Evan Nierman, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in South Florida, is founder and CEO of Red Banyan, an international public relations and crisis management firm. With a strong focus on continuous improvement, Evan finds entrepreneurial inspiration in unexpected places. Here's what Evan learned from the popular miniseries, The Last Dance:
ESPN's sports documentary miniseries, The Last Dance, is amassing stellar ratings, reaching millions of viewers. The show delves deeply into the mindset of the legendary Michael Jordan and the championship Chicago Bulls teams that he led.
The series isn't just resonating with sports fans--it is also replete with vital lessons for entrepreneurs. Here are eight key takeaways from the show:
1. Success requires total dedication to your craft and a constant drive to improve.
Michael Jordan was a standout college basketball player and NBA Rookie of the Year, but the quality of his play improved dramatically through the years. Rather than being content as the best player on his team or winning a single NBA championship, Jordan wanted more and was willing to do whatever it took to improve. One example: When the Bulls were eliminated from the NBA championships by the Detroit Pistons, Jordan put on 15 pounds of muscle to better withstand their physicality the next season. Throughout his career, Jordan worked tirelessly to reach the peak and then to ensure that nobody could approach his level.
Entrepreneurs need this same constant drive for improvement. Growing complacent or happy with the status quo means that other businesses will catch up and eventually surpass you. It takes total dedication to stay ahead of the pack.
2. The margin between good and great is thin but significant.
Every NBA athlete has reached the pinnacle of basketball, with teams making the playoffs operating at an even higher level. The difference between being the best versus second best is often a thin margin. But for Michael Jordan, winning was the only thing that mattered, and he was willing to do whatever it took to ensure that he and his teammates landed on the better side of that equation.
Similarly, there are many good companies. There are fewer great companies. What separates great companies from the best in class is often not a lot. Entrepreneurs should always be thinking about what can give them an edge over the competition. Going that extra mile to differentiate your company and wow your customers can make all the difference.
3. Focus on the team.
In his early years, Michael Jordan focused heavily on his own play. It got him to a certain level but didn't win him a championship. Over time, he realized that if he was going to win, personal accolades must be set aside in favor of team success. Ultimately, Jordan came to see that achieving team triumph was the only way he would be considered the greatest of all time. When Jordan set aside his ego, and the Bulls emphasized teamwork over dominance by one star player, the real magic happened.
Entrepreneurs, no matter how brilliant or dynamic, can never do it alone. Success for any founder depends almost entirely on the ability to surround yourself with team players who can collectively achieve more than any one person could on their own.
4. Be willing to push people to reach the next level.
Michael Jordan wasn't always the nicest, friendliest or most understanding leader. He didn't expect his teammates to perform at his same level because he was without peer. But he did expect them to perform at their personal highest possible level, and to commit with 100 percent dedication to doing their part to win. Jordan was maniacal about pushing team members out of their comfort zones, even if they didn't like it.
The same lesson applies to entrepreneurs. At times, you must be willing to be hard on members of your team. Good leaders know how to challenge those around them to become the best possible versions of themselves. Jordan lifted those around him, making himself better as a leader and making each individual on his team better in the process. It wasn't always pleasant, but he forced them to collectively accomplish more. Entrepreneurs must do the same.
5. Everyone needs a break at some point.
One of the most perplexing aspects of Jordan's career was that he walked away from basketball at the height of his success to take a swing at professional baseball. Many people were puzzled by that decision, but he felt that he needed a break.
Despite his superhuman drive and gifts, Jordan showed that he also was a human being. Entrepreneurs are, too. Burnout can be personally or professionally ruinous if you don't listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
6. Relentless commitment leads to results.
Michael Jordan's relentless commitment to success knew no boundaries. In a telling example, the Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs the year Jordan returned from hiatus. The very next day, Jordan was back in the gym with his personal trainer to avenge the loss in the coming season. He never wallowed in setbacks but dug deep and did whatever it took to keep going.
This is a valuable lesson for entrepreneurs. There will be countless times when things go wrong. Maybe you lost a client, got embroiled in a lawsuit, made a bad hire. Failures are inevitable. It's the willingness to set them aside and constantly forge ahead that will ultimately guarantee success.
7. Never be satisfied; always want more.
Michael Jordan and the Bulls could have been satisfied with a single championship. But they weren't. They needed to repeat. And then they needed to three-peat. And then they needed to do it again. They continuously raised the bar.
As businesses grow and evolve, entrepreneurs must constantly redefine success. That's how you can move from one level to the next. That's the difference between a company that flatlines or plods along with incremental growth versus a company that continues to reach new heights.
8. Exhibit the mindset of a champion.
As physically gifted as his body was, the secret weapon Michael Jordan possessed was his mind. Nobody in the league could compete with him when it came to mental toughness. He was convinced that he was the best and absolutely committed to the idea that he would overcome his foes. Nothing--and nobody--would deter him from winning.
Entrepreneurs require that same tenacious mindset to grow companies and achieve success. So much of business is a mental game. What separates the most successful entrepreneurs are confidence, commitment and an unflappable belief in themselves, their mission and organization. Once you win the mental game, victory is assured. It worked for Michael Jordan, and it works for entrepreneurs as well.