Is luck a part of business success? Jim Collins the author of Good to Great and Built to Last noted that most CEOs of top companies credited a portion of their success to good luck. It follows that if good luck exists then surely bad luck exists as well. The existence of luck is hard to argue against but do what degree does luck contribute to success in business?

There’s a popular saying that luck is where opportunity meets preparation. An opportunity can be presented to many people but ultimately the ones who are prepared for it will be able to.take.advantage of it. Writing this in a time when the world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic shines a greater light on the idea of luck and some aspects of it. Lockdowns across the world have turned many to looking for content to occupy the time. For those who love television online streaming has been the place to look. In 2019 Netflix committed to spending US$17 billion on creating new content where competitors such as Amazon, Apple and others had committed US$1-2 billion to new content production. Now with the world glued to tv screens that new c become more valuable and Netflix’s bet seems like the wisest one in the space.

On the subject of luck, there’s a story I love to tell and it informs the rest of the discussion on luck that will be contained in this article. As the story goes a man and his adult son lived in feudal times on their land where they had a horse. One day the horse, a stallion, ran away. His neighbours remarked “What bad luck” to which he responded, “Maybe good luck, maybe bad luck”. The horse returned after a few days with 6 wild mares in tow and his neighbours remarked that he had such good luck and he again retorted “Maybe good luck, maybe bad luck”. The next day his son tried to mount one of the mares and fell of breaking his leg. The neighbours commiserate with the man on his bad luck but he again uttered his mantra: “Maybe good luck, maybe bad luck”. The following week, as their country was going into war there was a conscription order for young men to join the army. Seeing the son had a broken leg the army could not conscript him and so he remained behind while others were taken to war. As you’ve guessed by now his neighbours congratulated him on his good luck and he once again said: “Maybe good luck, maybe bad luck”.

The story is of course just an illustration. While his neighbours sought to label events as being good or bad luck the man understood meaning is usually given to events retroactively and at the is difficult to determine whether they will bring good or bad results. What’s interesting is in each turn of events it was his neighbours’ interpretation that not changed not the event or its meaning. Netflix’s content bet looked overreaction to the impending threats of Amazon, Disney + and Apple TV. Now it looks like a masterstroke due to the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdowns.

Luck is of course not a business strategy. It is Jim Collins who said good luck can boost your business but bad luck can destroy your business. Bad luck in COVID-19 pandemic times can be seen in gyms and fitness studios worldwide. Gyms by equipment and repay over a period. They are heavily leveraged and this you why they hound for their payments and want to keep you locked in. They have been hit hard by the process. Aviation has also been hit hard with flights grounding and borders being closed. They may recover but a lot depends on how we come out of COVID-19. Kodak despite being a leader in digital photography bet on printIng of photos, bad luck. Blockbuster had the video rental market cornered before streaming was a thing. Netflix at the time decided to post DVDs and eventually turned to streaming.

All this to say luck, is a factor in business. Good luck comes in being able to take advantage of opportunities, bad luck in being ill-prepared. In Zimbabwe, the same has happened when shifts occur in our moving tile economy. Preparation is key and we are seeing this in the current setting. Businesses like Bakers Inn have quickly moved to deliver their products at a household level. Meanwhile, farmers required a softening of lockdown regulations on fresh produce markets as they were set to lose produce. Success love preparation and preparation is always a good thing.