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Posts Tagged ‘Lebron James’

Championship Sports Teams… What Do They Teach Us for the Small Business & Startup Arena

Friday, June 24th, 2011

In the past month, we experienced two of the most exciting Finals’ in recent history in both the NBA and NHL. In the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks destroyed the three-headed monster called the Miami Heat in a thrilling upset, winning the series 4-2. Meanwhile in the NHL’s Stanley Cup, the Boston Bruins came back from being down 3-2 and defeated the Vancouver Canucks on the road in Game 7, concluding an electrifying series (USA!!).

Both the Mavericks and Bruins exemplified great team work which strongly contributed to their respective championships, while the Heat and Canucks both had their weaknesses and choke-artists. In retrospect, certain characteristics of these teams can translate into the business world with regards to small business teams’ and their respective success.

First and foremost, small business teams need to be dedicated to their success while not being afraid of taking risks, committed to doing whatever will benefit their team or business the most.

Before this season, 33 year old veteran Jason Terry of the Mavs had gotten a tattoo of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, given to the winner of the NBA Championship, on his right bicep.  The tattoo of the trophy he yearned so deeply for but had never yet received was a huge gamble, being placed there to motivate himself and his fellow teammates. As a veteran and captain on the team, along with their star Dirk Nowitzki, Terry made the bold move prior to the season and sealing the deal at the end brands it one of the most epic tattoos in history.

However, Daniel Sedin didn’t have the same boldness and confidence in the Stanley Cup Finals, but rather destined his team for failure. Like former New York greats Joe Namath and Mark Messier have done in the past, Sedin staunchly guaranteed a Canucks Game 7 victory on their home ice. While being an extremely daring move, the guarantee demonstrated his trust in his team and motivated them all to perform better. In the business world, every associate must trust and help his/her co-workers, whether it be in group projects or in learning new strategies, in order to maintain an efficient organization. Yet hours before game-time, Sedin rescinded his guarantee, saying that it was the excitement after his team’s 5-2 loss, and the “words came wrong out of my mouth.” WHAT!? After hearing that, I knew the Bruins had the game, and therefore the series, in the bag. Successful teams have good chemistry and are adept to taking risks, doing whatever is the most beneficial. Once teams lose faith in themselves like Sedin had, they lose faith in their product and talent, and therefore I “guarantee” the business will then collapse as a whole.

Another common trait of winning teams and successful businesses is having players stepping up at opportune times and others performing well under pressure, leading to an overall positive team chemistry.

This was most evidenced by the play of the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award winner Dirk Nowitzki. Throughout the entire playoffs, Dirk had stepped up his game and nothing says clutch more than Dirk’s winning baskets in both Games 2 and 4. Down 15 in the 4th quarter in Game 2, Dirk revitalized the Mavs offense and scored his team’s final 9 points, making the game-winning layup with 3.6 seconds left. Similarly, while fighting through a 102 degree fever, he again sealed the game with 14.3 seconds remaining in Game 4. Nothing is more important to a business than its major player stepping up in times of need and doing whatever it takes to succeed. This year’s playoffs solidified Dirk’s ranking as one of the all-time greats in the league, and he finally capped it off with the championship. However, every member of the team contributed to and played a significant role in the winning effort, from aging point guard Jason Kidd, to big man Tyson Chandler, and even to The Janitor, Brian Cardinal.

At least Goldberg came through clutch at the end

On the losing front, the Lebron James collapse (for the second time, see here) is probably the most shocking and talked about story of the entire NBA Finals. We have all been witnesses to possibly the best player of our generation, yet he has continued to fail to do what matters most: WIN. After disparagingly taking his “talents to South Beach” (more info here), the best player in the world still managed to breakdown in the fourth quarters of the game. When his team needed him the most, he was inept at hitting his stride, often taking the challenging jumper as opposed to his usual forcing his way towards the basket. He was more hesitant to shoot than Goldberg at the end of D3: The Mighty Ducks, and instead of using his talent and coming through clutch like Goldberg, he often chose to pass to his wingman Wade in the shadows of defeat. Businesses should not aspire to be like Lebron, executing flawless planning and strategizing of your product, but actually failing when it matters and comes down to attracting customers and selling your product. Instead, be like Mike.

