Want to Win at Business? Learn How to Play the Game

Jan 24, 2019

There’s a lot you can learn from your favorite sports team, but one of the most useful bits of intel you can learn is how to operate a successful business. Think about it. Great sports teams typically have two things in common:

A well-conceived, unique, and rehearsed game plan

An all-star roster

Sure, there are exceptions and flukes in every situation, but I’m never putting my money on the team whose philosophy is, “Let’s just go out there and wing it. And while we’re at it, let’s see how our quarterback does on the defensive line.” Interestingly enough, so many business owners have this spontaneous approach to their business plans and hiring practices.

Typically when I ask business owners if they have a plan, they either hang their heads, put their hands in their pockets, and whisper, “No, but…um…” followed by a weak excuse. Or, they tell me they have one but it’s at the bottom of a filing cabinet collecting dust. They’re not alone. Recent stats show only 10–15 percent of business plans are actually followed.

The prevailing, though incorrect, belief among business owners is that a plan is not essential and therefore their time is better spent on other things. Coach John Wooden and I disagree. He said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

There are 60 workdays in a quarter. If your team members work eight hours a day, 40 hours a week (who works 40 hours anymore… more like 60 , isn’t it?), that’s 480 hours per person per quarter that you will be paying for to get things done. You’d better spend the time to know your team members are doing things correctly. Here’s how:

State your business strategy in one sentence. You want it to be specific and succinct. Six to 10 words is all you need. This is your game plan.

There are two ways you could come up with this statement.

Think of your “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” or BHAG and core purpose. Maybe you want to win the “Superbowl” of your industry. Or maybe you want to be the company that’s known for having smart character players. Your one-sentence business strategy should reflect that goal or core purpose.

Think of what you do that your competitors don’t that clients want. Then base your one-sentence strategy on enhancing this unique quality. Find the other team’s weakness and exploit it.

Once you’ve established the strategic statement, break it down into tasks that team members can own. The receivers are responsible for following the planned routes and the quarterback is responsible for getting the ball to the receiver.

When you’re assigning ownership of tasks, make sure you nail down the who, what, and by when. Most businesses remember the who and what, but not the by when. Be sure to assign due dates or these tasks may never be accomplished. Also, when assigning tasks, consider each team member’s strengths and use them. After all, you wouldn’t ask your kicker to play linebacker.

Third, review your plan often and revise it. In my experience, the minority of business owners who actually have a plan review it annually, which is just about as useless as never reviewing it. You should review your plan monthly, or, better yet, weekly. The economy changes, the market shifts, and your business needs the flexibility to respond and adapt. After all, if your running back tears his ACL midgame, you have to change your strategy to rely instead on your passing offense.

Now that you have a game plan, you need the players to help carry it out. There are three things to consider when selecting team members.

Draft the players who can do the job you’re hiring them to do, meaning they have the mental or physical ability and proven experience.

Select those who will do the job, as in, they’re motivated and inspired to perform to their best ability.

3.Choose individuals who fit the team dynamic.

Once you determine that the individual fulfills those requirements, it’s your job to identify and utilize that team member’s strengths. Start by clearly defining what those strengths are by issuing an assessment. I recommend DISC. It measures an individual’s propensity toward Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, or Compliance. Understanding which category each team member predominantly corresponds with, helps you, as a business owner or manager, understand each team member’s work style.

For instance, if a team member measures high on the Influence scale, that’s a good indicator that that team member will be better at inspiring and leading initiatives. You’d probably want your quarterback to rate highly as an influencer.

Now that you’re equipped with a deeper understanding of your team members’ personalities, match them with tasks they’re both good at and enjoy doing. It’s a wining combination that increases productivity and team morale. For example, even though your on-staff accountant may be good at discussing numbers with a small group of familiar faces at the office, he or she may not enjoy explaining the company numbers to a large boardroom. Don’t set your team members up for failure.

Further, just because an individual is on the sales team, it doesn’t mean he or she operates like every other sales specialist. Yes, everyone on the sales team may be higher on the Influence and Dominance scales than your team of computer analysts, but each member may have slightly different working styles. For instance, some sales representatives can close over the phone whereas others have to be face-to-face. As a manager, offer flexibility to accommodate your team members’ working styles. In other words, don’t force your team members to wash their lucky socks during a seven-game winning streak.

In the end, success is the child of preparation. If you’ve dedicated time developing a game plan and drafting a winning team, you’ve significantly increased your odds of winning. Coach Bobby Knight said it best, “Everyone wants to win, but not everyone is willing to prepare to win.” Are you?