Against the odds, you’ve made it to the final round.
You and your team have spent countless hours at the office — working late into the night and on weekends, too — focused on making your business a success and nailing presentations that could push your company to the next level. Despite competitive pressures, your hard work paid off. The business plan is operating even better than expected — and you’ve been a little lucky too.
Your company has advanced past the preliminary rounds, and now you’re on the big stage.
As we approach the final days of March Madness, I'm struck by the parallels between fueling a business to the next level and the Michigan State men’s basketball team’s run to the Final Four. I've actually experienced them both.
Years ago, I was a 5-foot-9 walk-on point guard at Michigan State. During my five years in the program — four years playing and one year as a student assistant coach — Coach Tom Izzo guided us to three Big Ten championships, three NCAA Final Four appearances and an NCAA championship.
Those years playing ball taught me some important things that helped me become the CEO of a well-performing business. Here's how you too can prepare for what could be the biggest moments of your life — in business or basketball.
Related: The Business of Turning Sports Fantasies into Cold Hard Cash
1. Avoid complacency.
Sure, you just got to the Final Four. Enjoy the moment. It’s an unbelievable accomplishment.
Just don’t forget that you have to take on top-seeded Duke in the next round. Oh, and there’s this team in the other bracket… Kentucky?
As in basketball, success in business means working hard, looking for ways to improve and adjusting to new situations. Don’t just go with what's working. Switch things up and look to innovate — but stick to your core strengths. Take a moment to recognize your team and accomplishments.
2. Believe in the team.
Teamwork is important for any organization’s success. Michigan State — just like Kentucky, Duke and Wisconsin — has devoted itself to practicing, conditioning, learning plays and gelling as a unit. Assistant coaches, trainers and various support personnel play a huge role backing the players.
Successful businesses not only recognize the importance of the team but also understand how individual roles play into the overall success of an organization. Everyone from the CEO to administrative assistants need to work together, understand their assignments and work smoothly as a unit. Just as an errant pass on the court can be the difference in a close game, failing to follow up on an email from an important client can crush your business.
Related: How Serial Entrepreneur and Racecar Driver Ken Block Found Success Both On and Off the Track
3. The harder you work, the luckier you get.
Luck is part of any success. When interest rates are down, my business is in a better position to grow. As a mortgage lender, my company's been thriving — regardless of market conditions that are completely out of my control. I worked hard to structure my business in a way that will succeed no matter what the environment.
Michigan State is working hard too. They don’t give up, and they are focused. They dive for loose balls and take hard fouls. Sure, they benefited from some lucky plays along the road to the Final Four, but good ball movement, strong defense and a lot of hustle put them in a position to take advantage of some unexpected breaks.
4. Leadership dictates success.
All four head coaches in the Final Four are superstars in the coaching profession, each having multiple successful NCAA tournament runs. They've been able to recruit the best players, get the most out of every individual on their teams, skillfully manage game situations and be ambassadors for the college game.
In business, strong leadership is the backbone of an organization. The ability to motivate staff, connect with clients and adjust to changing industry conditions will ultimately determine the success of your company.
And one more thing: Go Spartans!
Related: Startups Born from a Passion for Sports