In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins managed to win the Cup by relying on the stellar performance of its goaltender, Tim Thomas (we’ll get to him later), while playing physical, unselfish, fast-paced hockey and getting contributions from both their stars and young talents. The Bruins weren’t the more talented team in this series, going up against the likes of the Sedin twins and other offensive stars such as Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows. But they played with more intensity and far greater chemistry than the Canucks, bringing Boston their first Cup victory in 39 years. Their most valuable player excluding their goaltender was rookie Brad Marchand, a quick, energetic spark who always made his presence known when he was on the ice despite his 5′ 9″ stature.

In the small business world, teams with greater chemistry and positive morale are more likely to prosper. Similar to the Mavs and Bruins, businesses rely on all of its members as each employee plays an important role. Whether it is the star player like Dirk or the role specialist like Marchand, each complements one another and the entire team cannot function without all of its pieces.

Finally, small business teams must have a stronghold on its safekeeping and security. Companies need to be secure from external threats, such as thieves and online hackers, against their businesses and customers’ personal information and must demonstrate their trustworthiness to their clienteles.

Tim Thomas kissing what is rightfully his

In hockey, the goaltender is considered to be the security for the team, preventing the pucks from going into the net. And nobody has ever done that better than how Tim Thomas did in this year’s NHL Playoffs. Not only did his legendary performance earn him a spot among Boston’s all-time sports greats, but it also landed him in the record books. At age 37, he became the oldest player to win MVP and he recorded the most saves in a Finals with 238 and the most saves in a playoff run with 798, playing every minute of the postseason for the Bruins. All small business teams need their Tim Thomas’s, blankets of security to rely on, something to demonstrate their integrity and creditworthiness. The closest thing to that for online small businesses are trust seals placed on websites, providing assurance that consumer personal information is safe with the companies they are doing business with.

Now we are entering the toughest and worst months of the year… for sports that is. Small businesses come and go regularly, though aren’t as damaging to the population as the conclusion of these two sports are. Of the four major professional sports, we have the dog days of the MLB ahead, with our teams playing games that are often dull and meaningless in the end. And that’s the highlight. We also have the NASCAR Cup Race, Wimbledon for a few weeks until another Rafa-Federer showdown (which is actually very entertaining), and the PGA Tour, but honestly, what’s golf without Tiger? I’m already looking forward to the football season. Oh wait… oh no.

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Posts Tagged ‘Lebron James’

What does Online Trust & Lebron James' Free Agency Have In Common?

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I am still frankly in some ways recovering from what I knew was going to happen all along.  Lebron James was going to leave Cleveland. I actually predicted it in this post about lessons small businesses and startups can learn from Lebron James after his flame out in Game 5 of the Celtics/Cavs series earlier this year.

So his departure got me thinking about a few things.  As we all know, his departure was a complete PR spectacle.  But there are some serious lessons learned.  Even strangely  I see some commonalities between how we all viewed Lebron James (especially Cavs fans) and how we decide whether we should trust someone online.

1.   People Change – Cavs fans, and frankly many in the media, thought they knew Lebron. Heck there was probably good reason for the belief, they watched him grow up in my hometown of Akron, watched him get drafted and become a global icon in Cleveland.  Many people thought that they knew Lebron to be “one of us” because he was from Ohio and knew the long frustration of Cleveland sports fans.  Boy were they (we?) wrong. Many people say something changed with Lebron in the last few months, even reporters that have covered Lebron since he was 16 and back in high school. It started with the complete collapse in Game 5 against the Celtics where he looked clueless and uninterested in playing in front of 20,000 crazed fans in a series that they should have won. And it continued to this summer where Lebron blew off the owner of the Cavs not responding to one of the owner’s calls or voicemails.  Wow, did he indeed change and change at that very quickly!

