify potential barriers to success
  • To create the feedback loops, so you know when you’re off track

What’s important about planning, though, is to not take it personally when that plan doesn't work. Just because you were the brains behind the “strategy” doesn’t mean you have to implement it. Remember, your goal is to achieve whatever it was you set out to win, and how you get there will zig and zag along the way.

Build that into your planning by creating time to reflect, review and readjust. Making minor corrections more frequently is more efficient and far more effective than trying to bridge major gaps down the road.

Related: How Strategic Planning Transforms Chaos Into Confidence

3. Your environment is everything.

The environment in which you work, live, and operate is a huge factor that helps or hinders success. The culture at work, the city in which you live, the clients with whom you interact: All play into your overall satisfaction. If one of these factors is lagging -- if you enjoy your company but dislike the people on your team -- it’s only a matter of time before you pull the plug or, worse, self-sabotage.

As the environment changes, so too does your response to it. If there’s something about your environment that is less than ideal, ask yourself what you can do to improve it. What are you looking for? Or, even better, revisit the first point above and ask yourself, “What does success look like [in this situation]?”

There are just as many ways to win as there are to lose, and the brain tends to find whatever it looks for. Keep the above criteria in mind while outlining your next plan of attack.

Related: 4 Things I've Learned While Planning a New Business That's a Passion Project