I’ve been doing a lot of research on Steve Jobs lately. Did you know that he used to practice his Macworld and product launch presentations around 200 times before the big event?
Watch any Jobs presentation and you’ll notice how smooth and effortless he appears on stage. You’ll also notice that, when he does a demo (which is part of just about every Jobs presentation), the demo almost always works perfectly.
On the rare occasion when something goes wrong, Jobs calmly moves on. He never, ever gets stuck.
Rule number one for never getting stuck in business: The more prepared you are the less chance you’ll get stuck.
200 rehearsals. There’s a reason why Jobs was so, so good, and it’s all the time and effort he put into practicing. The analogy in business is preparation.
I know, from my own business experience, that the more prepared I was, the more likely I could respond to any business situation, even the most stressful situation you can imagine.
For example, we were in the middle of raising our next round of funding. There were four investors that were a couple weeks away from giving us term sheets. At the same time, we had just about exhausted our funding.
In our board meeting, one of our investors, “Raul,” surprised me by demanding the company be shut down. This was truly a make or break moment for us.
From somewhere deep inside me, I said, “Instead of shutting the company down, why don’t we put everyone on minimum wage. That will give us plenty of time to see if one of the investors gives us a term sheet.”
Raul agreed with my suggestion, and the company was saved (three of the four potential investors did give us term sheets). However, imagine if I was stuck? The company would have died right then and there.
Rule number two for never getting stuck in business: Do your contingency planning ahead of time.
The reason I was able to give Raul a solution was all the preparation I had done. I had actually discussed the possibility of being shut down with Tina, our controller.
Tina and I talked through the financial contingencies, and we knew that going to minimum wage would buy us a six week lifeline. And, we checked with our lawyer to make sure going to was legal.
Rule number three for never getting stuck in business: Having a great team around you really, really helps.
As much as I would like to take credit for the idea of going to minimum wage, it was Tina’s idea, not mine. Tina was excellent at her job, and I was lucky to work with her.
It was the same with the other members of the executive team. Adolfo, Dave, Jeroen, and Shoba always had contingencies for their projects.
Rule number four for never getting stuck in business: Yes, you actually do need a business plan.
Part of the reason we were able to have contingencies is we had a business plan. Without a plan, you don’t know where you’re going. And, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re much more likely to get stuck.
Even if you do come up with an alternative, you’re much more likely to make the wrong decision without a plan.
You won’t know how to quickly research if your new idea makes any sense. This new alternative is just something that sounds good in the moment.
Rule number five for never getting stuck in business: Slow down, if you do get stuck on a problem you haven’t prepared for.
Every once in a while, you will get a problem that you haven’t prepared any contingencies for. What do you do then?
Our natural tendency is to speed up our decision making process when we’re handed a problem we haven’t expected. Instead, you should try and slow down your decision making process.
Do you remember the scene in the movie, “Apollo 13,” when the team on the ground has to figure out how design a carbon dioxide filter? This was not a problem anyone prepared for, yet the team solved it.
It was all the preparation, just like Steve Jobs did for his presentations, that allowed the NASA team to solve all the problems they had to solve to get the Apollo 13 astronauts home.
They didn’t speed up, and they didn’t panic. They slowed down and solved the problems. That’s what you’ll do too.