Lesson Learned: You may think you know someone online (and maybe even offline), but you need to be prepared for the unexpected. The only thing you can do to protect yourself is a) get as much information as possible about a person and business and b) always be cautious for the unexpected to happen because it will.  Also the person or business you know one day may be very different a few months or years later.  So always keep your information gathering up to date before you decide to do business online.

2. Do Not Trust Labels, Trust Actions – Lebron repeatedly said so many times he puts a premium on loyalty.  He said he is a loyal guy and that he will always be that kid from Akron.  The fans, media and even his teammates bought into that card.  Heck, I even bought into it.  You have to kind of grow up in Akron to understand it but there generally is a common bond of many people from NE Ohio that ties us together for some of the events, sports nightmares and generally ribbing we have endured.  Again, we were so wrong. You can literally have the word “Loyalty” printed on your chest like Lebron does, but it means ZERO if you do not live up to your word.

Lesson Learned: When you are online, people and businesses will say all sorts of things to get your business. They will say that they guarantee certain things, that you can trust them, that their website is safe.  Make them prove it to you by having them show you their trackrecord of reliability, trustworthiness and success.  Heck, that is what the KikScore seal allows you to do as a small business.

3. Look for Hints of Information to be Wary:  So in some ways I can say myself and the rest of the city of Cleveland/Akron feel blindsided.  But that would be naive.  There were many hints of information and actions, though small and isolated instances, that should have made people wary of what Lebron was going to do.  There was the lack of commitment to the team last year when he had the opportunity to resign, there was his space cadet look and play in game 5 of the Celtics game, there was the lack of engagement with the team after the season and then maybe the most glaring one is when Lebron constantly referred to the fact that he needed to consult “his team” for the decision.  No that would not be his Cavs teammates, that was his marketing team and his bunch of his fellow St. Vincent, St. Mary high school friends and agents. I should have known, I went to Walsh Jesuit the arch rival of St. V’s. We could never trust those guys……but that goes back nearly 20 years now.

Lesson Learned: Transparency is key.  If a person or business is transparent and gives you information about themselves and their actions, first that is a good sign because they are comfortable enough to give you that information.  But more importantly, in order for you to make that online trust decision you need to analyze that information in way that allows you to feel comfortable.  To help, here are 7 items to look for from in stores that sell online to make sure they are legitimate,  5 safe online shopping tips and some help with finding contractors you can trust online.

There probably are many more.  Please let us know which ones you think there are.  I am sure you probably heard that the Cavs owner last night had a nuclear response to Lebron breaking his trust and the city of Cleveland’s trust.  We all should learn a few things from this free agency experience so that we do not end up having to send a letter like that to a person or company you do business with online because you did not take the steps to protect yourself.

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Posts Tagged ‘Lebron James’

Cleveland Cavs Killer Lebron James Gives Small Business & Startups A Few Lessons

Friday, May 14th, 2010

As many in the sports world today are talking about, last night’s Boston Celtics victory over the Cleveland Cavs to eliminate the #1 seeded Cavs from the playoffs was a real shocker.  It was made worse by the fact that it accelerated the summer of Lebron James’ free agency.  For the city of Cleveland and Cavs fans (like me), this was as close to a sporting apocalypse as they have seen since Cleveland’s past sporting meltdowns that are so famous, they have one word names attached to them: the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot and  the Wedge.  So from this debacle…actually they are calling it LeBacle in some circles, there has to be a few lessons learned for us small businesses and startups.  Here are a few quick ones that come to mind:

1. One Star Teams Often Fail– the ongoing critique of the Cavs is that they only have one star on their team, Lebron James.  In the NBA its generally known, that you need to have a team made up of at least two stars and several excellent roll players to win in the playoffs. The Cavs have failed for years to get multiple stars on the team to play next to Lebron.  They have tried, but each time the players have massively underperformed like Mo Williams the last two years. So lesson learned for us businesses is to make sure your team has multiple stars and if you have roll players that may be your contractors/vendors, ensure you have folks that can deliver in the clutch.

