Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lesson #89: Startup Lessons from Scrabble

Posted By: George Deeb - 9/08/2011


& Comment

What does the game of Scrabble have to do with startups?  Not much, other than being a game board sitting on the shelf in the break room.  However, there are some valuable strategies you can apply from Scrabble into your startup business.  Read on, and this will all start to make better sense.

Shuffle Your Letters.  I can't tell you how many times I will be blankly staring at my rack of tiles, and can't create any words. But, when I start to randomly shuffle up the letters within the rack, my brain starts to see potential words that it otherwise missed at first glance. And, the business lesson here: when you are challenged by a specific business problem, try to look at it from multiple perspectives, and a solution may present itself that was not immediately evident.

Use Your Highest Point Letters.  Sounds pretty obvious, but I have seen people play a six letter word for six points (one point per letter), and leave a ten point Q sitting on their rack unused. And, the business lesson here: always leverage your best assets in any situation. As an example, would you walk into a big sales opportunity leading with your stodgy controller, or your firecracker salesperson. Or, as another example, don't try to sell a toaster, when your core competency is building blenders.

Play the Highest Point Space. With all other things being equal, play open triple word spaces before open double word spaces, and open triple letter spaces before open double letter spaces. You want your tiles to accumulate as many points as possible, in that one turn.   And, the business lesson here: you always want to leverage your fixed investment, by driving the highest ROI as possible. As an example, try to close the $5,000 sale over the $2,500 sale, as the fulfillment costs behind each are the same.

Play the Board, Not the Rack.  Too often in Scrabble, people are simply focused on the seven letter tiles on their rack and trying to make a word as long as possible therefrom.  But in Scrabble, sometimes playing one letter can be much more valuable, like playing a ten point letter Z on a triple letter space on the board.  And, the business lesson here: don't be so focused on the trees, that you can't see the forest.  The point of business is to grow as quickly as you can, and the easier you make it on yourself, the better.

Look For Multiple Word Opportunities.  I love when competitors only create one word on the board, simply working from one open letter.  That limits their score to only that one new word.  But, as an example, had they added an "S" to an existing word on the board, and created a new word off that "S", they would not only have scored points for their new word, but they also would have scored points for the existing word on the board, doubling up their score in the process.  And, the business lesson here: in whatever business initiatives you are launching, think through multiple ways to drive revenues therefrom.  As an example, at iExplore, we not only tried to drive revenue from consumer sales for our tours, we also looked for corporate sales opportunities for those tours.

Play Defensively.  In Scrabble, you never want to play a word (even a high scoring word), if it opens up an opportunity for your competitor to play a word on a triple word space in their next turn.  Triple word opportunities are the best opportunities to accumulate a lot of points, and fast.  So, you want those opportunities for yourself, not your competitors.  And, the business lesson here:  don't provide your competitors with any "low hanging fruit" to pick up market share against you.  This could be as simple as you not being aware of a major contract in your industry, and you simply not bidding on it, allowing your competitor to walk away with it unchallenged.  Or, as another example, not showering your existing clients with "love", making it easier for your competitors to come in and steal the relationship.

Hopefully, not only have your business strategies improved from this lesson, but now, you can more easily beat the next person you play in Scrabble!!

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