Editor's View

What's luck got to do with it?

Nov 06 issue

I’m a back-to-front magazine reader. Which means that I hugely enjoy our column on the last page, ‘What I wish I’d known when I started’. The essence of the column is entrepreneurs confessing to their mistakes and offering insights into what they have learned as a result. Brilliant stuff, issue after issue. There’s always something for me to learn, to compare, to question. And this month we have Mike Tobin, CEO of data centre provider Telecity Redbus, and a high-achieving entrepreneur. But my eyes popped out on stalks when I saw him thanking Lady Luck for some of his success.

Why? Because just last week I attended a seminar held by Chris Ingram, our distinguished columnist, when he too included the concept of good fortune in his list of attributes for success. What’s luck got to do with it, as Tina Turner might have sung about business?

Learn to live with bad luck
The minute that entrepreneurs think they start running into bad luck and attributing their setbacks to that as an explanation then in my view they are teetering on the brink of a precipice. One more step and they will plunge downwards to failure. Yes, we all have good and bad luck, but we have to assume that we are going to get the same balance as the average population. And a key ingredient of success is how we deal with what we know. In the first business that I co-founded, a customer overheard the CEO of our main competitor on a train being indiscreet about a deal happening in two days’ time that would wipe out our business. Bad luck that we had such an aggressive competitor who had landed a plum deal. Good luck though that he was overheard. What mattered was how our CEO dealt with what we now knew, which he did magnificently, turning the tables and building our business to many times the size of the competitor’s.

And what is needed for success?
If I’m asked what is the most significant attribute needed for success, my answer is quite a dull one. Doggedness. Resilience. Persistence. And isn’t it funny, how much luckier you are the harder you work (to misquote Gary Player)?