2. One Person Should Not Hold A Team Hostage – the Cavs have let Lebron James hold the team, the city and frankly Cleveland sports to some extent hostage.  Everything he wants, he gets.  New players, new coaches, new lineups, even new travel plans like when the team is playing in Miami because Lebron wants to stay out and party instead of returning home, guess what the coach orders – the team to stay an extra night in Miami (well who would blame him for that one – I would take an extra day in Miami too!).  That need to make one person hapy has lead the Cavs to make continual changes to their team to find just the right fit of players to Lebron’s liking.  This has had the effect of destroying any team chemistry. That was so evident in the series against the Celtics.  Cavs players that had succeed for the entire regular season (7 months!) found themselves on the bench. Suddenly the team that dominated the regular season, looked absolutely lost.  Startups and small business can learn from this and aim to have a consistent team, where folks play key roles, keep each other accountable and management makes every effort to not take people in and out of the lineup to match one “star’s” whims.

3. Play Your Heart Out & Show it – the now famous Game 5 where it looked like Lebron James wanted to be anywhere but in a sold out arena of Cavs fans (who absolutely adore and support him to no end) in one of the biggest games of his playoff career.  He played scared, he looked timid and in such a big game the star played so small that the whole world saw it.  This should be an easy lesson for us small businesses and startups.  Go 100% and go with passion and enthusiasm.  Even when you may get down, get back up and fight.  In the biggest “games” for your business, step up and seize control of the game.  Dont wait like Lebron did in Game 5 and let the “game” come to you.  Success will come to those that seek it out.

4. Do Not Ignore Your Fans – No one looks at it this way, but they really should.  The Cavs fans are Lebron’s customers.  If no one showed up to see him play, would he get those multi-million dollar contracts?  No! The Cavs fans have enthusiastically supported the Cavs and Lebron since he first put on that jersey.   There is simply no fan base in the US that will support Lebron the way he has been supported for years – even without the championships.  These fans are Lebron’s customers.  Can he get other fans/customers in multiple other cities?  Yes, or course he can but will they be as rabid, as passionate and will they literally make him the face of the entire city like they would in Cleveland if Lebron delivers that long lost championship that has eluded the city for over 40 years? Never.  So lesson learned for small business and startups, when you succeed and you start growing, do not be so easy to turn away from your bread and butter – the customers that got you to your success. That means be very careful because the grass is not always greener on the other side and be very careful in not serving and supporting your core customers.

5. Life/Business Goes On After A Loss – Ok, this lesson should actually be taken from the Cavs fans and less from Lebron.  Its maybe also a little self-healing from me.  After the loss and likely departure for Lebron from Cleveland, life goes on.  DO NOT LAUGH, but I will move on to the other team that I swore off a few years ago for their ineptitude, the Cleveland Browns.  As we likely close the chapter on Lebron in Cleveland and the chance of winning that elusive major sports championship that Cleveland fans so want, we just adjust and say well now our hopes are that Mike Holmgren can take the Browns to the promise land and end the 40 year drought.  So for your business, always be flexible and if someone/something or a major project is let down, bounce up and move on because that success will come.  It will come one day and it will feel so good…..just like I know I will feel when the Browns finally win the Super Bowl! (as my wife, the Steelers fan and Pittsburgh native, mocks me from across the room).

Tell us what you learned from Lebron’s and the Cavs collapse.

