The Infinite Game of Business

The Infinite Game of Business

Every week someone asks me for advice about their logo, or telling me they just purchased another domain.

The game of business is the most interesting game in the world.  The sheer number of ways to play, the freedom it provides, is a vehicle for self actualization, wealth, and contribution.

Yet most business advice focuses on finding a script to follow.  So you google how to start a business, and you discover your company name is important, your logo is important, and don’t forget to buy every possible version of your URL!

I could tell you these things don’t matter, and I would be wrong.  They absolutely matter.

They just don’t matter as much as the things you should focus on.

When you work in a normal job, the actual choices you have are incredibly limited.  First, you’re in a company that has likely reached some modicum of success to be able to hire you, and this means they already made thousands of choices that can’t easily be changed.

Second, you’re an employee.  You’re not supposed to even see the entire elephant, much less discuss its holistic well-being.

Third, even trivial actions take on new value as a business owner.

Quick story: when I ran an agency in Vietnam, we used an apartment as an office because it had better views and 70% cheaper cost per square foot.

One day, I was making a smoothie in the kitchen and spilled some on the floor.  I went to get a mop and cleaned up the mess, because I’m human and that seemed normal.

An employee saw this and she was shocked!  She had never seen the CEO of a company stoop to the level of a janitor.  She actually asked me if I was cleaning it up, just to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating.

I believe this moment did more to affect the company culture than the dozens of hours we spent on writing core values.

Incidentally, I’m not sure cleaning up the mess was the right choice; I was preaching a culture of high output and this modeled a culture of low output.

But notice how much leverage I had in that one decision.  A janitor has no such leverage when they clean the floor; their job is to clean, they clean, story over.  A CEO cleaning the floor, on the other hand, establishes culture, and that affects everything else.

When I made the chart for this letter it felt a bit like hyperbole, but now I’m not so sure.  Choosing to mop the floor is worth $10,000 per hour when it establishes culture.  Its also worth $10,000 per hour when you do it to avoid making the hard decisions that generate $10,000 per hour; you just don’t get to collect the profits.

When starting a business, the first step is to understand every hour of your time has the leverage to produce $10,000 per hour, if you choose the right puzzles to solve.

The second step is to notice when the puzzles you spent the last day solving are not worth $10,000 per hour.