In business, to a large extent as in life, if you give yourself a soft exit strategy, you will never be fully committed to the actions you need to take to go forward. When it comes time to make a decision to put the hard yards in or take the soft option, if you don’t have a soft exit option, you will have no other option but to put the hard work in and drive forward.

In times past, Chinese and Greek generals used a tactic known as “burn your boat” when faced with a crucial battle. When the soldiers landed on enemy shores, their first action was to burn their boats. The message this sent to the soldiers was clear. There was no retreat and no surrender. The only way home was through victory. No voice of doubt in their heads told them they could “run away.” This applies to all facets of life.

Several years ago, a member of our fine police force decided to start a computer business. He had good computer skills and good ideas about how to run this business.

I heard about the business soon after it started, and I learned that the owner was keeping his job in the police force while he started the business. He wanted to be sure that the business was successful before he left his day job. He had broken my rule. He had given himself a back door. He had an option about what to do if the business failed.

To be successful in business, you can’t let yourself think about what the options are if the business fails. You plan well and set up the business to be successful and then use every ounce of your energy to ensure the business is a success. Only look forward.

The thing that surprised me about this particular business was not the fact that it failed, but that it managed to last over a year before it finally failed! The former owner believes that he did the right thing in keeping his day job as he had that fallback position. He doesn’t realise it was the very action of keeping his day job that led to the demise of the business.

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