When I coached lacrosse, I spent untold hours focused on positioning. Where to put your feet, your butt, your hands. How to make sure that when the other team attacked, we were prepared to expel that offensive outburst with a team focused on doing the little things right. Which means, not only does the person in direct contact with the ball have to have the feet, hands, and head in the right place but the entire team has to have that as well. And the communication to each other has to be loud, succinct and clear. You didn’t have seconds to let your teammates know about changes to your position + plan. You had fractions of seconds.
I feel there are some parallels with the positioning of companies that makes a lot of sense when you think about it in sports terms. There is reason to believe that the practice of positioning will allow you to be ready to repel the offense that will attack your business. And with time spent crafting your most advantageous position, you can limit the amount of damage even a good attack can bring.
If the company that you are building, or the company that you have built is any good, people are going to copy, bump and bristle around you. This is where active positioning and active communication comes in to play. Do you have in place the capabilities to pivot on a threat from any side? How long does it take to make decisions in the executive boardroom? And are the people in that boardroom hearing what the rest of the team are saying?
I recently read the book The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. This thing was delightful, as he talked about the pivot from Loudcloud to Opsware and the decision-making process. The positioning of what he felt was a company that he didn’t think would last another three weeks to one that sold a little while later for $1.6b. It wasn’t easy. But the key to that success was the ability to position the product quickly and confidently. Because he had open communication with everyone from the boardroom on down. And constant adjustment from a positioning standpoint, to meet the demands of the dot com bursting bubble to become one of the most successful companies of that era.