Remembering D-Day: Lessons Learned and How They Can Help Run a Successful Business

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“This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower

It couldn’t have been easy for the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces to believe so wholeheartedly in success during a time of battle. But he was a leader and that’s what leaders do. They inspire, they believe in accomplishments, and they lead the way to them.

June 6, more formally known as D-Day, is considered one of the driving forces that took down Nazi Germany in World War II. On that day, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along the French coastline to fight the Germans on the beaches of Normandy.

Though the cost in lives was high, the lessons we can learn from this infamous day are many. Since it’s only days away, Direct Capital would like to share these lessons with you today and help you understand how they can help you run a successful business.

Lesson 1: Always Have a Backup Plan. D-Day was originally scheduled to take place on June 5, but inclement weather postponed it until June 6. With D-Day, there was a lot on the line and those leading the troops couldn’t afford to be caught off guard. Though the weather didn’t go as planned, they were able to formulate another strategy to ensure they went forward with the strike the following day.

What you can learn:  As a business owner, you know that things very rarely go as planned – a project falls short of the deadline, your revenue numbers don’t hit one month, it happens. You have to be prepared to move forward no matter what and continue to envision success.

Lesson 2: Make Positive Brand Decisions Early on. Those who aren’t history buffs have probably heard all the different things the “D” could stand for – Disembarkment-Day, Decision-Day, even Death-Day. The truth of the matter is that the “D” doesn’t stand for anything. Euronews.com writes, “D-Day and H-Hour represent the secret time and day an operation was set to begin, so before and after WWII many other operations had a ‘D-Day.’”

What you can learn: Though not the worst thing in the world, to many people the “D” means something completely different than what it was intended to mean. The same can happen to your brand if you go the wrong route when building it.  Determine what you want your company – and your brand – to stand for and begin marketing it in that way. You don’t want customers to get the wrong impression when it comes to who you are and what you do.

Lesson 3: It’s Okay to Fear Failure. Despite how confident Eisenhower was at the start of the battle, both he and Prime Minister Winston Churchill feared defeat. Eisenhower went so far as to prepare a letter in case they lost. He wrote, “The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt is mine alone.” Churchill, too, was feeling the pressure of possible defeat, telling his wife the night before: “Do you realize that by the time you wake up in the morning 20,000 men may have been killed?”

What you can learn: Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t let it overwhelm you or take you down. And most importantly: Push forward. Eisenhower and Churchill didn’t let the fear of defeat stop them from moving forward with their plan, and neither should you. When you feel strongly about something, try it. Have a plan in case it does fail (see Lesson #1), but do everything in your power to make it a success. Push forward and your team will be behind you the entire way.

Lesson 4: Be Versatile in Your Products and Services.  Former National Guard Infantry Officer Andrew Higgins had an idea. He designed a shallow draft boat to help him extract hardwood trees from the back swamps of Louisiana when his 1900s era boat kept getting stuck. Over many years, he improved on his design eventually landing a contract with the U.S. Government, selling to them 20,000 boats. His Land Craft Vehicle Personnel ships served Normandy and helped in the D-Day strike. Despite the boats not being designed for this purpose, Eisenhower once called Higgins “The man who won the war for us.”

What you can learn: The products and services you create should help a wide range of consumers and serve many different purposes. When in the brainstorming stage, think of all the ways your products could be used, who would want them, and how you can market them to all of those people. The more buyers you have on board, the more successful you’ll be.

Lesson 5: Do Competitor Research. According to the BBC, back in 1944 the BBC ran a competition for French beach holiday photos. What seemed like a simple contest idea was actually a way to gather intelligence on suitable beaches for D-Day.

What you can learn: Researching what your competitors are doing helps you stay ahead and discover new ways to come out on top. What makes your competitors successful? How do they attract new customers and increase revenue? It’s key to understand their business because that can help you prioritize yours and determine which projects should be pushed forward first.

Lesson 6: Learn to Adapt. Even though roughly 85% of paratroopers landed in the incorrect location on the night of the invasion, the Allies still won.

What you can learn: Striving for accuracy is important, but so is knowing how to forge ahead in case you miscalculate or something goes wrong. Again, have a backup plan. When 80% of the products you ordered don’t come in, have a way to explain that to customers. Setting accurate and realistic expectations will give you a better chance of winning (or keeping customers happy).

Lesson 7: Beat the Odds and do the Unexpected. Normandy was chosen as the spot for D-Day because it was the most unlikely of beaches. According to Britishlegion.org, Germany did not expect there to be an attack on Normandy because of how much effort was needed to do so efficiently. The Allies would need to get the attacking army, enough equipment, and medical supplies on land quickly prior to attacking from the sea. But, much to the Germans surprise, the Allies invented and built temporary harbors – called Mulberry Harbors – to avoid having to attack through a port. Ultimately it led to their success.

What you can learn: When you started your business, people probably told you it was difficult to beat the odds and succeed; that it was hard to always do the unexpected. But it’s never too difficult to do anything you believe in. The Normandy invasion took a lot of preparation and many minds to invent solutions that would achieve their end goal. In business, you do the same. You prepare, you brainstorm, and you create solutions to help your business grow. Always strive for more and aim to beat the odds.

As D-Day approaches this year, remember everything that we can learn from that famous day in history. But most importantly, remember the sacrifices that were made and give a little thanks to the leaders and heroes behind it.

For information on Direct Capital and what we can do for small businesses across the country, visit our website or give us a call at 866-777-0117.

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