BOOK REVIEW: Winning the unfair fight

Winning the Unfair Fight - How small business can take on, and beat, the giants, by Sam Hazeldine.

FEW small businesses were intended to remain small. Most small businesses would like to become large businesses, and may even fantasize about becoming huge, but never do. Most small businesses fail to even remain viable for very long.

Excluding businesses that should never have started in the first place (their business model was too flawed), the rest need all the help they can get. There is probably no better place to look for help than at those who started businesses and have succeeded.

This is not because these successes have a repeatable success recipe, success is far too complicated for that, but for insights that may apply to your situation.

The author, Hazeldine, is a successful businessman as attested to by the business awards he has received. He is also a motivating author who has complied a very useful, and accessible book which will at least remind you of what you know, and are not doing.

The book is a call to action rather than the unfolding of a concept or the unpacking of a problem. Hazeldine uses the image of a fight to describe his business approach, and divides the book into the 12 rounds of professional boxing.

The first four “rounds” focuses on the strength of the individual; boxing entails hitting and getting hit. Successful business requires that the business leader be able to deal with the constant and inevitable punching which few but the tough and resilient will survive.

The first part of this personal strength is to decide. At the root of this word “decide” is the implication that a decision excludes everything, but the decision. “If it doesn’t work, I can always go back to my old job,” may seem a positive hedging of one’s bets.

In fact, it weakens one’s resolve to succeed, because there is an alternative. Having no alternative demands that you succeed.  “Some of the most powerful lessons in “Winning the Unfair Fight” come directly from my having my back to the wall and giving myself no choice but to think creatively and come up with ways to do more with less,” Hazeldine explains.

Simply deciding to be successful alone is insufficient. The business you are committed to must have substance.

DON'T MISS Ian Mann's Business Books Breakfast on 3 and 4 June in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively.

That said, there is no such thing as an overnight success, only many gruelling days and nights of hard work and worry. To keep at the task day after day requires that you are passionate about succeeding.

“I liken this passion to having a child; who would put up with the sleepless nights, the constant attention, the worry, if they didn’t love the little rascal more than life itself?”

Added to these ideas for being strong and ready for the rigours of business is the need for personal standards. How high have you set your standards? Will “good enough” do? Will “trying” do? Setting goals is what most people do, but successful people set and live by high standards and make these standards habits.

The second part of the book deals with “the fight” itself. It is a compendium of a many thoughts, and a condensed explanation of common, but useful theories. It covers positioning to marketing, company culture to planning, and ends with execution.

Any book that motivates but does not lead to execution, is a wasted opportunity. Hazeldine lists nine essential behaviours that underpin execution. “If your garden is overgrown with weeds, then no amount of covering your eyes and saying, “There are no weeds, there are no weeds, there are no weeds,” is going to change the fact.” The first step in execution is to be realistic.

Among the nine essential behaviours is setting clear targets. If you are not clear about what you want to achieve and where you want to go, you will only confuse yourself and your team. Clarity has a compelling power, confusion wastes effort. Part of this clarity is prioritising, because there is never enough time, money, people and so on. Knowing what comes first, ensures the right things are executed.

The last of the nine core behaviours for execution comes back to the point at which the books starts, self-awareness. “To be effective you must know yourself, all of yourself so you can play to your strengths, mitigate your weaknesses, be honest with yourself and others, and deal with business and operational realities in an upfront way.”

The last section of the book covers an important issue, the importance of your peer group. Anthony Robbins pointed out that “the quality of your life is a direct reflection of the expectations of your peer group.” This is a profound insight. If your peers have low success expectation, you might feel comfortable being a big fish in a small pond, but it is certain to place limits on your success.     
Winning the Unfair Fight is not only a good motivational text, it also contains very practical advice for all small business owners.

Readability       Light --+-- Serious
Insights         High --+-- Low
Practical        High +---- Low

*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy and is the author of Strategy that Works. Views expressed are his own.

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