By Bob La Loggia, CEO StormSource Software
Are startup founders who play poker statistically more likely to succeed in business? Beats me. But I do know that there are many lessons that founders can learn from poker players. As we all know, poker used to be relegated to smoky casinos and the back rooms of seedy lounges. But, in recent years, poker has become a game for the masses. Kids who once idolized athletes now idolize the “e-athletes” they see playing poker on TV.
Now, I’m not going to ask you to start wearing dark glasses and try to stare down the office supply salesman as he tries to convince you to buy your pens and Post-it Notes from his company. But, I am going to ask you to think about a key aspect of poker playing that is very applicable to businesses.
You can easily spot a novice poker player because they have a tendency to always think their opponent has a better hand than they do. If someone raises the bet, the novice folds their hand. “I’m sure they have a pair of aces. I can’t beat them with my pair of kings,” they think.
Conversely, you can always spot a confident pro. When they get raised, they take a moment to think. They analyze the situation, take a good look at the person who raised, and then decide what to do. Oftentimes, they’ll re-raise, but other times, they’ll match the bet. They know that their opponent doesn’t necessarily have a better hand, even if they act like they do.
In business, you will always have competitors. And you may have a tendency to think they have it all figured out – that they have the better hand. When they announce that new feature or high-profile partnership, don’t panic or get demoralized. Instead, stop and assess the situation carefully.
Chances are, you are holding a pretty good hand, too. Maybe it’s better than theirs, maybe it’s not. In poker, as in business, it’s not the best hand that wins; it’s the one who plays their hand best that wins.
Business history has proven time and time again that it’s not necessarily the best product that wins in the marketplace, and having a superstar founding team, VC partner, or advisory board doesn’t guarantee success.
Was VHS a better technology than Betamax (for you youngsters, VHS and Betamax roamed the Earth about the same time as the dinosaurs)? Why isn’t TiVo’s vastly superior DVR in a dominant position? Does Domino’s sell one million pizzas a day because it has the best pizza? And, did Facebook provide that much more of a rich user experience than MySpace?
So, now you have your excuse for spending your Tuesday nights at the casino. Tell your significant other that it’s all in the name of sharpening your business skills. And, if you must wear the dark glasses and hoody at work, please do it when you are alone.
The office supply salesman may be intimidated by your staredown, but, more likely, he will think you’ve lost your marbles. Dark glasses or not, always remember, it’s not what’s in your hand that’s most important; it’s how you play it.
Today’s guest post is by Bob La Loggia, who is the founder and CEO of StormSource Software, the source of Appointment-Plus online scheduling software. He is a veteran of four startups, has over 22 years in technology, and has seen a lot of poker games. You can contact him directly through his website or email.