People often draw parallels between sports and business. At the conclusion of every championship game, there’s a fleet of managers ready to turn it into a lesson about success for their staff to learn from. And, for every championship banner hanging in stadiums and ballparks across the world, there are thousands of offices adorned with a motivational Wayne Gretzky poster (“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”).
The parallels between sports and businesses indeed exist, but creating a winning culture that rivals the best sports teams in the world requires much more than sports-themed posters and speeches. You have to embody the lessons taught by the most celebrated teams and athletes, not just recite them for a quick morale boost.
Here are five pearls of wisdom from the sports world and how to translate them into a culture that wins like a sports team.
1. Know The Score
One of the most significant disconnects between sports and business is the scoreboard. Your staff may function as a team and have some idea of what success means, but without the ability to keep track of the score, it’s difficult to know what actions are leading to that success. In other words, you can’t have a winning culture until your team knows how to score and win.
Thus, to establish a winning business culture, you have to explicitly define what winning means and how the team can score. Your company’s immediate goals and objectives should be clear to everyone, whether those employee-driven goals are purely profit-based or centered around customer satisfaction, client acquisition or something else.
Once the team understands how to score, then you need the ability to track that score; they need a scoreboard. If your goals are revenue-based, expressing the score is easy because your objectives are quantitative. It’s a little harder if you’re focused on, for example, having the best customer satisfaction, as goals like these are qualitative. Thus, you need to devise a metric that allows you to measure and track progress. This makes it much easier to see how the team (and even each member) did each week and how those efforts are leading towards a big win.
2. Play Like A Team
Sports teams function as a cohesive unit, with each player carrying an equal share in the responsibility, decision-making, and triumph. Sure, you have all-star players that may outperform other members of the team, but even superstars know that their ability to score and put up high numbers is only as good as the team members they have around them. Similarly, coaches and managers know that they are just as good as the players they have on their roster.
In business, it can be a lot harder to develop this team-focused environment because there’s a built-in hierarchy. In a lot of companies, it’s the boss that makes the big decisions, experiences more of the triumphs and shoulders more responsibility; the “team” is just there to follow instructions. This is another all-too-common disconnect between the corporate world and the sports world.
If you want to have a company culture that functions like a winning sports team, you have to give the ball to your staff and empower them to have an equal share in the decision-making and success. This will drive them to be more engaged and enthusiastic about their work and will heighten your company’s ability to win as a collective unit.
3. Take The Occasional Risk
Some of the most significant moments in sports are born out of prominent risks. These plays are the ones that not every team would have made. It is the risky moves that can sometimes pay off the biggest. These are the moves that take the opposition by surprise and open up big opportunities to score and win. However, there’s also the chance that the tactic backfires and the door to score is left open for the opposing side to take advantage of. In business, the same is true; there are risky decisions that can allow a company to gain a huge leg up on its competition.
Businesses today are faced with more tools, technology, and channels than they’ve ever had before. For every next-big-thing that revolutionizes the way we do business today, there were a hundred or so false prophets that promised to be that same must-have technology or toolkit but came up way short. Companies have to tread carefully and make calculated decisions on which small business marketing trends are worth an investment and which are not. While these cautious moves are safer, they don’t create the big-win opportunities as a risk does.
Sometimes, you have to act a little cavalier and take a risk on a new technology or an unproven trend. When you consider the right risks, it gives you early insight into how this trend or technology works. While other companies are still waiting for the direction to mature and industry experts to slap the stamp of approval on it, your company has the distinct chance to be already benefiting and, in the words of Jerry Rice, “… accomplish[ing] what others can’t.”
4. Always Work Hard
The most exceptional athletes know that there is no off-season, even if you win and especially not if you lose. Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers’ guard, had only just experienced his team losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a decisive game 7 in the first round of the NBA championship, but that didn’t stop him from immediately sending a message to his trainer asking when they can start working towards next year. It’s that level of dedication to the grind that can create a winning culture.
It can be demoralizing when business is slow, and sales are down, but these are the precise times when working hard is most important. Instead of getting bogged down in the melancholy of slow business, a winning business culture can capitalize on the downtime and devise new ways to rocket back into contention. As a business owner, achieving this can be difficult. You have to galvanize the troops and get them back on the path towards success. If ever there was a time for that Wayne Gretzky poster, it would be now.
Even seasonal businesses can use their off-season to their advantage, rather than treat it as a detriment or a time to checkout. It’s a great time to catch up on other tasks that fell by the wayside during your peak business months. Alternatively, you can use the time to be more productive and prepare for your upcoming on-season by getting a jumpstart on creating marketing materials, organizing events, etc.
In short, never take any downtime for granted. A winning business culture knows that the grind is never over.
5. Keep An Eye On The Road Ahead
Here’s a Wayne Gretzky quote that you and your office team can get behind. Again, businesses are affected by more technology and trends than they ever have been before. If you aren’t carefully watching out for these trends and routinely checking out the technology that’s under development for next year, then you’ll always be playing a game of catch up. The best businesses are the ones that know what’s coming and already have the wheels in motion to meet industry changes as they happen.
Great hockey players also know that they need to keep their head on a swivel. Otherwise an opposing skater could stop them in their tracks, literally. The same is true for businesses. If you aren’t actively keeping an eye on your competitors, it creates an opportunity for them to suddenly skate right into you and gain a competitive edge in the market. Thus, you not only want to measure your successes, but also the wins of the competition. After all, you can’t just measure your wins to know where you are in the standings!
The business world may not have a playoff race or a championship game, but there are plenty of lessons that the best sports teams can teach business owners. If you want to create a company culture that wins like your favorite sports team, then you have to begin treating your staff like a team, which means teaching employees how to keep score and measure company wins and empowering them to share in the decision-making processes and the successes. From there, it’s a simple matter of working hard, taking risks and adapting to industry changes.
Andrew Gazdecki | CEO, Bizness Apps
Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps, a company that helps small businesses build mobile solutions to compete with big brands. Their mobile app building platform makes it possible for everyone to create a mobile app for their business. Many of our customers resell apps to cost effectively deliver them to small business clients. When he isn’t helping small businesses, he is out surfing in the Pacific Ocean.