Playing the long game

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playing the long game

“So I sent his invoice back and told him to raise the price and re-submit it before I would pay it.”

Of all the pieces of business advice I’ve received over the years surely this had to be one of the stupidest. If it hadn’t been coming out of the mouth of someone from the Sunday Times Rich List I would have dismissed it out of hand.


Robert made his money in property and had built an empire that spanned several continents.


So when I had the chance to go and spend some time at his home in Monaco I jumped at the chance.

The secret to success, he claimed, was in building a world class team. But what was unusual was the way he goes about it…

Robert believed that the key was to find people who demonstrated reliability and integrity and then to always, always do the right thing by them and treat them exceptionally well.

Whereas most businesses are constantly negotiating and haggling with their suppliers for discounts and savings, Robert takes the opposite approach. He’s often arguing the case because he wants to pay his suppliers MORE.

Why? Because it breeds a culture of loyalty and commitment from his team that has to be seen to be believed. The level of output and performance of Robert’s team is significantly superior to that of his competition.

He’s always top of the list, he gets the best opportunities, the best deals, the best solutions… and he gets them first.

This is a common thread I see amongst the most successful business owners I know.

Whilst the majority of entrepreneurs are trying to take short cuts, they are taking a long-term strategic view. They all play the “long game”

Are you playing the long game in your business?


Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of getting the low hanging fruit. I actually think it’s massively important psychologically to celebrate regular small wins.

But when the that is your primary objective, it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s normally motivated by fear or greed and in the long run it’s unsustainable and it will hurt you. It’s only a matter of time.

I’ve just read the most recent letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders from Warren Buffett and it’s probably the single most enlightening letter I’ve read all year. (If you’ve not read it, google it and read it now )

In it Warren outlines what he feels are the key principles and philosophies that allow Berkshire to be one of the biggest and most profitable companies on the planet.

So what makes Warren Buffett one of the richest men in the world, with a net worth of over $70 billion (according to Forbes)?


He plays the long game.


Warren buys great businesses (assets) and almost NEVER sells. Those assets produce income, which is then reinvested to buy more assets.


Warren’s time is spent doing critical thinking, analysing deals, looking for smart strategic plays and allocation of resources.

It’s the long game.

You can never truly know what’s gonna make it work. There is no guarantee of success. But you can stack the odds in your favor.

Early in my career, I used to always think it was about taking more action in order to get better results. But that’s not true.

Once your company is established, building wealth is as much about not doing stupid stuff the screws this up as much as anything else. Because whilst taking action is part of the equation, the wrong action can be hugely detrimental.

Every “overnight success” you’ve ever heard of has actually been years in the making. It’s the moment in which they take action and succeed that gets all the limelight, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s it’s the years of dedication and hard work, the years of consistently kicking the can down the road, the years of not doing stupid stuff that makes the difference. All these incremental improvements compound up to geometric growth for your company that makes the marketplace look round and say “whoa, what an incredible overnight success story!”.

The real Irony is, on aggregate playing the long game is the shortest route to get there.

What does all this mean to your business?

It’s very simple really. Take Robert’s example above. Nobody is an island, your results are reflective of the quality and expectations of your peer group. Your relationships.
And relationships are a long game. Look around you. In my experience, the best performing results have always been produced by long lasting and deep relationships with employees, strategic partners, suppliers, affiliates, and customers.

There’s no quick win here. You need to add massive value, for the long term. Think of it like planting a small tree. You don’t just plant it today and expect fruits tomorrow. You take care of it, nurture it, feed it. And then over time it will bear fruit. More importantly, after the initial work is done, it takes much less effort to maintain and it will continue to bear fruit again and again and again. You’ve built an asset that will keep producing income.

Three simple steps to implement this now for maximum impact

1. Make a list of all your key business relationships in order of priority

  1. Alongside them list something you could do to significantly enhance and build the relationship further

3. Set a deadline for completing number 2.

Play the long game. Commit to doing the above three things at least monthly and your business will see the rewards.

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