Afghan Disaster: What You Can Learn From It
As a veteran of both, I can tell you that war and business share a lot in common.
For one thing, to make it in either one of those environments you’ve got to be tough.
Many people would love to be entrepreneurs, but lack the skills, courage, and discipline to survive in business. Rather than risk starting their own businesses, most people seek safer environments. They prefer job security to freedom and a steady paycheck to greater wealth.
For those people, the fear of failing is greater than the joy of freedom.
I served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. But I wasn’t a career officer.
I was able to retire at age 47 thanks to income from my businesses and my investments. I didn’t have income from a career or a job.
I’m sure there are quite a few people who have been able to accomplish this, but I was able to do it in large part due to my military training.
I loved military flight school because we were inspired to face our fears every day. I was not in flight school for a steady paycheck or early retirement benefits, although I knew many student pilots who were. Career Marines are employees of the U.S. government.
I was in the Marine Corps and flight school for inspiration, and preparation, for war. Rather than seek security, our instructors forced us to practice “emergency maneuvers” on every flight. Rather than hope and pray things would go right, the instructors would intentionally cripple the aircraft in some way, sometimes even killing the engine. They forced us to face our fears, keep our cool — and still fly the aircraft.
It was perfect training for a life in business.
I joined the Marine Corps to fight for capitalism and against communism. But when I returned from Vietnam, I came home to find an America with a dying spirit and a growing entitlement mentality.
So as I watch what’s going on in Afghanistan, it just brings back sad memories, I hate to say it, of Vietnam.
The war in Afghanistan lacked mission and leadership. Two of the most important integrities when it comes to running a business and a country.
Today, I want to share the components you need to successfully lead a business…
The B-I Triangle: 8 Essential Elements
The B-I of the B-I Triangle stands for Business and Investor.
The triangle is made up of the eight components, or integrities, of a business. If a business is struggling or fails, it is because one or more of the 8 Integrities is missing or weak.
Military academies focus on the context of the B-I Triangle, the three elements — integrities — that frame the triangle and give it shape and structural integrity: Mission, Leadership, and Team.
- Mission: Mission is spiritual. It is the reason for a company or organization’s existence. On the first day at the academy, we were required to memorize the mission of the academy and repeat it perfectly. The importance of the mission was drilled into our heads from day one.
- Team: Teams represent power. The stronger and more united the team, the more powerful the team. From day one, we were taught how to be members of a team. To be a great leader one must know how to be part of a team. The team is more important than the individual.
- Leadership: Leaders are role models. Leadership is earned. It is earned through trust, respect, experience, and competence.
At the academy, we were trained to operate not as individuals, but as leaders of teams. We were constantly reminded that mission, team, and leadership are essential to operate ships or fly planes into combat. It was drummed into our heads that, in combat, individuals have very little power. Life or death depends upon individuals working as well-led teams.
The same is true in business.
Traditional schools focus on the professions that make up the internal triangle of the B-I Triangle: Product, Legal, Systems, Communications, and Cash Flow.
- Product: Primarily its design and development. Most people think the product is the most important aspect of a business. Yet, if you look at the entire B-I Triangle, you will see that product is the smallest component of the triangle — because it’s the least important. A product without a strong B-I Triangle behind it will probably not be a successful product.
- Legal: Every business needs attorneys. Attorneys and lawyers are important in protecting your product as well as the rest of your B-I Triangle.
- Systems: A business is a system of systems. A car is also a system of systems, as is the human body. For example, a car requires a fuel system, brake system, electrical system, etc. The human body is made up of the skeletal system, circulatory system, nervous system, etc. If one system in a business, car, or body is missing or not functioning well, all systems struggle and often fail.
Every business needs professionals trained to operate the systems of a business. Engineers, information technology, manufacturing, marketing, product distribution, and internal business systems fall into this category.
- Communication: A business is all about communication from the top down, to investors, customers, and employees. If communications are poor, so is the company. Professionally, a business needs strong sales, public relations, marketing, web, and human resource communications. Information technology is essential to success in business today.
- Cash Flow: It isn’t rocket science to understand that a business must have more cash flowing in than flowing out. A business must have accurate and clear accounting. A business with poor accounting systems is a poor company. That is why businesses require bookkeepers, accountants, and chief financial officers.
We Need More Leaders
The world is filled with people who have good intentions and great ideas. Many have a strong desire to change the world, to make the world a better place to live. They may have great ideas, but in many cases, no one listens to them. No one follows. They may be smart, but they have no power. No power to lead or inspire.
Traditional schools train students to be loners, successful on their own. Military schools train students to be leaders, successful only if their team is successful.
One of the toughest jobs at the Merchant Marine Academy was to be the section leader. As section leader, I was in charge of my classmates, my peers — boys about my age. As section leader, it was my job to make sure all my classmates were present and accounted for before we marched to class. Once everyone was assembled, the section leader would say, “Section, attention. Right face. Forward march.”
As section leader, it was my job to make sure the group marched in step and that no one was goofing around. It was my job to make sure the section arrived at class on time and stayed in class. When the instructor entered the room, the section leader barked, “Section, atten — hut.” If any of my section mates broke any of the rules, I was accountable. If a classmate cut class or was late to class, the section leader was punished (that was me). In other words, the section leader got punished along with the person who broke the rules. Thank god I was section leader only about once every three months. Keeping 18-year-old boys in line was a very tough job.
In many ways, being a section leader helped prepare me for business. Today one of my roles is to keep a group of adults in line, accountable, working, and not goofing off.
Rich dad often said, “Business would be easy if it weren’t for people.” I agree.
One of the reasons so many people who become entrepreneurs remain small, preferring to be a lone wolf rather than a leader, is because dealing with people, young or old, is never easy. For a business to grow, an entrepreneur must be a better leader, able to deal with more and more people. That takes leadership.
Are You a Leader?
Some people are born leaders. I was not. At the Academy, it was obvious who the natural leaders were. Rather than feel bad about it, I decided to work on my leadership skills.
Today, I continue to work on those skills.
The basis of leadership is courage. The word courage comes from the French word, la coeur, which means the heart. Courage is not necessary when times are normal. Courage is required when facing any challenge. To develop my leadership skills, I made it a habit to constantly put myself in situations where my courage would be tested. It is a habit I developed at the Academy, in the Marine Corps, and as an entrepreneur. This habit, not my brain, personality, or talents, has been the secret to my success.
As my rich dad said, “I’m rich because I do things most people will not do. Success requires sacrifice and I am willing to make those sacrifices.”
As a military officer, being willing to sacrifice my life was easy. Asking young men, some with families, to sacrifice their lives was hard. Asking young men with families to give their life for their country was the hardest of all my sales jobs. Once I was willing to give my life and ask others to give their lives for their country, becoming an entrepreneur was easy.
After all, entrepreneurial business is only the second most hostile environment created by man.
Play it smart,
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily