Winston Churchill’s Famous War Cry
Is Fully Applicable for Today’s Entrepreneurs
Arguably, the courage and moral leadership provided to the western world by Winston Churchill was the key instrument essential to keeping World War 2 from ending early, and ever so badly for the cause of freedom. The ability to use words as a tool for effecting an outcome was never so vividly displayed, before or since. A demoralized and near beaten people took heart, did not quit in the face of overwhelming losses and turned an imminent route into ultimate victory. This lesson is vital for entrepreneurs to apply to their struggle to gain traction and successfully compete in contemporary markets roiled with competition.
Churchill had spent most of his career as a maligned backbencher in the British Parliament. A prodigious writer, journalist, historian and social commentator, Sir Winston had railed for years about the poor preparation and fecklessness the British military and political castes in the face of the largest, most obvious tyranny in history, Nazism. He was the butt of jokes. Called Sir Whiney. The power structure in Britain had buried this most brilliant of strategic thinkers and visionaries.
Nevertheless, Winston Churchill had the confidence of his convictions and more importantly, a rational, fully rounded understanding of history and the lessons to be learned from studying the past. He studied history and learned from it. He did not just hope that things would go well, or entertain delusions that reason could trump fanaticism. Churchill’s great strength was his crystal clear view of the reality his world faced.
“”What is our aim?…Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror; victory, however long the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival”. Churchill spoke these words to the British House of Commons on May 13, 1940, after being recalled as Prime Minister, a last gasp hope given little chance of success. At the time the German Luftwaffe was bombing London nightly. German U-Boats had closed shipping lanes, thus disrupting delivery of crucial supplies of war material. The United States was isolationist and almost 20 months away from entering the war; and only then, after the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.
This small island nation, with almost no natural resources was essentially surrounded. France, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, indeed all of western Europe was directly controlled by Hitler’s Nazi hordes. Great Britain’s future seemed dim at best.
This famous quote, heard at the time by the British public while hiding in bomb shelters and in darkened homes over primitive crystal radio sets, provided a turning point for the population. Did the nightly bombings stop? Was food more readily available? Were the shipping lanes more open? Was the Royal Air Force or the Royal Grenadiers any closer to stopping the Nazi’s and returning to the European mainland? The answer to each of these questions was an obvious: NO!
However, Winston Churchill’s daily chats, broadcast into British homes and pubs, connected with the core of the British spirit. Slowly confidence returned. Resolve was rebuilt. Fight replaced “Peace with Honor” and cowardice. The nation was paying for a generation of neglect, but a corner had been turned and a proud people, with a luminous history, now believed that victory could be earned. It would be a long fight, costly in blood and treasure. The vivid word pictures painted nightly by Churchill motivated an inner spirit that had been slaked by the comforts of modern life and a fantasy that wild-men and terrorists could, or ever would be rational.
Every entrepreneur, no matter the level of success attained, can apply the lessons of history to their quest. Quit and your opportunity dies. Vision is an essential element of success. If you are outworked, failure is assured. The heights to be scaled will be very high, but the reward when the summit is conquered will be very sweet. Obstacles are many, difficult and ever changing. The odds are stacked against success. If it were easy every one would be a success, and a look around any environment provides clear proof that success is elusive for many.
Winston Churchill was the ultimate entrepreneurial leader. Initially, words were virtually his only weapon. His ability to motivate and re-activate spirit was crucial in Britain hanging on, fighting back and finally allying with the United States to turn the tide and win freedoms greatest victory.
The ability to communicate a vision was crucially important to Churchill’s success, and is equally important to every budding entrepreneur’s opportunity to overcome the naturally occurring hurdles imposed by a capitalist marketplace. Drive, belief, passion, courage and creativity are not just seminar or self-help jargon words. They are the building blocks for success that have been essential to win at war, business, politics and life.
I encourage my students and clients to study history. The sins of the past can be more readily overcome if we know what those sins actually were. Sir Winston Churchill is the alpha example of a pro-active leader, facing seemingly insurmountable odds and overcoming with pluck and grit. Each of us, entrepreneur or not, have much to learn from his glorious example.
Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.
After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.
Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. (www.duquesamarketing.com) has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.