When the Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years last month, half the office came in wearing team jerseys. It was quite a sight to see (even for a Red Wings fan like myself), and it got me to thinking about what business owners can learn from the most successful teams.
Here's a look at three lessons from recent championships that can make your business stronger.
Lesson #1: Know When to Change the Plan
In the Women's World Cup final last weekend, center attack Carli Lloyd scored three goals on her own. Three. In a sport whose games sometimes end in a zero-zero tie. The most interesting part of this, though, is that prior to the knockout round, Lloyd was playing defense-and she was scoring.
Luckily, Coach Jill Ellis recognized that Lloyd had the potential to make things really happen farther up the field, and moved her to the attack position. Lloyd scored in all four of the remaining games-games the United States won 2-0, 1-0, 2-0, and 5-2.
Small-business owners often face a similar opportunity. You may have hired someone as a part-time assistant-but if she's writing programs to automate your sales funnel in her down time, it's time to offer a fulltime position and a raise. When you have someone that talented, you can't afford to let them go.
Lesson #2: Invest in Talent
It's scary to spend money when you don't have much coming in. But if there's one thing that should be on the top of your spending list, it's talent. Take the Blackhawks. When Rocky Wirtz took over the team from his frugal father in 2007, it was in financial trouble and had only made the playoffs once in the previous 10 seasons.
As the New York Times reports, the elder Wirtz had been nickel-and-diming everyone from fans to players for years. But when Rocky took over, he decided to invest in the squad so it could be a Stanley Cup contender. First he obtained Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, now two of the best players in the league, in the 2006 and 2007 drafts. Then he added Coach Joel Quennerville in 2008. Next, he promoted Stan Bowman to General Manager, which got him the added bonus of Bowman's father Scotty, the winningest coach in NHL history, as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operation. He even lured the great Marian Hossa from a Detroit Red Wings team that had just defeated the Hawks in the conference finals. Talk about talent.
Once Wirtz had a worthwhile product, it was a no-brainer to bring in outside executives to bolster the marketing team. The result? Those three championships I mentioned earlier.
Investing in talent can come back to your business in a big way. The people able to make the most impact on your business aren't cheap-but they're worth it.
Lesson #3: Give Your People a Purpose
It's hard to understate the power of a common purpose.
Consider the Ryder Cup, the biennial team golf competition between the US and Europe. In theory, the teams should be evenly matched, yet the Europeans have more or less owned the Americans for the past two decades. There are plenty of opinions about why the American team fails, but at least one golf writer argues that the Americans' lack of purpose damages their play. His evidence? Before the last cup, American team captain Tom Watson organized a scouting trip of the course and only two of twelve teammates bothered to show up. Compare that to the raucous celebrations the Europeans have after every win. They never tire of beating us, and that's a sign of a team that's all in.
Even the most dedicated employee will put their own interests ahead of the company's. That's normal and even healthy. Your challenge is to figure out how different personality types can help your business get where it's going faster. When people feel that their skills are valuable to the business and part of the big picture, they're much more likely to be invested in the greater good.
Flexibility, talent, and shared purpose: It's a winning formula for plenty of pro sports teams, and it can work wonders in your business, too.