(This is a follow up to my previous blog post p-4186 .)
In poker, people spend a lot of time learning the best strategy to play once you’re sitting down at a table. One of my biggest “ah-ha!” moments came when I learned from a poker book a long time ago that the game starts even before you sit down.
When you’re in a poker room, usually there are many different choices of tables that you can sit down at. Each table has different stakes, different players, and different dynamics that change as the players come and go, and as players get excited, upset, or tired.
As a poker player, the most important decision you can make is which table to sit at. This includes knowing when to change tables. An experienced player can make 10 times as much money sitting at a table with 9 mediocre players who are tired and have a lot of chips compared to sitting at a table with 9 really good players who are focused and don’t have that many chips in front of them.
In business, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is what business to be in. It doesn’t matter how flawlessly you execute your business if you’re in the wrong business or you’re playing in a small market.
You could be the most efficient manufacturer of 7-fingered gloves and offer the best selection, the best service, and the best prices for 7-fingered gloves. But if there isn’t a big enough market for what you sell, you’re not going to get very far.
Or, if you decide to start a business that competes directly against really experienced competitors such as Walmart by playing the same game they play (for example, trying to sell the same goods at lower prices), then chances are that you will go out of business.
In a poker room, you can only choose which table you want to sit at. But in business, you don’t have to sit at an existing table. You can define your own, or make the one you’re already at even bigger. (Or, just like in a poker room, you can always choose to change tables.)
Whatever vision you have for your business, there is a bigger vision that makes the table bigger. When Southwest Airlines first started, they didn’t see their target market as limited to just existing airline travellers, which is what all the other airlines did. Instead, they imagined their service as something that could potentially serve all the people that travelled by Greyhouse bus or by train, and they designed their business around that. They offered short flights at cheap prices, instead of going with the more prevalent “hub and spoke” model that other airlines were using. They made it easy for customers to change flights without paying huge penalties. And they turned their planes around at airports as fast as possible.
At * Zappos.com *, our original vision was to just to try to sell some shoes online. But after a few years, we realized that we wanted and needed a bigger vision. We decided to make our table bigger by envisioning the Zappos brand to be about the very best customer service and the very best customer experience. The customer service vision enabled us to expand beyond just selling shoes. In fact, today we also sell clothing, bags, housewares, electronics, and even kitchenware.
But because our vision is about building a brand around the best customer service, the future of our company isn’t even limited to just e-commerce. We’ve even had customers ask us if we would start an airline. We’re not going to do that anytime soon, but maybe 30 years from now, there will be a Zappos Airlines that’s just about delivering the very best customer service.
For your business, have you thought about what you can do to make your table bigger?
Have you thought about whether you should be changing tables?
Whether in poker, in business, or even in life, it’s easy to be so engrossed in what you’re doing right now that you forget that you always have the option to change tables. Psychologically, it’s hard because there’s a lot of inertia to overcome.
If your business isn’t growing, or you’re not passionate about your job or what you’re doing in life in general, don’t be afraid to ask yourself: “Should I be sitting at a different table?”
Just remember, it’s never to late to change tables, and it’s never too late to ask yourself whether you’re playing the right game.
I’m working on writing a poker/business book titled p-4186 .
I’d love to hear your comments as well as any real-life stories about poker, business, or life as it relates to this post! Please share your story by commenting below or emailing me at tony(at)zappos.com.