Business acumen may mean making business decisions on time. Time is an important business value in the life of an entrepreneur! Time is more than just about managing it. It is about responding timely when an opportunity arises. Entrepreneurs constantly look at their watch and what they should have achieved at a given time.

One of the best parallels associated with the time factor and how it determines results is soccer. The term football managers constantly use is “stepping up the game.” It means as they look at the watch and the corresponding results, things would not be going as desired. At this point, they have to respond according to the time remaining. Teams also up their game the moment they look at the table, especially when it looks likely chances of success would be slipping away without engineering new strategies midway the season. At this stage, the managers will seek to assess the available resources and possibly beef up the squad when a new transfer window opens.

Team managers will also be particularly interested in knowing what competitors are doing. This gives them the best position to know by how much they need to up the game. In an actual game, the teams will also analyze the game plan and how each game must be played. They would deploy different resources when the team seeks to up the game. On the substitute’s bench are different players for the key positions that would respond to challenges in case a new strategy is required. I asked a football coach what really takes place when a player is to be taken in as a substitute.

“Substitution is really about the quality of performance at a given moment in time. Three things generally happen,” he stated, “first, the substitute will go and implement my ideas. He is the messenger to speak to specific players about certain thoughts I have. Second, I tell him to perform better than the one I am substituting. Third, by virtue of the substitution taking place, the other players will receive the signal that things have to change. It is a warning to everyone about the need to change the tactics.”

The issue of stepping up the business game is common in business though the terminologies differ. I have heard things like “new strategy,” “restructuring” and “business unusual.” The bottom-line is that when the going gets tough in business and time is running out, the tough get going and they have to up the business. There are certain circumstances that require entrepreneurs to up the business game. The key one is underperformance. In most cases, many businesses are really struggling with performance issues. The profits are not growing. The business volumes are declining. The sales are very poor. At the same time, the costs are rising.

The bottom-line is that when the going gets tough in business and time is running out, the tough get going and they have to up the business.

For self-managed businesses, the owners begin to physically get dejected. The creditor list is expanding. The banks are sending warning letters. At this point, one has no choice but to raise the tempo. The entrepreneur has two choices to make, either to sink or to up your business game. In moments like this, the entrepreneur will need to stand up courageously, anticipate a last minute break and exploit it with maximum energy to turn the business score-line against all odds. Those moments always come at times from the most unlikely sources. The belief is that in every environment, there are occasional slip-ups, ugly economic cycles and one always has to change the game plan.

Businesses raise the tempo of the game when they face competition. Whenever there is a new profitable opportunity, other businesses will quickly notice. At first, you enjoy the high price because you are the only player. But those fortunes will be noticed and before long, others invest in the same business. They reduce your margins as you are forced to lower the price and spend a lot in advertising.

The strategy by large businesses is to always raise the game whenever they experience an encroachment into their territory. They know exactly who is encroaching, their capacity to sustain the pressure and how they should be measured up. To know how exactly to respond, they have a system of monitoring performance by the hour. If sales are lower than the previous hour, they seek to know whether it has to do with a competitor, the environment, the product cycle.

If this trend continues for a week, they up the game a little bit more. If it continues for a month, they up the game with more resources and each manager begins to take responsibilities for which they remain accountable. The trend may continue for a year and at this stage, the strategy introduces new systems which may affect the human resources (competences, performance management), financial restructuring (injecting more money in strategic areas), search for more markets to exploit new opportunities, research and development as well as automation (investment in information technologies).