The NBA finals are as good as it gets for any sports fan when it comes down to the wire. This bitter rivalry with a rich tradition of great players and a history of prestige makes this final game of the series critical for both teams. The dominating start by the Lakers, followed by a strong comeback by the Celtics in game 5 have made this series one that has kept all of us on the edge of our seats. While watching this series there are several valuable lessons that could be taken from the basketball court and applied to entrepreneurs.
1. Focus is everything: Kobe Bryant came into the NBA finals determined to make the LA Lakers the next NBA champions. From tip off to the final buzzer in game 1, Kobe had a level of focus in his eyes that could not be denied. He even had famous comedian Chris Rock sitting court side and talking to him during timeouts, but Kobe was un-phased. He was clearly determined to walk away from game 7 with another championship ring to add to his collection and the gratification of attaining revenge for the Lakers’ 2008 loss in game 7 of the NBA finals. This same level of focus applies to entrepreneurs. Let’s be serious, when you set out to be an entrepreneur, you will definitely run into distractions along the way. New ideas, new marketing strategies, new facilities, more products, markers and sales reps pitching the newest product and resource that your business must have, etc. None of these things are necessarily bad if you leverage them in the right way. However, an unfocused entrepreneur makes mistakes, which can create setbacks or even destroy a small business. When building your business, stay focused on your company’s mission and have the focus to make decisions based on value to your company.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Adjustments: As I mentioned earlier, the Lakers got off to a strong start in game 1 of the series where they routed the Celtics in a blowout victory. At that point the Celtics had some decisions to make. Do they continue what they are doing or do they watch film and figure out a new strategy? It was obvious from game 2 that the Celtics tweaked a few things in their strategy and it paid off with a win. Why wouldn’t entrepreneurs do the same thing in business? Many companies have struggled or even failed because their leadership was afraid to make key adjustments in critical areas of their company. If your sales are down or your company is struggling to find a nice in its market, think outside the box and try something new. Companies that can turn on a dime and adjust to changing opportunities or market conditions end up with a triple double on their balance sheet instead of a shooting slump.
3. Hire People that are willing to step up: Give some major credit to Glen “big baby” Davis and Nate Robinson for stepping up under pressure and igniting the Celtic in a momentum changing 2nd half comeback in game 4. The Celtics outscored the Lakers in both quarters in the second half, which helped them even the series at 2-2. As an entrepreneur, do you hire people who will step up when you need them the most or will your team back down when confronted with a difficult challenge? If quarterly revenues are down will your sales team work even harder to meet their goals or will they make excuses about a difficult recession? Hire people that are passionate about your company and who will go the extra mile when you need them to score big. Entrepreneurs should also keep in mind that it is essential to provide support and fair compensation to a team or individual that performs well. A good culture of hard working, passionate employees can make a huge difference for a small business.
4. Invest in great coaching: Successful sports teams don’t develop a tradition of success by relying on good players but rather they rely on good preparation. Phil Jackson will go down in history as one of the best coaches ever in the NBA by understanding how to mold a variety of highly talented athletes into a cohesive unit that wins championships. Not every entrepreneur can rely on their own talents to carry their team to championship level success. I believe that having a good mentor is what separates the greatest leaders in business from those who are average.
5. Don’t wait until you are desperate to make things happen: As we have seen in this series, the Lakers got off to a quick start which forced the Celtics to step up and play well in game 4. The Celtics responded with a win in both games 4 and 5, pushing the Lakers into an elimination game 6. Just like an NBA finals series, the competition in most entrepreneurial ventures will be fierce and it will require an exhausting amount of effort to see your business succeed. As the entrepreneur and visionary, it is easy to fall into the trap of getting busy with things such as administrative work, social media community, networking, and public speaking, which can distract you from the main focus of your business: making sales. An ability to sell your product or service is a critical factor in determining the success of your business and generating revenue. When you have a chance to gain a piece of the market and make the big sale, follow through and capitalize on the opportunity. This is how your company will be successful.
John Kreklow is a brand consultant at Shadow Concepts LLC and has found his niche comparing sports and business with his background from the air force and D1 basketball. Follow John on twitter @JohnKreklow