What Can Sports Teams Teach Us About Business?
When we play sports, can you imagine playing and not keeping score and not wanting to win? Not only do we know how to keep score, but we know the game will end. We play nine innings in baseball, three periods in hockey, four quarters in football and basketball.
We also know when the game ends at our business. It ends each fiscal year. We add up the score from all four quarters and see how we did this year. We don't have to wait till the end of the year. We should know the score at least every quarter; that is, if we choose to measure it. How do we know we won the annual business game? We meet or beat our budgeted expense projections and we meet or beat our sales goals.
Just like sports teams, businesses play games. The trick is to get the employees to play the game you want them to play. The successful sports teams stay competitive year after year by developing a sound strategy and mastering it. That's what allows new people to arrive and other people to leave and the results stay excellent.
Everyone has a role. On a sports team, a general manager recruits willing people who are talented, and the coach trains them using his system that maximizes their talent and gives them the best chance of winning.
There have been very few coaches, if any, who were successful at being the general manager and coach while also being a player. It's not the path to building a repeatable high-caliber team. The separate disciplines require total commitment and focus.
So, how can we as owners be doing the actual work if we want to build a winning team by being the general manager and coach? You need to spend more time working as an owner on creating this system of recruiting, hiring and training, and less time doing the actual work of your business.
Fortunately, a lot of owners have come to understand they can't do it alone. It's the investment of time, energy and money in creating good supervisors and managers that really pays off.
We need supervisors and managers. Just like a sports team, there can be only one head coach, but there needs to be talented assistant coaches to carry out the plans. These guys give the specific one-on-one help that one person alone can't.
The best general managers and coaches look to add only a few key free agents to their team a year. They don't try to build a great team with a bunch of hot shots. They've learned that long-lasting success comes from developing the right new talent and training them under the guidance of experienced pros who create the right atmosphere and set the right example by their actions.
You can't build a great business by trying to pirate away hot shots. You need to master how to fill your staffing requirements by building your own people in your own farm system. This requires an ongoing recruitment budget and time devoted to all it takes to do quality in-house training. Recruit willing people, hire them and indoctrinate them correctly with tools like a written play book (a manual) on how they should do the job you want them to. Then, you simulate the game they're going to play by creating role plays and verifying they are effective at every position you need them to be.
A football team uses a depth chart to determine how strong or weak they are at each position. If the center gets hurt, should we stop the game? No! We insert the next player based on our depth chart who's been cross-trained to play center.
In business, we have a depth chart. It's called an organizational chart. This chart is designed to tell us the positions it takes to run our company (play the game of business) and who has been trained at which position. It's how we know where we are strong and where we are weak. If a CSR gets hurt, should we stop answering the phone? No! We insert the next staff member based on our organizational chart who's been cross-trained to be a CSR.
Emulate a great general manager and coach and see how your business can be a proven winner year after year.