The advertising giant Charles Saatchi was recently asked the
secret of his success. His reply seems mundane, but then facts usually are...
“There is no answer or
formula that I can offer. We worked brutally hard, and got blindingly lucky.”
It really is that simple – or is it? In particular, how much
is down to the hard work and how much to blind luck – or perhaps to Fate or
Destiny or Providence?
There is no avoiding the fact that getting a product to
market involves a lot of effort – not just in the form of hard work, but also,
possibly more importantly, hard thinking.
Yet the moment you get to the market, you lose all control
of the situation. Market researchers like to pretend otherwise, but there is no
guarantee that even the greatest effort will be rewarded, because there is no
way of predicting what will sell and what will flop.
Indeed, it is that very unpredictability that gives
entrepreneurs their opportunity. Business is exciting because giants are always
falling and pygmies are always growing. For every Ford Edsel there was a
Polaroid, for every Sony Betamax a Microsoft. Sometimes success is simply a
matter of finding yourself inadvertently in the right place at the right time.
Writing of the proverbially unpredictable film business,
William Goldman coined a great truism which can be applied to most markets...
Yet that is no excuse to avoid the effort to increase the
odds that you will one day find yourself in the right place at the right time.
Here Mr Saatchi comes close to offering a formula after all, speaking of his
“We made sure he was
well briefed, so well versed that, whenever he attended a meeting with head
people from prospective clients, he knew more about the client’s problems and
opportunities, and more about their competitors’ prospects and weaknesses, than
any other person in the room.”
Knowledge is indeed power. It is not supreme power – there
will always be things an entrepreneur cannot foresee or control – but knowing
what others do not gives a competitive edge that may be what makes all the