Could you make the “Final Four” in your business or profession? 2014 version

As March Madness heads into full swing I am taking a pause while at the beach to write this analogous comparison of one of my favorite times of year with one of the most important things both professionals and business owners should consider.  I know I often get caught up in the day to day of my work, but every so often it is of value to see just where I compare with where I have been, where I want to go and in the eyes of my clients and competitors.

When one thinks of the Final Four you know they are talking about the best of the best in college basketball.  As these four teams descend upon Dallas in April it will become apparent that there are some differentiating factors that make these teams Final Four worthy when compared with many others.  Just what are those factors?  Let’s take a peek.

  1. Making the final four means you have been part  of a streak of success.  Getting into the NCAA tournament means the body of work your team has accomplished is substantial.  Occasionally a team slips in by winning a conference tournament, but these teams are the exception, not the rule.  After making the field of 68 you must then win four or five consecutive games to make the final four.  In doing so the tests get progressively more challenging and they will occur in at least two different venues, usually places the team has never played before.  So too for the successful business.  Being successful means having a solid body of work and a few missteps along the way.  Getting to the peak means a streak of success at some point and there are other factors that provide this opportunity.  The most important is teamwork, our next attribute.
  2. Teamwork is tantamount to success in the NCAA tournament and it is also key in any successful business.  The sum must be greater than the parts.  Great teams complement one another and they also have good feedback mechanisms to talk with one another when times get tough or to congratulate one another on those great occasions.  Successful teams fit well together.  Like a chain, the weakest link can sometimes become apparent.  Honing a team requires practice and discipline, our next trait.
  3. Great teams and great businesses have discipline.  Hard work is important, but doing the right things and doing what needs to be done, even when it is not enjoyable, is a key differentiator between success and failure.  Practice makes a team successful and successful basketball teams have individual and group time throughout the year.  So it is too for successful business teams.  They must practice the groups skills we discussed in point 2, but they must also have their own positional skills, be they marketing, finance, operations or in other areas.  The successful team needs their key skills to be honed and the successful business is the same.  Most of this comes from good coaching, our final skill.
  4. Great coaches make good teams great, but fair coaches cannot keep great teams great.  Think about that.  Coaching is a critical skill and a good coach is like a chemist or a chef.  He/she knows the ingredients that are at their disposal and their goal is to find the right mix of these ingredients and make them into a formula or recipe that satisfies the customer or the client.  In some cases the ingredients or talents provide multiple options, but in some cases there may be just one right way to blend the ingredients.  Having a great coach can cover a multitude of problems.  Having a poor coach only exposes little problems.

So there you have it.  Making the Final Four, the pinnacle of success in college basketball requires teamwork, discipline and good coaching.  These factors then provide success.  Take away one of the three and you don’t make the Final Four.  You might make the NIT or you will probably be at home drinking beer and talking about what could have or should have happened.

Take a look at your team and see where they fit into this model.

Do you have what it takes to make the Final Four in your business?