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Lessons from a game of chess Business strategy Lessons from a game of chess

I know a local SOHO entrepreneur who keeps an elaborate chess set in his office to inspire his employees–especially his salespeople. The point he’s trying to make is that success involves developing strategies for accomplishing goals, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to develop new ones. Some are already lying in wait on the chessboard’s black and white squares. Here are a few chess lessons that are well-suited for the SOHOer on the move.

The Opposition: “In the endgame, the King must come out from its corner…” This is a problem that you–the boss–must overcome after success arrives. It’s far too easy to get bogged down by paperwork and become distracted from generating the kind of ideas that helped the company grow. Get out of that corner and hire an office manager or administrator to take care of the details so you can focus on preventing checkmate from the opposition.

The Fork: This chess move is also known as a “double attack.” If your company is involved in hardware sales, start selling software or network services. If you’re a graphics arts operation, become a printer broker. If you run a screen printing shop, investigate the cost of offering embroidered products to your clients. The more products and services you present your existing client base, the more successful you’ll become.

Outposts: In chess this is a square controlled by one of your pawns. The United States is not a unified economy. The business environment in Colorado may be very different from where you’re located, but having only one location places you at the whim of the local economy. For a time, the majority of my studio’s clients were nonprofit organizations, so we opened an office in Washington D.C. to be close to their headquarters. A salesperson working out of her home in suburban Maryland provided a local calling number and face-to-face contact. Even for my small SOHO operation, it was surprisingly affordable to open an office 1800 miles away.

Removing the Defenders: In the world of chess, you sometimes have to “take out” the opposition. No, I’m not talking about a Tony Soprano move, but there are ways of attacking competition in a civil way. Some of my fiercest competitors, those using low-ball pricing, came from part-time operations and large out-of-state corporations. We couldn’t compete on price and stay profitably in business, so we examined their weaknesses and told clients and potential clients about the advantages of working with us. These were specific advantages these competitors could not offer unless they made major changes in their operations.

The Skewer: This happens when two pieces line up in a diagonal rank. To prevent being skewered by your competition, you must always do something new. Even if one of your new ideas isn’t successful, your existing and potential client base will view you as an innovator. If it is successful, start thinking about your next new product, service, or promotion. This will scare the hell out of your competitors and keep them lining up and attacking the King.

Contributing Editor Joe Farace has been a SOHO photographer and graphic artist for more than 30 years, but is a mediocre chess player.

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