Use More Alert When Things Are Going Well

Japanese swordsmanship is called “Kendo”. Among the principles and techniques in this martial art, there is one thing which a beginner must learn. It is “zan-shin” in Japanese. The literal translation of the words is “Leave Heart”. It means, “Continue to be alert until you are 100% sure you finished your enemy.” If you have watched any match of a martial art, you must have seen that a winner would not release his guard until he found his enemy admittedly lost, or the judge declared his victory. He is using “zan-shin”. Many fighting concepts from martial arts are useful for life or business. I found this concept of alertness useful for business in general.

Koji was an owner of a software business. He needed to go through all the hardships and problems because he started his business in recession time. He called all the banks, investors, and the financial institutions. He could not find anybody who could provide him the capital he needed to start his business. He could manage to start his business collecting small amounts of money from his family and friends. He could not hire any software engineer. He designed the software all by himself. He had very good clients’ contacts when he left his former employer, but they did not deal with the new and start-up company due to recession.

He had worked like crazy. The economy started to pick up, and his projects gradually brought money to his company. He hired two engineers first. He could recruit more engineers later that year. He could finally have a breathing space. His company’s financials were getting better.

Koji was relaxed now. He began to leave the software development process to his engineers, and his company began to receive orders from major companies.

One day, when he was looking for an opportunity to expand his company, his phone rang. It was the vice president of general affairs, calling to tell him that their key engineer had left the company, taking with him all of his intellectual property. The engineer had started his own business, competing against Koji’s company. Koji regretted that he had not paid closer attention to the behavior of his employee, but it was too late. The damage had been done. Koji tried to sue the engineer, but he did not have enough money to pursue a lawsuit. The engineer deprived Koji’s company of more than half its customers and revenue.

Koji could have used the concept of “zan-shin” in order to feel more relaxed. He could have been more conscious of the external and internal affairs occurring in his company. Koji could have saved some of his excess revenue for times such as this. He could have pursued the lawsuit against the engineer. The lesson we can learn from Koji is that an entrepreneur should never be too relaxed, even in good times. We should be aware of what is going on, even when everything appears to be going well. Being an entrepreneur is not easy.