With the premiere of the long-awaited Australian Survivor coming this weekend, I thought I would celebrate with a quick post all about the similarities between Survivor and running a Small Business.

Survivor is by far my biggest “guilty pleasure”, having watched every season of the US version multiple times followed by listening to wayyyyy too many podcasts analysing the game strategy. I would have applied for this Australian Season except for the fact I doubt they would allow a pregnant woman on the Island!

Now I am heavily involved in the Small Business world, it is easy for me to recognise what Small Businesses can learn from Survivor.

You Must Build Strong Foundations to Survive

To make life easier on the island, the first few days is all about building shelter, sourcing food and water and generally becoming familiar with the environment. This is true for business also: while it’s tempting to jump straight it, to truly be successful you need to lay the foundations in place – a platform on which to grow. This includes a business and marketing plan, research and things like identifying your target market. Then you need to “build you shelter” which is your primary sales platform such as your store, website or social media.

Fire Represents Life

More important than all of that is Fire. In the wilderness, without fire you cannot cook food, sanitise water or keep warm at night. In other words, you simply will not survive more than a few days, no matter how awesome your shelter/foundations. In business, fire is the passion you have for what you do. Small business can be really difficult at times and unless you have a big vision and big passion, a fire in your belly if you will, it is easy to give up on those days when things get tough.

You will Face Challenges

In the beginning of survivor, you are divided into tribes which compete against each other. Within these teams you face challenges – both physical and mental – to compete for reward or for immunity from tribal council. If you want to avoid being “voted out” you need to work together with others as a team to overcome these challenges. In business, your team can be your direct support network or it could be online communities and teachers that will help you overcome those initial challenges.

You must Strategise

Ultimately, Survivor is all about strategy. How will you get from A to Z. You need to think 5 steps ahead. What moves will you make to reach your goals? This is exactly the same as in small business. If you don’t have a strategy you will be lost, you will be pulled from one direction to the next and you will ultimately pay the price in overwhelm, burnout and slow progress.

But you must be Flexible

Things happen. In Survivor, there are some people you simply cannot predict what they will do so you need to be able to adapt your strategies when things change. Likewise in business, your learn new information, come across a new opportunity or something in your personal life gets in the way. You need to accept the change, learn from it and tweek your strategy accordingly.

You must Form Alliances

It is the rare Survivor player who makes it to the end doing it on their own. Yes, it is possible to “win-out” at all the challenges but this is a hard and unpredictable way to go. From the very first season, alliances were necesssary if you were to progress. In business, your alliance is other small businesses you can collaborate with or learn from. These can be other businesses that serve the same target market as you with complimentary products/services or they can be totally different but still provide insights you might not otherwise have.

In the end, People need to Like You

In Survivor, at the end of the game, the winner is determined by a jury of people that the final two or three had to vote out to get where they are. It is very possible to get to the end by being ruthless and cutthroat but in the end the jury tends to recongise those people they respece and like. For business, people choose to buy from businesses they like or feel a connection with. Businesses they respect and like. So be nice, be supportive, even if you can’t plesae everyone.

One way it’s different: There’s more than One Winner in Business

Fortunately, in our modern world, there is room for many small businesses to succeed, unlike Survivor where there is only one winner. So if you do all of the above, working with others, there is no reason why you all can’t succeed.


Let the Games Begin !