Don’t confuse skill with luck

Would you rather be lucky or skillful? The right answer is both. But this fortuitous combination can be elusive. To take advantage of luck, a company must be smart enough to recognize good fortune and have the skills to seize the opportunity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been hundreds of businesses that experienced unplanned and dramatically accelerated success. This was because, in every bad situation, there are always opportunities created by a newly surfaced need. Look no further than the stock market for companies that connect the world via online video conferencing for business, pleasure and learning. This became an absolute necessity while people hunkered down at home. Virtual meetings, entertainment streaming, and the residential delivery of food and goods skyrocketed overnight. Telemedicine, a concept that had gained traction in recent years, became a preferred method for trusted providers to treat millions of patients via computers, tablets and phones.

Few of these companies were flash-in-the-pan opportunists. Instead, they had invested in building their businesses for years and suddenly emerged as the best and safest alternative to venturing out of one’s bubble to visit stores, offices and doctors.

These companies had developed the capabilities to fulfill the demand of cocooning during a lockdown that became a new lifestyle. Were they lucky? Timing can be everything. The businesses in these industries modified strategies to supercharge their growth because they were already poised for success.

Companies in the industries cited were pursuing different growth opportunities focused on evolving changes in consumer preferences and desires of gaining coveted additional convenience and time.

When new needs surfaced because of COVID-19, agile companies and organizations adapted their existing capabilities to meet the demands created by a new set of circumstances. Lesser companies may rely on luck to survive and grow, mistaking skills with just being in the right place at the right time. That can work, but not consistently.

Las Vegas provides a lesson on luck. Flocks gravitate to this desert mecca, and some people even win. But walk down the main drag in Sin City and look up. The casinos and hotels are among the most luxurious in the world. But they weren’t built because of luck, and they wouldn’t be there if the gamblers consistently won.

The real success stories are written by nimble companies with a vision and a plan to succeed in good times and bad.

You can do the same for your business. Start with a solid foundation; be prepared to take advantage of situations by moving quickly, as measured in days and weeks, and always be malleable.

Here are two over-simplified examples. To eliminate the negative of people’s fear of riding outside, a bicycle maker adds stationary stands to its offerings so that people can use its bikes in-home to stay fit. A bubblegum machine company switches from selling gum to aspirin during the flu season because there is a bigger demand for the medication. Making changes is not a matter of luck but instead having the skills and insight to adapt.

It is much like the age-old adage, “The harder and smarter you work, the luckier you get.”

Visit Michael Feuer’s website to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”