Lessons All Business Owners Must Learn from Monopoly

I love to play board games with friends and family. It’s hard to find many that have the passion that I do. It seems that computer games have become the games of choice for the kids today. And it seems that my generation got skipped since my parents generation seemed to love the classics: Scrabble, Clue, Monopoly, Stratego, etc.

One of my favorite games is Monopoly.

This game was developed by a man who lost his job in the Great Depression. Since he had time on his hands, he started to invent things. He developed the idea of playing a game with play money and allowed every one who played to be a mogul and run a business (of hotels or real estate). In the beginning he hand-painted the board game and started inviting people over to his house to play. The winner (and sometimes the runner up) got to keep the game. Popularity grew.

His original board included small scraps of wood that represented the houses and hotels and the player tokens were represented by thimbles, buttons and other odds and ends around the house. The “properties” were named to represent one of his favorite vacation places (before losing his job), Atlantic City.

It was a fairly simple concept. And Parker Brothers has now sold 485 Million sets.

I’ve not only discovered a certain plan to “sometimes” win the game, but also it’s helped me develop my strategy for running a business. Monopoly’s rules set out success in running a business.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Perhaps it’ll help you win at the “real game” of business.

  • Start with Cash: at the beginning, each player starts with cash. Be sure you do too. Cash flow will be your constant battle, so the more cash you start with, the better! There are a couple ways to start with money – save for it or look for investors. Don’t have cash? Don’t start a business.
  • Pace Yourself: The dice controls the speed you race around the board. Develop a business strategy to pace yourself. The race will speed around you and some will look like they’re going to succeed because of the pace that they’re able to keep. But most time, stead and slow wins the race. However, speed to market (first time around the board) is critical. It’s hard to catch up if you don’t buy some opportunities early in the game.
  • Look for Similarities in Investments: The premise of the game is to buy Monopolies. In business, look for similarities. Burger King doesn’t create another product unless it “fits” with their current ingredients and machines.
  • Invest in Money Generators: We all know that you can’t “improve” property in the game until you have the “set” of properties. But when you do, you must start investing in the ways to make more money off those monopolies. In business, be sure to look at what you have and start improving them to make more money. If the potential isn’t there, don’t waste your money.
  • Know when to Stop Growing: At a certain time in the game, you have to slow down the “expansion” and stop buying. Cash usually determines this. You have to sit back and hope that your businesses make more money than it costs to make it around the board. Remember cash is king. You need money to make it.
  • Don’t Rely on Debt: You can’t borrow money in the game. So don’t in business life. It sounds hard, but avoid it at all costs. The guy who invented the game, did what he could to create games one at a time until he made enough money to mass produce. Then, rather than go into debt to finance a huge expansion, he sold to Parker’s Brothers. He became a multimillionaire. In this climate, do I need to say anything more about the evils of credit?
  • Sometimes a “Chance” is Not Good. When you land on the Chance (or Community Chest) don’t always expect it to be good news. The same can be said about business. Every “chance” that comes along doesn’t turn out in your favor. Weigh the opportunity with the other Monopoly lessons (above) before deciding to take them. If only you could do this is the game!

These are only some that come to mind as I sit on a flight to Texas. What else can you think of?

Even after playing this game MANY times, I still lose. The same in business. In fact, the overwhelming majority lose. But fortunately, unlike Monopoly, more than one can win at the game of business. YOU can do it. I’d love to talk to you more about steps to ensure your success!

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