There is a great quote in the movie “What About Bob” where Bob (Bill Murray) tells Dr. Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) “There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don’t.” When March comes around each year and the NCAA Tournament is about to get stared, I get the feeling that there are those that love it and those that don’t. In fact, many a sports talk radio hours are devoted to arguing about whether or not March is the best sports month of the calender. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, you have to admit that the games can be pretty exciting.
But as a business owner, boss or manager, you might find it difficult to get your employees’ undivided attention, especially with each game being broadcast right to their desks. According to the latest Challenger, Grey, & Christmas, Inc. study, 2.5 million workers will be spending at least 90 minutes a day watching basketball. The study says, “With private-sector workers earning an average of $23.29 per hour, Challenger estimates that employers will end up paying distracted workers about $175 million over the first two full days of the tournament.” I have to say I am one of those people. I love having the little screen up in the corner of my monitor just in case something amazing happens. With the decrease of productivity, you might resign yourself to just accepting the inevitable and eating the losses, but March Madness can teach us some great lessons about business.
You Can’t Win if You Don’t Make the Tournament
Every year pundits debate the “worthiness” of the field of 64, oh wait, now 68 teams. And each year there seems to be some teams that don’t get included for one reason or another. Some have bad losses to bad teams, some don’t have many good wins against good teams, and some just don’t play anyone decent the whole year but have a good record. Whatever the reason, these teams always make waves and complain that they didn’t get an invite to the “big dance”. As unfair as the reasoning may seem, these teams just didn’t do enough during the regular season to award inclusion in the tournament.
Are you doing the little things in your business each and every day to make sure that you are rewarded in the end? On those days when it feels like there is nothing to do–you’re waiting on a developer to finish some code, your staff is at a team building event for the week, or you’re in the middle of a seasonal downturn–there are still things that can be accomplished that can have a dramatic improvement on your business. In fact, it is these days that will often determine whether or not you get an invite to the dance. Look at processes and routines–can you improve them to be more efficient? Organize–take some time to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks that can hurt you later down the line. Get creative–you think those guys at Apple are sitting around drinking champagne after last weeks iPad3 launch? I doubt it. They are probably already at work on the next release with newer and better features.
Sometimes the Cinderella Wins
Every year, some unknown school from an unknown conference make the NCAA Tournament and beats a highly seeded team from a bigger conference. But how do they do it? There are many factors but I believe that there are 3 main ones.
1. They just want it more. The players and coaches know that this might be their only shot. They don’t have million dollar NBA contracts in their future. They don’t have all the accolades in the media. They just want to win to be able to taste success.
2. They still have good players. Just because they are from small schools, doesn’t mean they aren’t good. In fact, they may be better.
3. Their competition has no idea who they are. There is something to be said about knowing your opponent. These small schools fly under the radar and are often overlooked as easy wins.
Many small businesses feel like they will never make a huge impact in their industry. They are afraid to take chances that could potentially knock off one of the big boys. If you are a small business, there are times when you have a competitive advantage over large, more established businesses in your industry. Just like the Cinderellas of the tournament, you might want it more, have superior employees and fly just enough under the radar that your competition isn’t paying attention. Use these advantages and you just might get a huge win.
Don’t Let “Experts” Determine the Outcome
Part of the intrigue of the tournament is all the prognosticating that goes on before and during the games (picking your bracket and pitting your basketball IQ against “Joe from marketing”). If I was the coach of a team in the tournament, there is no way I would let my players watch TV or listen to the radio. I don’t even play and I feel bad for some of those teams. They get pounded by so called “experts” saying that they don’t belong, they can’t shoot or play defense or they don’t have enough experience.
These same things could be said about your business. In this digital age, reviews, blog posts and articles are created, shared and consumed faster than we can imagine. I am not saying that these things aren’t important or that you should ignore them, but don’t let them dictate what your business becomes. If you have a bad review, reach out to the individual and make sure they know that you are going to do everything you can to resolve the issue. Engage with your customers but don’t let one individual customer define who you are as a company.
Use This Time to Increase Morale
Although productivity seems to decrease around March Madness, it can still be a great time for your employees. According to the same Challenger report, “Rather than try to squash employee interest in March Madness, companies could embrace it as a way to build morale and camaraderie. This could mean putting televisions in the break room, so employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the Internet. Employers might
consider organizing a company-wide pool, which should have no entry fee in order to avoid ethical and/or legal questions.
In an article featured on The Huffington Post, University of Richmond psychologist Donelson Forsyth states, “Certainly time will be taken away from tasks we’re doing, but the gain in terms of energy and overall cohesiveness in the long run will have a positive yield. You learn a lot about people when you talk about brackets. Who makes decisions based on emotions? Based on loyalties? Who’s strictly rational, picking only the first or second seeds?”
So, no matter what your stance is on March Madness, the tournament is here to stay. You might as well embrace it, learn a few lessons, and hopefully come April, you’ll have a happier workforce ready to compete for the long haul.
1. Challenger March Madness Report, Challenger, Grey & Christmas, March 1, 2012.
2. March Madness 2012: Betting And Score-Watching May Be Good For Business, The Huffington Post, March 13, 2012.