What the NBA Finals taught us about entrepreneurship

The NBA Finals is about as good as any sports fan can get when it comes to wires. This fierce rivalry, with a rich tradition of greats and a history of prestige, makes this latest game of the series a defining one for both teams. A dominating start by the Lakers followed by a strong comeback by the Celtics in Game 5 made this series one that kept us all on our toes. While watching this series, there are some valuable lessons that can be learned from the basketball court and applied to entrepreneurs.

What the NBA Finals told us

1. Focus is everything: Kobe Bryant made it to the NBA Finals determined to make the Los Angeles Lakers the next NBA champion. From the prompt to the final chime in Game 1, Kobe had a level of concentration in his eyes that couldn’t be denied. He even had famous comedian Chris Rock sitting on the court and talking to him during timeouts, but Kobe was out of phase. He was clearly determined to walk out of Game 7 with another championship ring to add to his collection, and get the satisfaction of avenging the Lakers’ loss in 2008 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The same level of attention applies to entrepreneurs. Let’s be serious, when you set out to become an entrepreneur, you’re bound to run into distractions along the way. New ideas, new marketing strategies, new facilities, more products, markers and reps offering the latest products and resources your business should have, etc. None of this is necessarily a bad thing if you use it right. However, an unfocused entrepreneur makes mistakes that can lead to failure or even ruin a small business. When building your business, focus on your company’s mission and focus on making decisions based on value for 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 swept the Celtics to a landslide victory. At that point, the Celtics had several decisions to make. Do they continue what they are doing, or do they watch a movie and develop a new strategy? From the second game, it was obvious that the Celtics had changed something in their strategy, and it paid off with a victory. Why shouldn’t entrepreneurs do the same in business? Many companies have struggled or even failed because their management was afraid to make key adjustments in critical areas of their company. If your sales are dropping or your company is struggling to find something good in its market, think outside the box and try something new. Companies that can turn around quickly and adjust to changing opportunities or market conditions end up with a triple-double balance rather than a slump.

3. Hire people who are willing to climb: Give big kid Glen Davis and Nate Robinson credit for stepping up under pressure and igniting the Celtic in momentum by turning a comeback in the 2nd half in Game 4. The Celtics beat the Lakers in both quarters in the second half, which helped them even a series of 2-2. As an entrepreneur, do you hire people who will act when you need them most, or will your team back off when faced with a tough challenge? If quarterly earnings fall, will your sales team work even harder to reach their goals, or will they be justified by a severe economic downturn? Hire people who are passionate about your company and will do their best to achieve great results. Entrepreneurs should also remember that it is very important to provide support and fair compensation to a team or individual who performs well. A good culture of hard-working, passionate employees can make a huge difference to a small business.

4. Invest in great coaching: Successful sports teams don’t build on a tradition of success by relying on good players, but rather on good preparation. Phil Jackson will go down in history as one of the best coaches ever to play in the NBA for understanding how to turn a lot of talented athletes into a single team capable of winning championships. Not every entrepreneur can rely on their own talents to take their team to the championship level. I believe that having a good mentor is what separates the greatest business leaders from the mediocre ones.

5. Don’t wait until you feel like doing something: As we saw in this series, the Lakers got off to a fast start, forcing 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. As with the NBA Finals, competition in most entrepreneurial ventures will be fierce and it will take a grueling effort for you to succeed in your business. As an entrepreneur and forward-thinking, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing things like administrative work, social media communication, networking, and public speaking that can take you away from your core business: sales. The ability to market your product or service is a critical factor in your business success and revenue generation. When you have a chance to get a piece of the market and make a big sale, take advantage of this opportunity. This is the only way your company will be successful.

John Cracklow is a brand consultant at Shadow Concepts LLC. He found his niche by comparing sports and business to his Air Force and D1 basketball experience.


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