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Posts Tagged ‘Lebron James’

Diary of a Startup: A Few Lessons Learned For Entrepreneurs

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

On a day that I am bewildered by my Cleveland Cavaliers and their absolutely horrendous performance last night, I am a little reflective.  After all, us Cleveland fans likely have just watched Lebron James‘ last home game in Cleveland as a Cavalier.  When he officially leaves (I truly hope he doesnt but I am a Cleveland fan and we are used to such let downs), maybe I will do a post on how startups and small business can learn from the Cavs/Lebron breakup.  Until then, here is another installment in our continued feature at KikScore called Diary of a Startup.

This one is a quick summary of a few lessons learned from our experience and from other folks I have talked to about their startup experiences:

1. Bandwidth Limitations. No I am not talking about your broadband cable access.  Instead, bandwidth as in you and your team’s ability to keep iterating and making improvements while also juggling all of the operational and marketing aspects of a startup.These types of bandwidth and resource constraints are especially present in nights and weekend startups.  One of the ways we have dealt with the bandwidth issue is continually working to prioritize items/tasks/enhancements/issues as a team.  But as you prioritize do not forget about that enhancement that you talked about doing three months ago that may have been de-prioritized along the way! Also as needed, it is key that contractors, freelancers and outsourced resources get used to increase overall bandwidth for the startup. But remember these tips and tools when using offshore resources.

2. Manage Expectations – As with anything in life, it is important to manage everyone’s expectations including yourself.  The reason why?  Nearly everything you do at a start-up from getting going, getting something developed, partnership discussions, getting funding, optimizing your product and your homepage, takes longer than you think.  That does not mean you should sit back, because you still need to push and push hard.  However, you just need to prepare yourself, your team, customers etc and appropriately manage timelines and understand that sometimes things beyond your control come in that may delay things.  The trick is not to get upset, but figure out how to keep things on track and moving forward.

3. Continually Get Feedback – This is an underestimated one, but has been incredibly valuable to us.  Talk to everyone about your product, your business model and especially have customers (and potential customers) give you feedback.  This is so helpful in giving you and your team a new perspective and has also, at least with us, given us some great new ideas for channels for KikScore.  Here is a an excellent post at the Untemplater Site by Jun Loayza on a feedback plan for startups. Another related note is take the negative feedback in stride.  Frankly, some of the negative or constructive feedback is more valuable than the other feedback.  And please be careful not to just dismiss someone’s feedback, especially customer feedback because you think you know better or you say, “What does that person know?”  That is a sure ticket to failure.

4. Put That Feedback in Perspective – So you first need to get feedback, but then what do you do with it?  The trick is not to act on every piece of your feedback that you receive.  That will set you off in 1,000 different directions and be counterproductive.  Also you do not want to just dismiss feedback.  This is where it is important for the team to approach the feedback from three very basic perspectives: a) common sense; b) what will make the customer experience better; and c) what is “doable” and actionable based on resources, priorities and strategy. Here is a recent post on how we acted on customer feedback.

5. Social Media is Not the Marketing  Savior  – Don’t get me wrong, using social media is a low cost way to build brand awareness for your startup, get leads, make connections to though leaders, get great introductions to partners, manage your startup’s reputation and respond to customer issues.  Frankly doing all of this via Twitter, Facebook, a blog and other social media channels is a must these days for most startups.  BUT, doing all that does not guarantee success.  Frankly, these days doing all of things and having a social media strategy allows you just to play in the game.  In order to win and really succeed as a startup (and be a repeat MVP like Lebron James), you need to give your customers a great customer experience, make your product easy to use and help your customers solve a problem that they have.  As my friend Shashi B has told me before, no amount of marketing, social media or marketing campaigns will protect your company from a sucky product! Make your product great, make sure your customers are happy and that they evangalize your product and the marketing then comes a lot easier.  That actually will make the social media marketing easier as Zappos has demonstrated. In fact, here is a good post on the story of Zappos with an excellent and informative powerpoint deck that is worth a read.

Let us know if you have any lessons learned from your startup or small business.

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