In my early 20s, I started playing adventure-style PC games like Myst and Grim Fandango. Those magical worlds and fanciful stories truly captured my imagination. I’ll never forget that first otherwordly MagLev ride in Riven.
But then I began craving a little more excitement and so ventured into the dynamic realm of role-playing games with Diablo. It was thrilling to discover the awesome variety of magic and monsters while completing the game’s many quests.
Like millions of other people around the world, I became a huge fan of Blizzard Entertainment.
So when Blizzard released World of Warcraft in 2004, there was no question I would pony up the $14.99 per month to play the most time-sucking, utterly addictive, MMORPG that has ever existed.
What the frack does this have to do with small business?
The interactive nature of games is similar to the interactive nature of small business. Massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are particularly social, and not unlike real life, involve both collaboration and competition amongst players.
Daniel Pink writes in A Whole New Mind that “…a growing stack of research shows that playing video games can sharpen many of the skills that are vital in The Conceptual Age.” — the Age in which individuals are increasingly being called upon to use their empathic, pattern-recognizing right-brain capabilities.
I probably already knew these three lessons before I embarked on my Warcrack addiction. But in this post, I get to suggest that playing video games is not a complete waste of time (thereby validating my own continued ponying up of the $14.99 per month, ftw!).
1) It’s sometimes best to outsource certain tasks
My main character in Warcraft, Cataluna, is a loner-type night elf druid. She works best on her own and at the hours of her choosing.
But she also belongs to a guild because guilds allow players to easily utilize other player’s skills and professions.
Suppose I’m an athletic trainer starting my small business and I’m looking to put up a user-friendly website. I’m great at coaching, but I suck at graphic design. If I’m on a budget or if I have more time than money, I’d consider passably learning the skill myself. If I don’t have time or I’m not so inclined, I’d hire someone to do it for me.
It’s like the self-employed version of globalization. We hire each other to do the things we’re not good at doing ourselves.
Utilize the knowledge and skills of more experienced people. Collaborate, or even barter. (Tax implications notwithstanding.)
2) Price your products and services competitively
After Cataluna returns home from questing with all sorts of loot and treasure to sell, she visits the auction house, observes the bids on similar items, and then undercuts those prices by 10%.
If you’re just starting out in business and don’t have lots of experience, consider the undercutting strategy — especially if you’re in a crowded marketplace.
There are dozens (if not hundreds) of massage therapists in my town, lots of artists, and more than a few self-employed CPA’s. Sometimes in order to just get business in the door and a little cash flow going, it’s worth undercutting your competitors’ price by 10% or even more, depending on the product or service. You can always raise your prices later.
3) You don’t need the most epic gear to play the game
Some will say you need the best possible website design before you should even THINK about publicizing your site.
Others suggest you can’t even BEGIN to market your business online until you’ve purchased Current Trendy Internet Marketing Guru’s $397 course on how to turn your website into a gold-spinning machine overnight. (NOTE: This doesn’t ever happen.)
You might think your idea sucks, or that your niche is already too crowded, or that there are too many coaches/massage therapists/copywriters/accountants in your town.
So you do nothing. (Meanwhile an ugly orc swoops down, kills you, and steals your gold.)
Don’t just sit there!
No need to spend $2,000 on a website design if you don’t have the money. Design your own, like I did.
Forget leasing a fancy office. Try office sharing or co-working.
Maybe the new Leica camera is the very best, but you already own a two-year old Olympus. Just use that.
The best gear may look cool and seem like an important prerequisite to getting your business started. But it’s far more important to simply get out there and “play.”