March Madness – A Small Business Observation
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell
As I was watching the drama unfold in the final game of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night, I started thinking that much of what I was viewing was similar to what goes on in small business every day. So what similarities are there between the final game culminating in the end of March Madness and the madness small business owners face on an ongoing basis?
Here are nine similarities that I observed:
Be prepared – Both teams going into Monday night’s game had a strategy. They watched the game films, studied the players, and understood the other team’s tendencies, along with their strengths. Each team also knew the other team’s perceived weaknesses and what they could take advantage of. They practiced plays that they felt would work against the other team’s defense and tried to match their players against their opponents to give them a slight edge. As a small business owner, you also need to be prepared. You need to know your competition and know what you do better than they do. Additionally, you need to know what they do better than you as that leads to lost customers.
You can’t be prepared for everything – As well as each team was prepared, there are always things that go wrong and things that you don’t necessarily count on. Players get in foul trouble. A player that normally shoots at 80+% all of a sudden can’t find the rim. The best-laid plans never take everything into account, because they can’t. This means that both coaches had to be ready to improvise when necessary which is exactly what you, as a business owner need to do. You may not be able to prepare for everything, but you can do a certain amount of risk avoidance and risk mitigation to go along with your improvisation.
Strategy is one thing, execution is something else – Even the best-laid plans still have to be executed. Many times on Monday night I saw plays come together flawlessly only to have the player miss a three- foot layup. Drawing a foul is one thing, hitting the free throws is something else. During the game, there were times when flexibility was the key to success for both coaches. If one play wasn’t working, they tried something else. If one player wasn’t executing, they had another player pick up the slack. It’s no different for small business owners. It’s called contingency planning. There is more than one way to execute the strategy and small businesses need to be able to change direction when necessary.
The starting five can’t do it all – Neither team kept their starting five in the game the entire 40 minutes. Some got into foul trouble early, others were not performing as well as the coach had hoped, and running up and down the floor, guarding, shooting, and rebounding gets tiring and you need a rest. That’s where the bench comes in. Each team relied on their bench to keep them in the game. It’s no different than the starting five in small business. It’s not always five, but it’s that group of people that the owner relies on the most. The problem is, they can’t carry the weight of the company on their shoulders. They need help from the rest of the team. All the players on both teams contributed in one way or another. In small business, every employee contributes. One major difference might be that the two teams in the tournament final knew that the entire team contributed. At times, small business owners don’t know that until it’s too late.
Sometimes freshman can do amazing things – Duke was down by nine points with 13:23 left in the game when Grayson Allen came off the bench and lit a fire under the entire team. Duke’s big men were on the bench in foul trouble and the young freshman changed the momentum of the game almost singlehandedly. Sure he was a good player. Sure, he could drive, shoot, and hit the majority of his free throws, but what he did went way beyond just the use of his skills. He emotionally recharged the entire Duke team. Small business owners can take a lesson from this. There are many younger workers who can do amazing things for your company. They are just looking for a chance to do so.
Never stop trying – The lead changed hands many times during the game. Duke went down by nine which was the most they had been behind during the entire tournament. They had their top players in foul trouble and the momentum was on Wisconsin’s side. A perfect time to start thinking, “Well, we had a pretty good run.” And even when Wisconsin was down at the end of the game by six, did they stop trying, hoping, or playing? No! Because Yogi was right when he said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Small businesses need to remember that as well. There are many parts to your business. They will not always run as efficiently and effectively as you would like, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying to be the best you can be.
Things can change rapidly – Lead changes, fouls, tremendous shots, terrible shots were all part of the game. An emotional roller coaster because of how rapidly things kept changing. Regardless of these things, the coaches and players on both teams continued to execute the strategy the best they could. Through it all, they stuck to the game plan. Small businesses need to realize that things change rapidly as well and some of the changes will be good and some not so good but through it all, if the strategy is sound and the execution is planned well, the end result will be worth the fight.
You can’t do it alone – As you watch the game, you get engrossed in the players, the shots, the fouls, the instant replay, the referees, and the coaches’ tirades. Very few of us thought about the cheerleaders, the people providing water and towels to the players, the trainers, assistant coaches, and the band. They may not have been out on the floor, but the supporting role they played helped both teams to play as well as they did. As a small business owner, never forget the supporting players who help keep your business running. Think about the functions within your business and the less visible team members and remember to thank them every chance you get.
Small things mean a lot – One call that could have gone either way. One turnover, one misstep, one tick of the clock, one bad throw, one bad shot, one bad call. All of these things could have made a major difference to the outcome of the game. One person in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time. We have a tendency to forget the small things, the basic things, but at times the most important things that affect the final outcome. Small things mean a lot in business as well and it is important that as a small business owner, you pay attention to those small things. Remember, one small mosquito can cause a lot of itching.
It was a great game and it’s great to see what happens when all the hard work and effort results in victory. It doesn’t come easy in basketball and it doesn’t come easy in business. But it does pay off when you observe, learn, improve, and execute.
About the Author — Ron Feher is the Chief Improvement Officer at WhiteRock Business Solutions where he helps turn small business strategy into reality. He is an executive advisor with The BoardRoom (executive think tank), strategic partner with Prana Business (Line-of-Sight™), certified professional analyst with TTI Success Insights®, and specializes in improving all aspects of business operations including executive coaching, employee assessments, business planning, and day-to-day operations improvement. Ron does Career Coaching as an outreach (#givingback) to the community. WhiteRock is located in Orange County, California and can be found at www.whiterockbusiness.net; or contact Ron directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (949-466-0943). #finalfour #smallbusiness @RonFeher