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Got Game?

Useful start-up moves from a popular board game

Playing Monopoly was a blast as a kid. Buying Boardwalk and Park Place. Passing Go and collecting $200. Building an empire. Now that you're an entrepreneur, why not take some of those Monopoly lessons and apply them to your business?

That's the idea behind Everything I Know About Business I Learned From Monopoly (Running Press) by Alan Axelrod. "The great lesson of Monopoly is to flex your risk muscle," Axelrod says. "In Monopoly, a cautious strategy can never win." Axelrod says the game is all about the calculus of opportunity. Passively letting opportunities pass you by effectively plays into the hands of opponents.

Because the object of the game is to be the last one standing, you must be both ethical and ruthless. In business, that means making decisions that benefit your company. "It's also helpful to be decent, polite and courteous, and to negotiate with others to form alliances," according to Axelrod. "Any business, especially a start-up, has to create a corporate karma where what you put out there is going to be paid to you."

Of course, Monopoly differs from real-life business in that your real-life object isn't to create a true monopoly. When that happens, it's the end of doing business because you've driven out your competitors. "Greed is never going to be sufficient to drive an ongoing business," says Axelrod. "Business has to be an exchange of value."

In your real-life business, apply this key lesson from Monopoly: "Figure out ways not to lose the sense of fun, of play," Axelrod says. "Once you lose that, your imagination narrows, and your ability to take risks narrows."

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This article was originally published in the May 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Got Game?.

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