After days, weeks, and months of waiting, it’s that time of year that sports fans dream about. What started out with many is down to just two, as championship season has arrived. But as the lights are now shining on two of the largest stages that professional sport has to offer, we can’t help but put a small business spin on this typically sporty spotlight.
1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Look at the reigning NHL and NBA champions – the Pittsburgh Penguins lost multiple players to lengthy injuries throughout the regular season and playoffs, but did they panic? No! The Cleveland Cavaliers, meanwhile, played mediocre basketball at best for the latter half of the season and had many writing them off for a repeat before coasting through the Eastern Conference in post-season play.
Whether you’re playing an 82-game regular season (not to mention playoffs) or building what you hope to be a successful business, it is more than a quick sprint to the finish line. There will be ups and downs; times for you to cheer incessantly or question your strategy entirely; and pretty much everything in between. But you can’t look at a few injuries or a disappointing losing streak as the ultimate benchmark of your season. Any bumps on the road must be taken in stride because things undoubtedly progress and march on, just like in business.
For any small business to gear up for a championship-like run, they can’t put the cart before the horse, they can’t invest too much in minor wins or losses, and they can’t succumb to the trials and tribulations of the long haul toward success. The best in the business saddle up for a lengthy run, and if you put too much stock in any one stretch, you may very well end up prematurely pressing the panic button and turning your championship aspirations into a quick exit.
2. You can’t take anything for granted
This is the third consecutive year we’ve seen the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers as the last two standing, while the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for a repeat title of their own, but seeing the same teams reign supreme is no guarantee. The sporting landscape sees many ebbs and flows; teams that thrive one year can self-destruct the next, making sustained success an ever-elusive target. So when success does come your way, you can’t take it for granted and assume it to be the status quo.
Do you think a championship team just rests on its laurels after taking home the crown? If anything, they put themselves even more in the spotlight and have to work that much harder to secure the repeat. For better or worse, a championship-calibre team will typically get the best the opposition has to offer, both in the game and behind the scenes. In business, the same holds true, and as a small business, whether you’re rising the ranks or just stepping onto the court, it’s important to know that any past success is just that – a thing of the past!
So in business, just because you secure a new client, make a splash online, or do something to progress your overall mission, doesn’t mean your work is done. No progress can be taken for granted because you never know what the next day will bring.
3. Find and capitalize on your competitive advantage
We see it all the time in sports – when one team wins a championship or finds a formula that translates into success, the competition retools to match up better. Countless teams did just that to address that differentiation and ultimately dethrone the Warriors and Cavs, including Golden State themselves adding a perennial All-Star to the mix. The bottom line is that, when you’re at the top of the hill, you become the benchmark. Competition will examine where you secured your advantage(s), how you differentiated yourself from the pack, and how they can respond in-kind.
So whether you’re setting the benchmark or trying to reach (and surpass) it, each day can and will be a challenge. You need to take stock of what your current capabilities are, where you’re lacking, and how you can fill the gaps – either internally or externally – that you think will put your business in front. And whether it’s a top-of-the-line digital marketing approach, an unparalleled customer service strategy, or simply a strong group of personnel, you can’t be afraid to capitalize on your competitive advantages if you want to go for the gold.
But remember, just because you constructing or retooling what you believe to be a winning strategy doesn’t mean that others aren’t doing the same. Any point of differentiation can become obsolete as quickly as it surfaced, so be sure to keep a strategic eye on your industry’s competitive landscape.
There’s no denying that a championship-calibre team does not just happen overnight. It takes hard work, it takes commitment, and it takes passion. But whether these final series bring experienced clubs like the Penguins and the Cavs, or newcomers like the Nashville Predators, there is plenty that small business can learn to put themselves in a championship position as well!