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Thursday, November 8, 2012

On punching sharks and running a business like a military campaign

Last week, a 25-year-old California surfer survived a great white shark attack by hitting the animal in the head repeatedly until it released him.  When the story broke, I tweeted the link to my Generation-Y and Generation-Z followers (I wasn’t sure the others would be interested) with the caption:  “The moral of this story is that when ur pursuing an important goal u shd never give up, no matter how overwhelming the odds r against u.”

This bizarre piece of shark news put me in mind of a serious conversation I had several years ago with an ex-military-commander-turned-company-CEO.  I was working as a recruiter at the time and interviewing him for an executive role in a printing company.  Because I wanted to give my client, the employer, as much information as possible about what it was really like to spend a working day with this person, I questioned him closely about his management style.  Here is what he told me:

“In business, just like in military manoeuvres, you have three choices:  you can halt, you can retreat, or you can advance.  Usually my advice is to load, lock, and move forward.  Even if you’re outnumbered and surrounded, there’s still a possibility you can shoot through the enemy line and escape.”

This November 11th, Remembrance Day, I will be thinking about this distinguished corporate warrior and other brave veterans.