When TCW celebrated its 30th anniversary this past October, someone asked me how the magazine had stayed around for three decades in the brutal world of publishing. My response was simple and quick: “Anticipating the next move. Problem solving before there’s a problem.”
Running a successful business isn’t a whole lot different than playing chess. In fact, when I think of a key element that prepared me for running my own business, it was chess. It’s a game of strategy. You have to think ahead. Anticipate and visualize the next move and the ones after that. Then prepare for the best; prepare for the worst. At this point it’s like imaginary problem solving, but you can pretty much logically determine the various outcomes.
I learned chess as a child. Boards games were popular in our household. My father had taught me how to play chess and when we played, he always won. When I was in high school, I joined the chess club. I figured that being a member of the chess club would teach me a few tricks and level the playing field. Can’t say it did with my dad, but it certainly prepared me for entrepreneurship.
Throughout these three decades with TCW, I’ve mentioned my chess analogy in internal TCW planning meetings and when speaking to an outside group. To me, it’s about the most valuable lesson to share on running a business.