The Secret to Success: Watch Field of Dreams… Backwards

field_of_dreams-0713Many of my friends and followers of my Twitter feed, @AVPhenom, may have gathered that I ended up with a little bit of “unexpected” free time lately.  That left me with a touch of extra insomnia as well, and as such I turned to my old friend the DVR.

I had Field of Dreams on there and hit play.  Realizing it was near the end, I hit the “<” arrow 4x and initiated a rapid rewind catching every few frames, (seemed like a lot of work at the time to go back to the List, select the show again, and hit “Start Over”.  It was late OK?)  As I sat in the dark in silence watching a 24 year old movie (yes, it’s THAT old now), in reverse, lightning struck.

Thunder followed and as I was standing outside smelling ozone and staring at the tree that fell on my neighbor’s car, I had a sudden idea as well.

Field of Dreams spells out the secret to running a successful company, as long as you watch it backwards.  So let’s start over, from the end.

The Ending.

At the end, Ray Kinsella finally realized who he was doing everything for.  He went through the whole movie thinking he was looking to please Shoeless Joe, when really it was his father he should have been thinking of. In a similar way in business, we first have to figure out who the journey is all about.  We know it is not about “us.” Nobody buys from our business because they want us to be successful. They do it because in some way it benefits “them.” So first we have to figure out who that “them” is.  Who are we setting up our business to help?

“Go the Distance”

At several points in the movie, Ray hears a voice driving him, and the last thing that voice utters is “Go the Distance.”  In the movie, going the distance meant going and talking to experts like Terence Man and getting their opinions. It meant looking at history and statistics to identify the need and then assemble the unique group of players needed to form the perfect team. Then you need to bring them all back and put them in the proper positions. The parallel here is obvious, so I won’t belabor the point. Talk to experts in the field and find people who know what the market lacks and needs and who have the attitude and aptitude needed to fulfill your company’s mission and then get them on the payroll before someone else does.

“Ease His Pain.”

Now that we have isolated the potential customer and assembled a team, we need to figure out what the customer needs and wants. What could they benefit from that is not currently being offered in the market, how could it be provided in a better, faster, more efficient fashion? This is really the foundation of our mission statement or unique value proposition.

Our company helps “X” with “Y” by doing “Z.”

 “X” is the specific customer, “Y” is the “Pain” and “Z” is the product or service designed to “Ease His Pain.”

“Build it and he will come.”

These were the first words Kinsella heard, so they are what we end with. However, your job is now much easier than Ray’s was as you know who “he” is already. You know the customer, you have the team and have uncovered the mission. It’s now time to choose a location and start the real work of building a business to deliver. Fill in any additional team members needed now that the mission is formed and gather all the resources to make good on your promised benefit.

Stop the movie now!!!

This is where you need to turn the movie off and stop carrying the analogy any further. Otherwise, if life imitates art, just like Ray Kinsella you will find yourself at the kitchen table with your wife scratching your head and wondering how your farm went bankrupt. I’m fairly certain that is not where you want to be at the end of all this, but who knows, we all have different dreams. Who am I to judge? 🙂

The nice thing about building, is that like the Winchester House is San Jose, it never has to be complete. You continually reassess who you need to help, what pain they are experiencing and how your business can best deliver the remedy to that ailment.

The exciting part is, that whether you are just starting a business, or whether yours is 20 years old, the formula above can help you continually evolve and create a legacy of success.

Memento, ha! Christopher Nolan, eat your heart out.

Reach Mark Coxon at or on Twitter.