“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
That quote, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, summarizes why some businesses and other endeavors fall short and end up in the scrap heap of lost dreams.
The importance of preparation for success in business is much like it is for professional sports teams trying to win a championship, says Paul Trapp (www.eventprep.com), founding owner/CEO of EventPrep, Inc., a full-service meeting planning and management company, and co-author with Stephen Davis of Prep for Success: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Achieving Your Dreams.
“Every single significant opportunity in life is a Super Bowl if you really want to be successful,” Trapp says. “The New England Patriots frequently reach the Super Bowl, but they don’t get there if they don’t practice with purpose every week, watch countless hours of video, and rise above the inevitable pain and struggles that come with high-level competition.
“Being prepared for every situation along the way leads to earning their biggest opportunity, and it’s the same way for a business looking for big opportunities to grow. The key to mastering the art of preparation is constant practice.”
Trapp and Davis offer five strategies for businesses to take their preparation to the next level:
Become a disruptor. “You want your business to stand out from the competition,” Trapp says. “To do that, ask yourself, ‘How can my company disrupt the industry? How do we position ourselves in the marketplace so that people will go out of their way to do business with us?’ ”
Attract the right talent. Picking the right person – one who can be a long-term employee vital to the company’s success – should be a slow and strategic process. ”For a business owner, hiring people is very much like investing,” says Davis, who is EventPrep’s founding owner/president/COO. “Before you offer someone a job, do research, check references, and ask many questions. Do people you are considering have the attitude and motivation to succeed? Would they be a good fit with your existing culture?”
Establish a winning culture. “A business culture is created at the top and cascades downward,” Davis says. “It takes great effort and dedication to build a winning business culture where everyone feels valued as contributors. It goes beyond the professional relationship to the personal – showing compassion for employees in times of need, and recognizing exceptional efforts with tangible rewards.”
Befriend Murphy. As in Murphy’s Law – ”Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Although all businesses encounter problems in a variety of ways, Trapp says, a strong organization can properly prepare in a way to withstand them and solve them quickly. “Because Murphy is going to show up in any number of forms,” Trapp says, “when preparing to do anything, there has to be a list of solutions in place before a problem ever happens.”
Recognize and seize opportunities. “The key to seizing an opportunity is identifying a need greater than your own – that of your customer,” Davis says. “Imagine you meet someone who can help you solve a need because he or she has the tools and experience to give you what you really need. Think about what real estate agents do for home buyers. They ask specific questions about what the clients are looking for, relate to their excitement about finding the right kind of home, and create a vision of that.”
“Preparedness is the key in any and all situations,” Trapp says. “The only way you learn and grow as an individual, and as a business, is to perfect your unique abilities and a team’s winning strategies through repetition.”
Paul Trapp is a founding owner/CEO of EventPrep, Inc. (www.eventprep.com), a full-service meeting planning and management company that supports 16 franchises across the U.S. He is co-author of the book Prep for Success: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Achieving Your Dreams. Trapp is a former senior military leader who served as chief of recruiting for the Army National Guard and holds over 30 years of experience in contract management, event planning, and organizing conferences, seminars, and meetings.
Stephen Davis is a founding owner/president/COO of EventPrep, Inc., and co-author of Prep for Success: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Achieving Your Dreams. Davis is a multi-state operations director who focuses on conference development, implementation, management, and conference design. He currently serves as a chief warrant officer and CID special agent in the Army Reserves. Davis deployed twice in support of the global war on terrorism. In 2016, Davis and Paul Trapp launched Federal Conference, Inc., which provided professional event planning and management services to the government and commercial marketplaces. Federal Conference, Inc., twice was an Inc. 500 award recipient and executes over 3,000 events annually around the world.
Good times come with this certainty: They never last.
For businesses, that means formidable challenges (a weak economy, new competition, a sea change in the marketplace) are always just around the corner, and unprepared business leaders face the potential for disaster.
“You don’t have the luxury of resting on your laurels,” says Alyssa Rapp (www.alyssarapp.com), CEO of Surgical Solutions and author of Leadership & Life Hacks: Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur & Executive.
“You have to keep battling, innovating, out-innovating, and outworking your competition.”
She knows something about that. From 2005 to 2015, Rapp served as the founder and CEO of Bottlenotes Inc., charting a course for the company through the turbulent years of the Great Recession. During her time at Bottlenotes, Rapp was named one of Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30” coolest entrepreneurs in the U.S. Starting in 2015, she served as the managing partner at AJR Ventures, which advised privately-held companies and private equity firms on their digital-marketing strategies.
Rapp offers four tips for helping business leaders meet the toughest of times with a resolute attitude:
Acknowledge fear, and move through it. Fear gets a bad rap, but it’s there for a reason: to protect you from something. “Just like standing on a balance beam is scary because your life or limbs are at risk, so, too, is making business decisions that carry huge risks,” says Rapp, a former competitive gymnast who knows something about balance beams. Your job is to acknowledge the fear – to take note of its presence – and then push through it. “Fear is a normal human response,” she says. “The trick is in not letting it dominate your psyche.”
Commit to finishing what you start. You have to commit before you even begin. “If you start anything knowing you probably won’t succeed, then you won’t,” Rapp says. “You’re setting yourself up for failure. You must show up with full commitment, having faith, true grit, and belief in yourself.”
Know that all great ideas start with ‘what if.’ Never be afraid to ask what if, over and over, until you find a solution, Rapp says. She points out that most of the best entrepreneurial innovation in the United States over the past 20 years has been born out of Silicon Valley, precisely because of the constant willingness to ask and re-ask this simple question. “Some people’s responses to challenges or obstacles are to stop asking questions,” Rapp says. “If you want to solve a problem, you have to open yourself up to the possibility that change is inevitable, and reframing the problem will present an otherwise undiscovered solution.”
Remember that you have to be present to win. You can’t win a race if you’re not competing. “So before you do anything else – before you commit to finishing what you start, before you acknowledge your fear and move through it – you have to show up,” Rapp says. “Remember that saying that 80 percent of success is showing up? There’s truth to that because showing up matters.”
It’s inevitable that, regardless of how well you think you’ve planned, life will throw you curveballs, Rapp says.
“They will come at you in every area, every industry, every walk of life,” she says. “I’ve faced them as a mom, wife, entrepreneur, executive, friend – you name it. But I don’t run from them. I’ve learned to apply my brother’s advice: ‘The only way out is through.’ The truth is, I love curveballs because each one comes with a question: What are you going to do about it?”
Alyssa Rapp (www.alyssarapp.com), author of Leadership & Life Hacks: Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur & Executive, has been CEO of Surgical Solutions since 2018. Previously, from 2015 to 2017, she advised startups and private equity-backed companies through AJR Ventures. Prior to that, Rapp ran an e-commerce business called Bottlenotes. She has been named one of Crain’s Chicago’s “Notable Women in Health Care.” Rapp also teaches at Stanford Business School and has recently been named Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth Business School.