Clichés are clichés if only for the fact that they so often turn out to be true. Name the one you like the most and, if you take the time to look, you'll find plenty of examples to validate the cliché ... and as you search, you'll find examples that aren't true, either.

While there are plenty of clichés out there that businesses toss around, the one that needs to be excised from your business lexicon right now is "Practice makes perfect."

No it doesn't.

If anything, it invites mediocrity to take a seat at the table and allows focus to slip. It reassures those who are doing the practice that, since it is practice, screw ups and mistakes are somehow okay. Standards have flexibility. The rules are merely suggestions. In business, though, every day is game day and your results at the end of the week or the month are the record that you keep.

All too often, when some critical piece of a transaction has failed - for some reason a sale or an opportunity fell through and was not consummated - someone shrugs their shoulders and rationalizes the failure with something that sounds a lot like "practice makes perfect" or "better luck next time."

Certainly, there are reasons for mistakes and failures - that is inevitable in a business venture. You simply cannot close every customer you speak to, no matter how perfect the widget is that you sell. Some people don't have the means to purchase your product or service, some don't need it, still others just took a dislike to you based on the color of suit you wore that day. On the other hand, if you don't seek out to review why sales didn't close or customers didn't buy, or even worse, you have no method to review why your protocols failed, then you're not even practicing, you're just failing.

And that is not a cliché! That's a reality.

How to prevent this? Adopt a new cliché - "Perfect practice makes perfect."

In football, there is a drill that many coaching staffs use called the "Perfect Play" and if you give any football player the choice between wind sprints and Perfect Play, they would all take wind sprints. The reason? The team is watched by the coaching staff as they execute play after play at slow speed to make sure that everything, from the foot they lead with on a block to the way that the running back selects a line and a hole to run to. Any mistake or misstep means the squad must redo the play. Usually, the team is required to put together a string of plays - perfectly - to enable them to be done with the drill. As you can guess, eleven different players almost inevitably make a misstep or a minor mistake in each play.

Any mistake by any of the 11 young men on the field at that time starts the process over.

The result? When the team is physically spent in the fourth quarter of a critical game, they can run plays ... perfectly. The drill has, effectively, put them on autopilot and their reactions are more the result of muscle memory than conscious decision.

The Perfect Play drill is not a far leap from where you and your business need to be in your own playbook. Does your team know their assignments? Have they had the proper training to be able to handle any situation as they interact and take care of the client? Have you contemplated the scenarios they are likely to encounter and how they are to react to those scenarios?

All of this comes back to the training and the documentation of processes and the single most important book you will ever write as an owner - the one that tells everyone in your organization "how we do it here!"

Published on: May 4, 2017