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Ignite Your Second Engine: Prepare for Setbacks

Updated: Feb 14

Life often asks for something in return, no matter what you're doing. Whether it's just getting through the day or aiming for big achievements, there's always a cost involved.


Consider daily survival, for instance. We expend our time, energy, and resources on the essentials, from putting food on the table to maintaining our well-being. These daily investments, often taken for granted, are part of the ongoing cost of existence.


Likewise, when we aim for significant milestones, be it personal or professional, the cost takes a different form. It might require us to sacrifice leisure time for intensive efforts, invest in education and skill development, or face the emotional toll of setbacks and rejections. These costs, though more apparent, are the dues we pay on the journey to success.



Second Engine Business

Business Evolution: The Constant Change and Transformation


In the realm of business, a similar principle applies. Companies often sacrifice something today in the pursuit of something more valuable tomorrow, however, it does not always play as expected. This is evident when we look at the top 20 companies from 28 years ago – few of them still occupy that list, others don’t even exist anymore, and the ratio is 10.4% if we look back at 1955. Change is the constant, and we must embrace it, right?


Fortune 500 Companies

The Life Cycle of Companies: Birth, Growth, Challenges, and Adaptation


No company, regardless of its success, remains static throughout time. They are born, they ignite, they grow, they face challenges, they evolve, and they adapt, or they die – not unlike human beings.


However, some businesses themselves don't die; they transform alongside their core products. Picture it as an internal competition within a company, where different products vie for supremacy.


Consider Nokia, once a titan in mobile manufacturing until the iPhone disruption. Facing bankruptcy, they reimagined themselves, becoming a vital player in the network infrastructure sphere. This remarkable transformation is what well-led and efficiently managed companies undergo.


The visual representation below illustrates Nokia's financial evolution, tracking its net profit from 2006 to 2022. This striking chart underscores the impressive turnaround in their business, culminating in a standout performance in 2022, marking a significant milestone in their resurgence.


Nokia Net Income

The Second Engine: Diversification for Business Resilience


Imagine your business as a ship navigating the tumultuous waters of the market. Your primary engine is your core product or service that drives your company forward. It's what keeps you afloat, brings in revenue, and defines your identity. However, just as a ship wouldn't rely on a single engine for its entire journey, neither should your business.


This is where the concept of a "second engine" comes into play. Your second engine represents diversification and adaptability. It's your insurance policy against unforeseen disruptions. In the case of Nokia, they didn't just cling to their legacy mobile phones; they harnessed their expertise and resources to become leaders in network infrastructure technology. This dual-engine strategy allowed them to not only survive but thrive in the face of a seismic industry shift.


So, where is your second engine? It could be a new product line, an expansion into different markets, or a strategic partnership that opens up new opportunities. It's the foresight to invest in the future while maintaining your current success. Committing to developing this second engine ensures that your business remains agile and can weather the storms of change.


Before you say “I’m all of that, and, I do that in my business", consider this: your second engine isn't merely an ancillary product or service; it's a strategic leap into unexplored territory. It leverages your existing strengths and resources to tap into adjacent opportunities that your primary engine may not cover. It's a new venture that can redefine your business's future. For example, take the case of Amazon. While they began as an online bookseller, they strategically built their second engine, Amazon Web Services (AWS), offering cloud computing services. This transformed them from a retail giant into a tech powerhouse, reshaping the landscape of the internet.


Your second engine is about innovation, diversification, and forward-thinking. It's the commitment to expand your business into areas that align with your core competencies but also open new horizons. It's an investment in resilience, ensuring that when the winds of change blow, your business remains not just upright but thriving.


“The art of the sailor is to leave nothing to chance.” Annie Van De Wiele

As you venture into the realm of establishing your second engine, it's like setting sail on a strategic voyage. There's excitement and promise on the horizon, but careful preparations are essential to ensure a smooth journey.


Key Elements of a Strategic Voyage: A Guide for Business Leaders


Here are the key elements you'll want to consider:

(1) Financial Strength

Think of this as your ship's budget. Ensure it's seaworthy and capable of withstanding the financial challenges that may arise during your voyage.

(2) Startup Mentality

Embrace an agile, adaptive mindset. Be ready to pivot and innovate as circumstances evolve.

(3) Good Market Understanding

Like having a detailed map of your route, a comprehensive understanding of your market is crucial. Know your competitors, potential disruptions, and the opportunities that await.

(4) Give Freedom to Experiment

Grant your crew (your team) the latitude to experiment, explore, and learn from their experiences, even if it means encountering a few rough seas along the way.

(5) Hire Visionary Leaders

Your voyage will require skilled captains who can navigate uncharted waters. Employ visionary leaders who share your mission and are equipped to steer your course.

(6) Cross-Functional Collaboration

Ensure seamless collaboration between your primary business and your second engine. Insights and resources from your existing operation can support your new venture's growth.

(7) Balanced Risk Management

Prepare yourself to navigate through potential storms. Implement a risk management strategy to safeguard your voyage.

(8) Measurable Goals and Metrics

Set clear objectives and establish performance metrics to assess your progress and ensure you stay on course.

(9) Talent Acquisition and Development

Recruit and cultivate a crew that is passionate about your mission and equipped with the skills needed for a successful voyage.

(10) Scalability

Design your second engine to be adaptable and ready to grow as you continue your journey.

(11) Customer-Centric Approach

Stay focused on serving your customers effectively. Ensure that your second engine addresses their needs and desires.

(12) Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Navigate the legal and regulatory waters to ensure your voyage complies with all relevant laws and standards.

(13) Continuous Evaluation

Regularly assess your voyage's progress. Be prepared to adjust your course, modify your sails, or, if necessary, consider an alternate route.

(14) Important Bonus Track: Buy vs Build Strategy

Sometimes it's wiser to acquire an existing solution rather than starting from scratch. Consider whether buying a solid foundation aligns with your mission and accelerates your journey.


The examples of industry giants like Nokia and Amazon demonstrate the power of this strategy. They didn't merely sail through the market; they charted new courses and harnessed their strengths to reach uncharted shores.


So, again, where is your second engine? Remember: It's not a side or science project; it's your pathway to reimagining your business's future. The journey may have its challenges, but with the right preparations, it's a voyage worth embarking upon. Smooth sailing ahead! 🚢

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Sarah T
Sarah T
Oct 17, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great article! Thanks for sharing!

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Matias Felix Ruiz
Matias Felix Ruiz
Nov 25, 2023
Replying to

Thanks, Sarah. We appreciate your words, and looking forward to getting the same level of interest in future releases.

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